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Homeless Islington man asked for £89 for a passport - without which he can't apply for housing or benefits

PUBLISHED: 17:32 07 November 2019

Victor Novak. Picture: Hamza Azhar Salam

Victor Novak. Picture: Hamza Azhar Salam

Hamza Azhar Salam

A homeless man living in Islington was told he'd have to pay £89 for a new passport - without which he can't apply for benefits or housing.

Victor Novak, who says he became homeless after a relationship breakdown and the loss of his job as a cycle courier, told us he had been sleeping on the streets of Islington for the last 10 years.

"I went to get the passport and they said: 'No problem - just give us £89 and it'll be ready in 10 days,'" he said. "£89! I don't have 89p for tea, coffee - how can I give £89?"

A spokesperson from the Home Office said simply: "If a person can't afford the fees and wasn't born before September 2, 1929, they won't be able to apply for a passport, I'm afraid."

The town hall receives about 500 homeless applications a year, and the number of homeless people, including rough sleepers, has risen in recent years. The borough plans to build 1,900 "genuinely affordable" homes by 2022, including 681 new council homes - but accessing services can be difficult for those who don't have official photo IDs.

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Many people in the UK don't have passports or driving licenses. One alternative is the "CitizenCard", which costs £15, but it is not accepted by councils as a valid ID. It is also extremely difficult for people who have lost their homes to make online payments and provide a valid postal address for delivery.

Without official photo IDs like passports and driver's licenses, they are unable to access basic services from the government like housing, benefits - and even voting rights.

The government recently announced voters could be required to show ID at polling stations - something Islington North MP and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said amounts to voter suppression for reasons like these.

Mr Corbyn tweeted: "The Tories' voter ID plans are clearly discriminatory. They want to suppress voter turnout and shut people out of our democracy. This must be stopped."

An Islington Council spokesperson said: "When making a decision about whether a person can be placed in temporary accommodation, we are required by law to seek information about who they are and their right to statutory housing services. Typically this includes some form of identification.

"However, photo ID is not critical to access council services for people rough sleeping, including discretionary temporary accommodation placements. We invite Mr Novak to contact us urgently so we can discuss his case."

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