On May 17th, funding for emergency accommodation in Bristol for people who have been designated as having No Recourse to Public Funds will end.
One group of people facing homelessness rendered especially vulnerable during the pandemic are European Economic Area nationals without worker status and people seeking asylum who have been designated as No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) by the government.
This restriction – which is thought to effect at least a million adults and one hundred thousand children in the UK – means that they cannot access homelessness assistance, housing benefit, or social housing amongst other forms of state support due to their immigration status.
With accessible overnight shelter options still unsafe due to the pandemic, 51 people with NRPF status who have been placed into hotels and temporary accommodation will be at risk of street homelessness unless they are able to fund their own stays or overnight shelter privately.
As the first wave of the pandemic swept the UK one year ago, the government offered thousands of people who were rough sleeping access to self-contained emergency accommodation. This scheme was termed ‘Everyone In.’
The programme was widely regarded as success. Amongst the UK’s population of people experiencing homelessness it is estimated to have prevented hundreds of deaths from the virus.
Under ‘Everyone In,’ dozens of people with NRPF status who were rough sleeping were housed hotels and hostels, in B&Bs and private rented accommodation across Bristol. As well as the obvious benefit of being off the streets, housing for this group of people has enabled them to access support with asylum claims, mental health practitioners, and access to the Covid-19 vaccine.
However, on May 17th the funding for this emergency accommodation will come to an end.
This affects 51 people who are currently accommodated and who will be made homeless overnight when the funding is withdrawn.
Caring in Bristol is one of many organisations currently working together to make sure that this doesn’t happen.
Our neighbours The Julian Trust are funding private accommodation for nine individuals (bringing the total affected down to 51 from 60), and others – such as the Bristol Law Centre, Bristol Refugee Rights, ACH, St. Pauls Advice Centre and Bristol Hospitality Network are providing assistance in the form of advice and legal assistance. We are working to support those who need it with food, logistics, volunteer manpower, and fundraising.
Caring in Bristol’s Director Ben Richardson says of the impending end to funding:
“As a local charity we are proud of the huge community effort we have made to together during COVID to house and support people irrespective of their immigration status or right and ability to work.
Unfortunately, we are now facing the devastating prospect of some of these people being pushed back onto the streets. This will see all of that good work undone, with serious and potentially life-threatening implications for some very vulnerable people in our city. The government can choose not to do this.
They must take into account the emergency public health restrictions we face together, and act immediately to fund and safeguard the support cities like Bristol can offer. We wholeheartedly support BCC in their efforts to ensure access to emergency accommodation for everyone who needs it throughout the pandemic and beyond.”
CEO of Bristol Law Centre Karen Bowers emphasises that these conditions are a result of government policy:
“This group of individuals would include some very complex asylum claim cases and there is a real lack of capacity at this specialist level after years of erosion of legal aid support by successive governments. This has led to a reduced number of charities and firms able to help in situations like this and a skills shortage as a result.
National hostile immigration policy including NRPF is the primary reason that these individuals have become ever more destitute and vulnerable.”
Everyone deserves somewhere safe to sleep at night and the right to lead a fulfilling, happy life regardless of their immigration or legal status.
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