A growing number of refugees are ending up homeless on the streets of the capital after leaving Home Office accommodation, according to new research from London Councils.
The cross-party group claims that 846 homelessness presentations were made in October from refugees and asylum-seekers evicted from Home Office accommodation such as hotels. This represents a 39% increase on September’s figure .
London Councils has released its research following similar concerns raised by the Local Government Association towards the end of November. The organisation warned that thousands of asylum seekers across the country face the prospect of a homeless Christmas, without urgent action.
In London, boroughs “anticipate” these number highlighted will rise even further over the coming months as the government continues ramping up the number of asylum decisions, and works to close several hotels by the new year.
Meanwhile, councils in the capital say they are struggling with a severe shortage of accommodation. Many report they have nothing to offer refugees who are sleeping rough – such as places in hostels or other forms of emergency accommodation.
London Councils says that with winter setting in, boroughs fear a “spike” in rough sleeping just as conditions on the streets become even more dangerous.
Councillor Grace Williams, London Councils’ executive member for communities, said: “No one wants to see refugees becoming homeless after leaving Home Office accommodation, but this is happening at an alarming rate across the capital.
“Boroughs are deeply concerned by the situation, which will only get more dangerous as winter sets in. Those granted asylum need adequate support for settling in the UK, yet too often are forced into sleeping rough on the streets.
“At a time when London already faces enormous and unsustainable homelessness pressures, the government urgently needs to prevent this happening. A longer move-on period for those leaving Home Office accommodation is crucial, as well as funding for the councils whose local services provide vital support and sanctuary for those in need.
“London boroughs are committed to preventing homelessness. The government must work more closely with councils in addressing this growing challenge.”
The organisation’s research was supported by voluntary sector organisations that work alongside boroughs in organising local homelessness services.
Kathy Mohan, chief executive of Housing Justice, said the situation is desperate.
“The churches, mosques, and temples in our network are seeing rising numbers of refugees and asylum-seekers approaching them for help, asylum decision letter in hand, with nowhere to sleep, and no idea how to get the support they need. We help where we can but many are resorting to rough sleeping,” she added.
“In the coming weeks we will be setting up a new supported lodgings scheme for refugees leaving Home Office accommodation with a positive decision, funded as a pilot by 14 London boroughs. It’s not enough, but it’s something. If we can make it work, we might be able to scale it up further.”
London Councils is calling on the government to:
- Ensure a minimum 28-day notice period between an asylum-seeker receiving both their asylum decision and biometric residence permit, and being required to leave Home Office accommodation. Currently, the organisation says, many are only receiving a few days’ notice after receiving a notice to vacate
- Extend the move-on period to 56 days to align with the Homelessness Reduction Act and to give local authorities a meaningful period to mitigate homelessness risks
- Address pressures and concerns over severe weather emergency protocol (SWEP). Councils do not receive any specific funding from the government for SWEP activity, with boroughs’ homelessness and rough sleeping budgets already facing “intense pressures” and government funding for SWEP would help sustain provision. Boroughs are additionally calling for a halt to cessations of asylum support and evictions during the whole period of any SWEP activations
- Fund a local wraparound support model that can be rolled out in all boroughs. This would include quick and early support, including facilitating access to employment and/or to Universal Credit, language support, and assessments of physical and mental health needs
- Enhanced Rough Sleeping Prevention grant funding to support those who are at risk of rough sleeping but who are not eligible for assistance under the Homelessness Reduction Act or Housing Act.
London Councils added that, while it is “positive that applicants are receiving decisions on their asylum cases”, boroughs reiterate the need to ensure adequate housing arrangements are in place, and that the Home Office works closely with councils to avoid refugees and asylum-seekers becoming homeless.
The organisation argues that “closer co-ordination” between the Home Office and local authorities is “essential” for securing appropriate housing, preventing homelessness, and ensuring those granted asylum have the best opportunity to settle in the UK.
Image credit: Ian Francis – Shutterstock
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