NACCOM works with our members across the UK and people with lived experience to evidence and call for an end to destitution. Whilst we continue to reflect and learn from last year’s unprecedented challenges, we are now looking firmly ahead and are determined to make the most of the opportunities for change that could present themselves in 2021. There will no doubt be further challenges to face, given the ongoing uncertainty posed by Covid-19, and we will be working collectively with our members throughout the year to further shape the direction and scope of our advocacy strategy. In the meantime, we hope these give a sense of our immediate priorities as we settle into 2021.
Renae Mann, NACCOM’s National Director, comments:
[quote]This year is an opportunity for the UK government to choose to build back better for everyone. The pandemic has shown that inequality and exclusion is dangerous for individuals and whole communities. Will decision-makers opt for business as usual, marginalising and dehumanising people due to their immigration status? Or will they choose policies that welcome newcomers, offer them justice, community and connection? We hope it is the latter. At NACCOM, every day we see the power of local communities coming together around people seeking asylum, refugees and vulnerable migrants to offer friendship, support and creative solutions to seemingly intractable problems; we see lives changed. We look forward to taking on the challenges ahead together[/quote]
➡️ 1. Support for people at the end of the asylum process
#StopAsylumEvictions – an end to evictions into homelessness
Maintaining the ongoing pause on evictions from asylum accommodation for people with a negative decision, which has been in place since the High Court order in November, remains a significant priority for 2021. The Home Office clearly showed last September that they were prepared to make people homeless in a pandemic and this is unacceptable. People need to know they are safe from the virus and have a roof over their head so they can make plans and think through their next steps.
Street homelessness should never be the end goal of any government policy, and 2020 showed us that it can, and must, be prevented. This is something we will continue to call for and work to make happen.
Extend the move-on period for newly recognised refugees
The process for people who are newly recognised as refugees underwent some changes during the first few months of the pandemic, which are understood to have reduced risks of hardship. However, a return to ‘business as usual’ since September 2020 means a return to pre-Covid concerns about the 28-day move on period, highlighted by this evidence session to the Housing, Communities and Local Government committee in December.
We believe that the need, and opportunity, for lasting reform have never more urgent. The Home Office must listen to and learn from the experiences of people going through the system right now, and act urgently to prevent destitution.
➡️ 2. Support for people with no recourse to public funds (NRPF) facing homelessness
At the start of 2021, after new UK–wide lockdowns were announced, the government announced £10 million for Local Authorities in England ‘to help accommodate all those currently sleeping rough and ensure they are swiftly registered with a GP, where they are not already.’ This is welcome news, but as seen last year, without clear guidance councils can interpret such language differently and create a postcode lottery for people with No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF).
We maintain our call for a suspension of NRPF and continue to push for adequate resources from central government so that everyone has somewhere safe to stay in the pandemic, regardless of their immigration status. We are committed to helping our members engage with their Local Authorities to deliver good practice models that shore-up longer term pathways out of destitution.
➡️ 3. Justice for all
In November 2020 we entered a submission to the Future of Legal Aid review with input from members that focused on the gaps in provision around legal advice and representation for people facing injustice in the immigration system.
We know this is a significant issue for people trying to access justice and resolve insecurity and we will be building on this work in the months ahead.
➡️ 4. Vaccinations and barriers to accessing healthcare
As vaccination plans develop, the UK government must listen and respond to the needs of people who, because of their immigration status, have felt marginalised or discriminated against when it comes to healthcare. We raised some of these issues in a recent joint submission to the Minister for Civil Society and want to take an active role in supporting our members and their communities to find local solutions to these barriers.
We see this as an opportunity not only in the immediate fightback against Covid but in our wider collective struggle against the Hostile Environment.
➡️ 5. Impact of Brexit and related legislation, and changes to the Immigration Rules
The UK’s withdrawal from the EU hails major changes for EU citizens who do not have pre-settled or settled status and there are real concerns about rising risks of destitution. Relatedly, in late 2020, the Home Office made changes to the Immigration rules so rough sleeping can now be considered as a reason for removing someone from the UK.
We joined with others to campaign for a reconsideration of the rules and as the implementation of the rule changes takes effect we maintain our position that no one should be punished for being homeless.
➡️ 6, Sovereign Borders Bill and immigration reform
Further on the horizon lies the much-anticipated ‘Sovereign Borders Bill’, a piece of legislation that is expected to change the UK’s immigration system significantly. Rhetoric so far is deeply concerning.
As campaign work around this develops, we commit to supporting calls for a just, humane system that leaves no one destitute.
How do we campaign for change?
We develop research and evidence with our UK–wide network of 135 members, as well as people with lived experience. We work with partners on joint resources and engage in lobbying and influencing work to reach decision makers with shared concerns and ideas for change. Embedding our work with the expertise of people with lived experience is a core priority across our work going forward, as is supporting our members with local influencing opportunities towards shared goals.
➡️ Interested in becoming a member? Find out more here.
➡️ Interested in taking part in our advocacy review? Email [email protected] and we’ll share details as soon as possible.
➡️ Interested in taking action against destitution today? See here for our latest briefing and template letters to MPs and local authorities, co-produced with partners at Asylum Matters.