Policy Watch

An eye on policy changes in Ireland, the UK and beyond

Temporary Accommodation | Rough Sleeping | NRPF | Asylum Accommodation

Right to a Home  |  Wed Jan 27 2021

Growing numbers of people forced to live in temporary accommodation | children in temporary accommodation

The Observer reported Freedom of Information data showing that as of November 2020, over 70,000 households in England have been made homeless due to Covid-19 and the homes of over 50,000 more were at risk. On this same topic, England's Local Government Association reported findings that127,240 children are going through the current lockdown in temporary accommodation, including 1,440 households with children in bed and breakfasts. The LGA called for additional powers for local councils in England to acquire empty homes for homeless families and for the government to make the Covid-era £20 per week increase in Universal Credit permanent, amongst other measures.

NI: calls for new responses to homelessness | rough sleeping

In Northern Ireland, new figures emerged showing that between April and December 2020, 11,628 households presented as homeless. Belfast city officials called on the Department for Communities and Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) to look at 'new models and strategies' for meeting housing need.

For England, the National Audit Office reported that over 33,000 rough sleepers had been sheltered under the 'Everyone In' programme by November 2020 -- a figure far in excess of the government's 'annual national snapshot' homeless figure of 4,266. It described a continual flow of people onto the streets in England over the summer and autumn, even as the government stepped back from its comprehensive response to house rough sleepers to a more limited 'targeted' approach.

Oldham in England became the first local council in the UK to designate rough sleepers and people living in homeless shelters as priority and vaccinate them against Covid.

No Recourse to Public funds

With regard to No Recourse to Public Funds, the National Audit Office report noted that Everyone In's initial guidance -- that local authorities should offer emergency accommodation to all regardless of status -- shifted at end May with a reminder to councils about the No Recourse to Public Funds designation. At that point some local authorities stopped taking in rough sleepers with NRPF, and also tried to 'move on' people with NRPF from their emergency accommodation despite their access barriers to the private rental sector, with limited results. For its part, the Local Government Association in England repeated its call to the government to lift the No Recourse to Public Funds condition and said that long-term funding is needed to fight homelessness.

Conditions of accommodation for asylum seekers

In England, a Home Office initiative that has seen asylum seekers housed in substandard conditions at temporary accommodation 'camps' at former MOD sites has been roundly criticised, including by a former Tory immigration minister who branded it as 'inhuman'. Asylum seekers at one camp have reportedly begun a hunger strike to protest their treatment. Legal action was initiated against the Yarl's Wood camp, where the Home Office invoked emergency powers to build the camp of flimsy Portakabins without planning approval or risk assessments.

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