Destitution and homelessness to increase

Draconian new rules are affecting asylum seekers in Home Office accommodation, and those who have been given leave to remain.

If given leave to remain it is a time for rejoicing for an asylum seeker. They are safe, they won’t have to be returned to the country they have fled from, and can begin a new life. But later in the day that the letter with good news is received, a whole set of new problems begin.

Up till August 1st they had twenty-eight days to find somewhere to live, find a job, and probably claim benefits. Even with the help of good friends and organisations, and a helpful local council it takes longer than twenty-eight days. Can you imagine if YOU were suddenly, with no warning, were expected to find a home for yourself and any family, and a way of supporting yourself? YOU who have maybe lived here all your life and have a good circle of friends, family and contacts?

It is Liberal Democrat policy since 2018 that this is an unacceptable strain on people, as well as putting an unrealistic strain on both statutory and voluntary services. To quote from the Lib Dem policy document “After the Final Decision is Made”, “For Those Who Have Been Given Leave to Remain”.

Currently, an asylum seeker who has been given leave to remain, and so becomes a refugee, has to leave the property they are living in, and their support is ended, in twenty-eight days. By the time they are notified, that is often less than twenty-eight days away.

In that very short timescale they have to find housing, and either apply for benefits, or, if they can only find a very low paid job, both.

Liberal Democrats would increase the timescale from twenty-eight days to sixty days for them to find their own accommodation and income after receiving a decision, and remove the time limit entirely for vulnerable people.

It is appalling that an asylum seeker in this position will now have only seven days under the Government’s new rules. These are people who have been given permission to stay in the UK by the Home Office, they have been believed and accepted, so nobody can say that they should not be here.

It is just not physically possible, and there is already an increase in destitution and homelessness. The British Red Cross estimate that 50,000 refugees will be destitute by the end of this year. Apart from the stress and anxiety for the new refugee, there is an even more unbearable strain for those trying to help, on top of all the stresses there are already.

A briefing is being sent out to all MPs on October 16th. I hope our Liberal Democrat MPs will rise to the occasion, but there is action for individuals and organisations to take in the NACCOM briefing. You can see more detail, and links to sign a letter of protest here. Please do.

* Suzanne Fletcher was a councillor for nearly 30 years and a voluntary advice worker with the CAB for 40 years. Now retired, she is active as a campaigner in the community both as a Lib Dem and with local organisations and author of "Bold as Brass?", the story of Brass Crosby.

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  • This is a major problem. Many asylum seekers would need to claim housing benefit until they can get established with full-time work at least. Quite often HB will not cover the full cost of renting even if you can find a Landlord that will accept HB tenants Shelter
    7 days is ridiculous. Even the 60 days to find rental accommodation and apply for HB is a tight enough timeframe. It is a shoddy start to a new life in the UK.

  • Steve Trevethan 11th Oct '23 - 8:42am

    Thank you for an important and compassionate article!

    Might it be that this current government is either incapable of thinking and acting positively/creatively or enjoys being unkind to the weak and vulnerable?

    Might our party produce and publicise a more practical and fair alternative?

  • It is terrible that a successful asylum seeker can only have 7 days’ notice that they are required to move out of their asylum support provided accommodation. Especially as the government in its Homelessness Reduction Act recognised that 56 days’ notice is needed to find accommodation and Universal Credit is only paid 35 days after it has been successfully applied for.

    What NACCOM are asking for are necessary changes we all should support.

  • Katharine Pindar 11th Oct '23 - 5:55pm

    Suzanne, thank you for drawing this new unacceptable burden on asylum seekers to our attention. I hope many will read this and certainly will sign the letter of protest. However poor and debt-burdened many of our established citizens are, there can be none so much in need of compassion and help as those who have fled to our shores.

  • Jon Featonby 12th Oct '23 - 4:32pm

    Excellent and important article Suzanne. The moment of getting refugee status should be a celebration, not the start of a new crisis. Good to see that Lord German has already been asking some questions about this in the Lords – although the answers are less than hopeless.

    Extending the move-on period really should just be commonsense.

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