Chat with us live
The National Housing Federation and the Chartered Institute of Housing have signed a joint letter to urge the government to rethink its policies on No Recourse to Public Funds.
The letter follows on from the Local Government Association's call for a suspension of NRPF, which effectively stops those affected from getting access to welfare and potentially becoming homeless.
In the letter, signed by both Chief Executives, it says it has been written to "express the housing sector’s concerns about the serious obstacles to helping current and former rough sleepers to obtain longer-term accommodation and support, in cases where they are not entitled to housing and benefits."
The letter goes onto say: "While we believe a majority of former rough sleepers will receive longer-term help, we are extremely concerned that this could lead to a significant minority – at least one-fifth, or up to half in London – falling through the net due to their immigration status or lack of documentation.
"This produces a continuing risk to the health of the individuals involved, as well as creating additional risk for the population at large.
"We acknowledge that those with an NRPF condition attached to their immigration status can apply to have this removed if their financial situation changes, but of course this is not straightforward and requires access to legal help.
"We also acknowledge that some people have no access to benefits because they are undocumented migrants, however we are also aware of evidence that many – perhaps most – of these could rectify their situation if given time and support."
The two trade bodies are keen that government looks at "restoring access to public funds on a permanent basis, regardless of immigration status".
As an initial step, the letter says, the housing bodies would like "government to lift restrictions on access to public funds for a period, ideally at least for a year. This would enable interim help to be given to all those experiencing and at risk of homelessness."
It adds: "It would also provide a cushion of time while the pandemic continues, both to allow longer-term solutions to be developed and to ease cost pressures on local authorities and charities in the meantime."
It also calls for changes to how Universal Credit works, with access being improved to ensure that "accommodation can be financed for those who need it".
You can read the full letter here.