Hope into Action get migrant workers off the streets

Friday, 10 August 2018 - 5:26pm

Hope into Action was awarded first place for Innovation in Housing at the Homeless Link Excellence Awards. It this latest feature, we highlight their new pilot project launched last month to get migrant workers who are sleeping rough back into accommodation and employment.

Man wearing a backpack

Hope into Action: Black Country and Wolverhampton Council have launched a pilot project to get migrant workers off the streets and into employment and accommodation. Many Eastern Europeans come over to the UK with a legitimate offer of employment or one that they believe to be genuine. Some sectors of our economy are dependent on this type of labour force such as the fruit and vegetable picking industries.

This is often seasonal or temporary work however and when work dries up, as EEA migrants they don't always have access to public funds and can end up unable to find additional work, losing their accommodation and sleeping rough on our streets. (More information about how the benefits system for EEA nationals can be found here - Access to benefits for EEA nationals).

They get stuck in a catch 22 situation of no work, no accommodation and no accommodation, no work. Some of them have also been trafficked with an offer of work that has made them dependent on the people who have brought them into this country under false pretences to benefit from making them slaves.

Working alongside those who have no recourse to public funds was one of the main concerns that came out of last Saturday's meeting of partner agencies working across Wolverhampton to tackle rough sleeping.

We are part of NACCOM (the No Accommodation Network) seeking to find innovative ways to help people that the system leaves destitute with no recourse and working in partnership with others to do so.

New pilot project

Consequently, last month we launched a pilot project with Wolverhampton Council who are paying for the first nine weeks of accommodation of an Eastern European migrant worker out of their homelessness prevention budget.

The total cost is around £1,000 to get someone off the streets, into supported accommodation and in theory into work. Most providers of supported accommodation run financial models that create a culture of worklessness as the cost of the rent is more than a tenant can afford when they find work. A different way of working is needed that makes the rents truly affordable for tenants and opens up the way to schemes like this.

These individuals have no recourse to benefits and so have to be working to get into accommodation. But in order to find work they need accommodation and help in securing the right opportunities for training, upskilling and assistance in attending interviews and making applications.

By paying for a few weeks of accommodation the Council are providing him with the opportunity he needs to be able to get back into work. We provide him with the support to substantially increase his chances of getting back into work and sustaining his tenancy. We are convinced that there is work available and that with the support of our Empowerment Officers, access to the Wolves @ Work programme and through developing partnerships across the city, that there is no reason he should not get back into work within the required timeframes.

Strict access criteria

It only works by sticking to some strict access criteria which require prospective candidates to be able to:

  • turn up on time
  • maintain good interpersonal relationships both in terms of authority figures (doing as they are told) and with other service users maintaining courtesy, civility and respect at all times.
  • manage failure, own up to their mistakes and learn from them
  • speak, read and write English to a level B1 or equivalent on CEFR which, is a recognised standard (this includes being able to read labels on paint cans and other hazardous materials)
  • produce ID and a NINO - both required for the purposes of proving their right to rent and right to work.
  • express defined aspirations which show that they are likely to take pride in their work, do a good job, be interested in more than just the money.
  • access wise counsel in the form of a support network - this may be within the context of mentoring or the support we provide as an organisation.
  • take care of their personal hygiene
  • access healthcare
  • demonstrate fitness for work both in terms of physical and mental capacity (being fit for work includes considerations around alcohol, drugs, physical health, mental state, emotional state ...etc.)

If this pilot project works well it is anticipated that we will seek to expand it and get businesses to fund the cost of getting migrant worker rough sleepers off the streets as part of their corporate social responsibility.

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Matthieu Lambert

CEO of Black Country Hope Into Action

Matthieu Lambert is CEO of Hope Into Action Black Country. A housing charity based in Wolverhampton that enables churches to provide homes for the homeless.