NACCOM and our members are alarmed by recent changes to the Home Office’s procedure for ending asylum support, which is resulting in a sharp increase in refugees approaching voluntary organisations for homelessness assistance, and a rise in homelessness and rough sleeping experienced by people across the NACCOM network.
The changes, which were enacted on August 1st, drastically shorten the move-on period for people leaving asylum accommodation after a positive decision. The current move-on period for people with refugee status is 28 days, however many refugees are now being given as little as seven days to move out of their asylum accommodation, find new accommodation and access welfare support, before their asylum support is stopped (known as cessations).
The changes are part of the Government’s attempts to move people on from hotels and cut the asylum backlog, which the latest immigration statistics revealed has peaked at over 175,000 people waiting for an initial decision.
Bridget Young, NACCOM’s Director, said: “Whilst we appreciate the urgent need to move people out of hotels and into more appropriate, community-based accommodation, the way to achieve this is not by evicting them into homelessness.”
“We know from the vital work of our frontline members, who provide temporary accommodation and destitution support, that people leaving the asylum system need adequate time, targeted support and access to timely information and resources to enable them to manage the huge transition from asylum accommodation into communities. Giving people as little as seven days’ notice will create stress and anxiety, and force them to make crisis decisions, with many people having no option but to seek homelessness assistance, or to rough sleep if they are unable to access emergency support.”
“We are also deeply concerned about the unsustainable and unnecessary pressures being placed on statutory and voluntary homelessness services, including hosting and housing providers in our network. They are already supporting people who have been forced into rough sleeping and other forms of homelessness due to a lack of alternatives when it comes to exiting asylum accommodation. Homelessness and destitution should never be part of someone’s move-on plan. Our members are having to accommodate more and more people who should be able to access mainstream homelessness assistance, which is having an impact on their ability to support other at-risk groups.”
“We urge the Government to commit to providing all refugees with at least 28-days from the date they receive their notice to quit before their asylum support ends, and to work with the voluntary sector and Local Authorities to ensure people can access adequate and timely support. Ultimately, only the introduction of a 56-day move-on period, in line with the Homelessness Reduction Act, along with substantial investment in affordable housing, will significantly mitigate the risks of homelessness that new refugees face when leaving the asylum system.”
NACCOM has joined with 147 sector partners, including the Refugee Council, Shelter, Crisis and the British Red cross, to coordinate a joint letter to the Home Secretary and Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, raising our concerns around the impact of the changes on refugees, as well as voluntary and statutory services. The growing crisis has been reported by The Independent, The Telegraph and Inside Housing.
What we are seeing across the network:
The changes around cessations come at a time when homelessness amongst refugees is already particularly high, as reflected in the spike in the number of people leaving the asylum system who required prevention duties in the latest homelessness statistics for England.2
The impact of homelessness amongst refugees is also being felt across NACCOM’s network of frontline members. Voluntary services play a vital role in providing safety, shelter and stability to people leaving the asylum system, at a crucial time. Hosting and housing schemes across the network accommodated at least 864 refugee adults (excluding dependents) in 2022-23. That is 33% more than in 2021-22, and 54% more than in 2020-21.
The issuing of seven-day NTQs to a significant number of refugees, as part of the changes to the cessations process, has triggered a surge in referrals to providers of hosting and housing accommodation in the NACCOM network, creating unprecedented demand for bed spaces, which will also be felt by Local Authorities. The lack of prior notification from the Home Office has made managing this demand extremely challenging.
The NACCOM network is currently operating at capacity and will simply be unable to meet the demand for accommodation that this policy change will create. In 2022-23, our members reported being approached by at least 2,261 people who they could not accommodate – a 104% increase on the year prior (1,107). As things stand, the number of refugees experiencing homelessness, including rough sleeping, will be far higher for the coming year unless this policy is reversed.
➡️ Refugees at Home, the largest hosting organisation in the NACCOM network, has reported receiving over three times as many referrals in August 2023 compared to the same period last year. In August 2022, the charity had 72 referrals (excluding Ukrainian referrals). Towards the end of August 2023, they had received 213 referrals (excluding Ukrainian referrals), with more still coming in. The charity also reports that the referrals are not just restricted to London, but from areas they rarely work in, such as North Somerset, West Berkshire, Southampton, Eastbourne.
➡️ Hope at Home, a NACCOM member that delivers hosting for people in the asylum system, who are also victims of trafficking and modern slavery, has reported a tripling in referrals since July 2023, with referral rates five times higher than the same period in 2022.
Jared Hodgson, CEO at Hope at Home, said: “Out of the 16 people referred to us in August 2023, six of these are men who had been given notice to quit and only seven days to find alternative accommodation. All of these men are now most likely either sofa surfing or facing street homelessness, as we have been unable to place them due to very limited host availability currently, particularly for hosts who will take male guests. Without prior warning of this change to procedure, it has been impossible for us to anticipate this spike in referrals and recruit more hosts, which takes time.”
➡️ Salma Ravat, CEO of NACCOM member One Roof Leicester, which provides emergency homelessness accommodation to refugees and people in the asylum system, said: “This new way of operating is resulting in increased rough sleeping amongst single men in Leicester. Normally, on average we receive one [referral] a week, in the past 2-3 weeks we have received ten requests for accommodation for single men who have received a positive decision. Unfortunately, as we are currently full, we have been unable to offer accommodation to any of these individuals, which is hugely disappointing.”
She continued; “These men are desperate, and will be forced to rough sleep. If they are found to be rough sleeping they will be invited in by the Local Authority for an assessment, and if they have vacancies on their emergency beds, they will be offered a bed space, but these are usually full too.”
Resources and actions for members:
NACCOM has worked with partners to produce an MP briefing, which can be used to raise the issue of cessations and the resultant rise in refugee homelessness and destitution with MPs across the country, as well as a template letter to MPs. There is also a draft press release template from IMIX, for use in regional media work around the issue.
➡️ MP briefing on asylum move-on process and increasing homelessness and destitution
➡️ Template letter to MPs
➡️ IMIX press release template
➡️ Press Releases – Pathway – Joint letter of health impacts of cessations on refugees experiencing homelessness