Islington Covid-19 homeless taskforce urges government to axe ‘hostile environment’ policy

PUBLISHED: 16:44 08 June 2020 | UPDATED: 17:05 08 June 2020

Rough sleeper illustrated in Crisis charity's campaign by model with sleeping bag. Picture: Sam Mellish

Rough sleeper illustrated in Crisis charity's campaign by model with sleeping bag. Picture: Sam Mellish

Credit Sam Mellish

Islington’s Covid-19 homeless taskforce has called on the government to axe a “hostile environment” policy which “puts people onto the streets”.

Islington Council has accommodated 37 people with no recourse to public funds (NRPF) since March 15, compared to 30 cases last year.

NRPF is an immigration condition prohibiting access to most benefits, as well as homelessness assistance and a local authority allocation of social housing.

But central government was forced to lift some such restrictions so local authorities could accommodate homeless people with NRPF in temporary accommodation during the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Jess Turtle, co-founder of Museum of Homelessness, which helps run Islington’s taskforce, told the Gazette: “During lockdown because the rules have been lifted the council has processed [more than] a year’s worth of no recourse to public funds cases, so that’s quite staggering. It shows the numbers of people who can’t normally come forward for help. It really indicates the depth of the need and what those hostile environment policies are causing.”

She added: “We have been working really closely with a group of Romani and some Romanian men, looking at their situation. And because of the current immigration laws they’re really struggling to survive. “And because of Covid they have been unable to work, so we have been providing to them, trying to help them get back on their feet. It really is destitution. People don’t realise the law puts people on the streets.”

A government spokesperson said: “We have been clear that no one should find themselves destitute during this crisis due to circumstances beyond their control.

“We have taken action across the system to support those with no recourse to public funds, including protections from eviction for renters and mortgage holidays, as well as support through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, Self Employed Income Support Scheme and those on zero-hours contracts.

“People granted leave under the family and human rights routes can also apply to have the conditions lifted if their financial circumstances have changed.”

People have NRPF when they’re a national of a non-European Economic Area country and have: leave to remain with the NRPF condition, leave to remain subject to a maintenance undertaking e.g. adult dependent relative, or no current immigration permission.

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