This week, I spoke at The Centre for Homelessness Impact #ImpactForum2022 Conference in Birmingham to discuss the impact and responses to those who are homeless and have No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) Homelessness.
Joined by a fantastic all-female panel, chaired by the Director for Wales at Housing Justice, Bonnie Williams, the panel was clear that if the Government is to hit it’s target of ending homelessness by 2026, it cannot ignore those who have NRPF, including vulnerable asylum seekers.
For too long, the Tory Government has ignored this group of vulnerable people, but ignoring the problem will not make it go away. The Home Office’s plan to deport these people to Rwanda is not only ill-thought, expensive, and of doubtful legality, but it also exposes the gaping holes in leadership at the top of Government, where ministers have been unable to address the policy tensions over NRPF Homelessness between the Home Office and Department for Housing and Levelling Up.
Instead, the Government is driving the issue underground which comes with it’s own set of challenges.
This week, the High Court ruled that the Government’s NRPF policy is unlawful because it leaves people destitute and homeless, which is why urgent reform is needed, so that those affected by the policy can access the funds that they need to safely rebuild their lives in the UK.
At the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown, your Labour-led Birmingham City Council, was able to support everyone sleeping rough under our Everyone In scheme. We didn’t just do this because it was a necessary public health measure in fighting Covid-19, but because it was the right thing to do. By providing accommodation, as well as specialist support, we were able to assist around 165 people with NRPF to try to resolve some of their issues whilst they were indoors - some we successfully helped in getting ‘settled’ status and began the process for others; others realised that they did have the right to access public funds and some got jobs in our local communities.
The panel also discussed devolution and its impact on homeless. The Tory Government still hold a lot of power over how local authorities tackle Homelessness but there are some good examples of local intervention. Birmingham is a proud City of Sanctuary and works closely with other councils across the region in tackling homelessness.
However, I have also made it clear that there needs to be consistency in tackling homelessness across the country to avoid creating cities who become a magnet to vulnerability. We often find that homeless people are being advised to move to the city because there is a package and stronger support on Homelessness - it is deeply unfair that whilst council budget’s are being slashed, our council is shouldering the responsibility for tackling homelessness, where others should also be stepping up.
The Levelling Up agenda must consider homeless prevention through affordable housing, employment and economic growth. It is essential to consider what we refer to as 'designing out Homelessness', which means designing services and delivery on what you want to achieve not just what you want to avoid. In practice that means developing an affordable housing market to address the current housing crisis but with a vision for future renters, future home owners.
Unfortunately I couldn’t stay the entire day. It was great to catch up with so many familiar faces and friends from across the sector.
There was lots of speakers including:
🗣 Matt Green, Crisis - the national charity for ending homelessness
🗣 Andy Street, West Midlands Metro Mayor
🗣 Eddie Hughes MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Rough Sleeping and Housing