NACCOM Covid-19 Advocacy – Update on the Government’s ‘Everyone In’ guidance in relation to those with No Recourse to Public Funds

On March 26th, the Government instructed Local Authorities to accommodate all rough sleepers (regardless of immigration status) during the pandemic. After reports were circulated last week (May 15th) in the Manchester Evening News that the Government was now ‘winding up’ its ‘Everyone In’ programme, the Ministry for Housing, Communities, and Local Government (MHCLG) was forced to issue a statement denying that this was the case.

However confusion still remains for both charities and Local Authorities working with those experiencing homelessness, particularly where is comes to accommodating people with No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF). Jessie Seal, our Campaigns and Policy Coordinator, provides an update on the current situation:

Too many people are still street homeless and have been turned away from Local Authorities because of NRPF. 

In practice, the MHCLG guidance to Local Authorities issued in March 26th was not accompanied by any new legal powers and provision of accommodation to those with NRPF experiencing street homelessness has varied from council to council across the country. NACCOM is aware of at least 17 Local Authorities who have turned people away from services because of NRPF conditions, despite the Government’s guidance to ‘bring everyone in.’

Without additional funding and clear guidance detailing how councils can legally support people with NRPF, the people that charities in our network support will continue to be at severe risk of contracting Covid-19 and unable to self-isolate and protect themselves and others.

Last year, 56% of people who the NACCOM network supported were street homeless before being accommodated by members. The remainder were at immediate risk of rough sleeping.  People have been – and continue to be – left rough sleeping because of a system that prioritises immigration enforcement over public health.

Unless everyone can access public funds, those with NRPF will continue to rough sleep as they cannot access the ‘long-term, safe accommodation’ that the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) ‘hopes’ that all rough sleepers will be able to move into (according to their statement). It is not enough to ‘work with partners’; MHCLG must make additional funding available to support and accommodate all people who are street homeless, including those with No Recourse to Public Funds.

We commend the Local Authorities who are already prioritising public health measures and who are continuing to recognise the importance of bringing everyone in from the streets, regardless of immigration status. People have been housed who previously would have been ineligible for support. It is essential that these people can continue to access safe accommodation for the duration of COVID-19.

What has been announced so far?

The Government’s ‘Everyone In’ scheme released £3.2million specifically to help rough sleepers, with an additional £3.2billion to help councils across England respond to Coronavirus. The latter amount was not ring-fenced and intended to help Local Authorities deal with the immediate impacts of Coronavirus for a wide range of services including adult social care and children’s services[1].

Since the announcement from the Minister for Homelessness[2] on the 26th March, there has been confusion over how councils can legally accommodate people who are currently without recourse to public funds. The Minister’s letter stated that ‘alternative funds and powers’ could be utilized but did not specify which. Despite repeated calls from parliamentarians and Local Authorities, further guidance on which powers can be used to support people with NRPF has not been forthcoming.

The Home Office and the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government have been clear that NRPF rules have not been amended and that NRPF still stands. Despite this, multiple assurances have been offered stating that Local Authorities have discretion to support people with NRPF.

The latest from the Minister for Housing on the 13th May 2020 stated that ‘councils do have flexibility, as they know, to support those individuals when there is a risk to life and serious concern. They should behave humanely and compassionately[3][4]

It is still unclear to local homelessness teams under which duties they can support people with NRPF. This has resulted in a variety of powers being used, including; the Localism Act, Severe Weather Emergency Protocols and the Care Act.

It’s important to note the ‘Everyone In’ initiative was only issued as guidance by MHCLG and that no statutory changes were laid. This means that the guidance can be withdrawn easily and that legal challenges to councils who were not/are not accommodating people would be very difficult.

Developments since the letter from the Minister for Homelessness

Beyond the initial £3.2million for rough sleeping, there has been no further ring-fenced funding announced for either the ‘Everyone In’ policy or wider support for people with NRPF. There is a £6million fund available to support small-medium sized charities who have been directly affected by Coronavirus and where half the beneficiaries are people experiencing homelessness (deadline to apply 27th May 2020)[5].

Since 8th April 2020, NACCOM has received multiple reports of Local Authorities stating that they had received verbal guidance from MHCLG stating that NRPF rules still stood and to expect further written guidelines imminently. Despite these verbal reports, NACCOM is not aware of any public written guidelines from MHCLG to Local Authorities on supporting people with NRPF through the ‘Everyone In’ initiative.

It was announced on the 2nd May 2020, that Dame Louise Casey would lead a new taskforce to advise Government on next steps of emergency response to support ‘vulnerable rough sleepers’ during the pandemic. This taskforce will work with councils to focus on move-on options for those who have already been accommodated.

On the 4th May 2020, Robert Jenricks, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, urged ‘caution’ over any assumption that ‘every single one’ of the people accommodated would be helped into Housing First-style accommodation once the crisis has abated.

Is MHCLG ‘drawing a line under Everyone In’?

Manchester Evening News published an article on the 15th May 2020 reporting that funding for the emergency rough sleeping provision was ceasing. It read:

‘MHCLG have drawn a line under ‘Everyone In’ activity and is now asking Local Authorities to focus on step down and move on for those who have been accommodated as a result. A special Taskforce has been set up to lead on this, chaired by Dame Louise Casey and staffed by MHCLG advisors.

At this point in time Government is clear that whilst Local Authorities can continue to exercise their powers to accommodate people above and beyond statutory duty this is no longer part of their direct guidance or funding. The instruction to LAs is to accommodate people in line with Homelessness Reduction Act (statutory) duties and more flexible Localism Act powers ‘where deemed appropriate’ and ‘to recognise’ enhanced vulnerability due to Covid-19’[6].

MHCLG responded to this statement via the MHCLG in the Media blog, stating; ‘Any suggestion that the government is reneging on the commitment set out at the start of this national emergency is entirely wrong. We have been clear councils should continue to provide safe accommodation for those who need it, and any suggestion that funding is being withdrawn or people being asked to leave hotels by central government is entirely incorrect’[7]

MHCLG has confirmed that future funding for the scheme is not expected to be made available.

What next?

As it stands (18th May), there has been no further central Government funding announced for ‘Everyone In’ nor any change to NRPF rules. The leak from the Greater Manchester Authority is a continuation of the message NACCOM and other partners have been hearing from LAs that they should move into ‘phase 2’ of the repose and that the Government no longer expects them to accommodate all rough sleepers.

MHCLG are now leaving it to LAs’ discretion as to whether they provide accommodation for people who fall outside the statutory homelessness duties.  This is disappointing, but it is clear that some Local Authorities are recognising the public health dangers of leaving people to rough sleep during the Coronavirus pandemic. NACCOM members should continue to work with mainstream homelessness organisations and Local Authorities to secure accommodation for those with NRPF.

What is NACCOM calling for?

Home Office: Everybody should be able to access public funds, regardless of immigration status. NACCOM calls for an end to all NRPF conditions.

MHCLG: Further ringfenced funding is needed for rough sleeping provision and for those who are NRPF.

Local Authorities: LAs must take measures commensurate with the risk to public health and continue to accommodate people who are rough sleeping (or at risk of), including those with NRPF. Continuing the positive advocacy work of the devolved Nations, the Metro Mayors, individual LAs and the Local Governments Association, Local Authorities must continue to make the argument for continued funding to bring ‘Everyone In’ for the entire duration of the Coronavirus pandemic.

[1] MHCLG press release. 18.04.2020 https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-pledges-extra-16-billion-for-councils

[2]Hall, L. (27.05.2020) Letter from Minister Hall to local authorities on plans to protect rough sleepers https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/letter-from-minister-hall-to-local-authorities

[3] Jenricks, R. HC Deb. 13.05.2020 Response to question from Alex Norris MP https://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2020-05-13a.266.1

[4] Lord Greenhalgh. HL Deb. 13.05.2020. cW. Response to question from Lord Bird. https://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2020-04-28.HL3651.h&s=%22no+recourse+to+public+funds%22#gHL3651.r0

[5] Homeless Link, 14.05.2020 COVID-19 Homelessness Response Fund to provide £6 million to charities https://homeless.org.uk/connect/news/2020/may/14/covid-19-homelessness-response-fund-to-provide-£6-million-to-charities-1

[6] Williams, J. 15.05.2020 Homeless people put up in hotels amid pandemic to be kicked out as government quietly scraps scheme https://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/the-numbers-streets-going-rocket-18254318

[7]MHCLG in the Media blog. 15.05.2020 Response to Manchester Evening News story on support for rough sleepers  https://mhclgmedia.blog.gov.uk/2020/05/15/response-to-manchester-evening-news-story-on-support-for-rough-sleepers/

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