NACCOM’s Community Research volunteer group has been working with Homeless Link to explore experiences of accessing support from local authorities throughout the pandemic. Following the publication of the project report, the Community Researchers share their thoughts on its findings and recommendations.
As a migrant with no recourse to public funds, you are left feeling without hope. Our experiences with local authorities have not always been positive, but through this research we heard how local authorities have done things differently and had a positive impact on people’s lives. It shows that the way people are supported should and can be improved. As the report from our project launches, we have written this blog to highlight how things can be different in the way local authorities work with people.
We are part of NACCOM’s Community Research volunteer group and have been working with Homeless Link to explore the experiences of people with no recourse to public funds (NRPF) facing homelessness. As Community Researchers, we use our lived experience of immigration control to research, analyse and present solutions to destitution in our communities. We have focused on the challenges that migrants face, but also how through the pandemic local authorities have been able to do things differently and better meet the needs of people.
The report highlights the need to build services that work for all migrants who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. Good support is multifaceted and flexible to meet the needs of the individual. Treating individuals as individuals is key and staff should be able to respond to past and present trauma.
The first vital thing is to provide stable accommodation. That’s the first step towards dealing with a challenging situation and it is essential to have this to build a life as a healthy human being. It must be long term provision, too. It can be hard enough to understand how the system works when your situation is stable, but when you are homeless, figuring out what your situation is, your options and why options are limited to you is even harder.
We want to stress that individuals should have access to high quality and independent advice. It should be a core offer of local authorities. People are often in complex situations and need that support to navigate it. Poor quality advice is not just ineffective but is damaging individuals’ lives. The impact can be enormous and in some cases, people are unable to renew their leave to remain because of the cost. Preventive and responsive advice will make a real difference in educating people around how the immigration system works and helping people to make their cases effectively.
Finally, we want to highlight how race can play a role in shaping how people are supported. As people of colour, we have all faced racism in the UK. Sometimes this has been overt, but often it is small, unintended and embedded in systems. The impacts can mean you turn away from support. Local authorities must upgrade and address challenges of racism at the point of accessing services. Just as abuse of staff has been dealt with– so should the message be clear that racism against anyone cannot be tolerated. This should be clear on the point of entry when accessing services.
We endorse the findings of this research. We have been involved through the course of the project to collect data, guide the analysis and help shape the recommendations of the project. The findings tell us that local authorities can and should do more to help people – the research shows us that it is possible. However, we recognise that it takes action from all stakeholders including central government to make sufficient funding available.
We hope that the pandemic is drawing to a close. The lessons learned show that people with NRPF do not need to be made destitute. It benefits everyone to prevent this. Moving forward we will be working with Homeless Link to ensure that the learning from this research leads to real change. We know that the tools created through this project can help local authorities to improve how they work with migrants with NRPF.
Signed by: Geo, Nico, Kas, Sarah. The NACCOM Community Research Team.