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Coronavirus - how does it affect migrants' access to housing and benefits?

Get all the information - updated daily - on developments affecting migrants as the governments in England, Scotland and Wales deal with the crisis.

Here you can find news about how to help migrants deal with housing and benefits problems and any important changes in the relevant rules.

  • Rough sleeping - England. For the second lockdown, on November 5 the government announced a 'Protect Programme' to run alongside the earlier 'Everyone In' scheme, with £15 million of additional funding. The government says it has spent £700 million this year in total. Also on this issue:
    • In the housing rights July newsletter (pdf), Liz Davies explains (second article) help available for those not eligible for homeless assistance.
    • NRPF Network has guidance for local authorities (pdf) who give support to people who don't have access to public funds.
    • NACCOM has a guide (pdf, March 30) to working with councils to help rough sleepers with NRPF.
    • Project 17 can help with short-term hotel accommodation where people with NRPF are refused help and are challenging the refusal.
    • A House of Commons briefing on how people are affected by NRPF.
  • Rough sleeping - Scotland and Wales. The Scottish Government provided £350 million of funding for community wellbeing and a specific £300,000 for rough sleeper accommodation in hotels. COSLA issued detailed advice for local authorities in Scotland on NRPF and rough sleeping. The Welsh Government provided funding and asked local authorities to utilise alternative powers to help people 'regardless of their immigration status'. Guidance was issued (pdf) on April 28. A research report on what can be done in Wales to help people with NRPF has also been published by the Welsh Government.
  • Right to rent checks (England). From March 30, landlords no longer need to see original documents. Checks by landlords of applicants' eligibility to rent can be carried out by video calls, and applicants can send scanned documents by email or mobile app, according to Home Office guidance. However, landlords will have to repeat the checks in the normal way when the crisis ends, re-checking any tenancies that began after March 30.
  • Evictions (England & Wales). With the ending of the temporary ban on September 21, landlords can start eviction proceedings. However, in places where public health restrictions are in place possession notices will not be enforced, nor will they be enforced over Christmas (December 11 to January 11). The government has announced that landlords must give six months’ notice in most cases, until  the end of March 2020.  Other points are that:
  • Evictions (Scotland). The Coronavirus (Scotland) Act temporarily increases the minimum period for eviction from three months to six months, except for certain cases such as criminal or antisocial behaviour and abandonment. The Tribunal has also been given temporary discretion over all grounds for eviction from private tenancies are discretionary, allowing individual circumstances to be taken into account. CIH has published proposals to reduce post-Covid evictions (June 1).
  • Private rented tenancies. The NRLA has produced guidance for landlords, endorsed by CIH, on handling arrears during the pandemic. CIH has a good practice guide on maintaining tenancies during the crisis (pdf, April 20). It applies across the UK. The Scottish Government has created interest-free loans to help tenants in hardship due to Covid, providing they were not in arrears before the pandemic.
  • Benefits and pensions. Some measures to simplify access to benefits and pensions have been introduced via temporary benefit regulations . The website has a summary of measures to support benefit claimants. A CIH fact sheet (pdf) explains the measures (updated May 4). Single parents who are not entitled to benefits are taking court action to try to get restrictions lifted during the crisis. Citizens Advice have guidance on applying for universal credit in 14 different languages.
  • Asylum accommodation. The Home Office has resumed cessations of support including evictions from asylum accommodation for people who have been granted status. Click here to read more. On September 11 they also announced cessations of support in refused asylum cases. Some details are:
    • People who have been granted status will begin to receive their 28-day move-on letters starting in England from 11 August.
    • Letters will be sent out over a 6 week period, with each local authority having a slot in the 6 week period.  Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will follow a similar process but will start at a later date.
    • The Home Office has provided authorities with data on the people who will be issued letters in their area.

However, in October a judge ruled evictions unreasonable in tier 3 areas, and the issue will now go to the high court.

  • Other asylum seeker issues. Guidance for asylum seekers and those supporting them is available from ASAP. The Home Office has increased the number of places where asylum claims can be made (pdf), but these must be done in person. The Refugee Council also has a news page which is regularly updated. Casework advice on asylum support can also be obtained from Refugee Action. On August 6, the government announced that asylum interviews would resume, using video conferencing.
  • EU Settlement Scheme applications - see the Brexit page for details of changes during the crisis period.
  • Translated guidance on Covid 19. Doctors of the World have provided UK-wide guidance for patients about the virus in more than 60 different languages (remember that DotW have clinics in London where migrants can get assistance without being asked about their immigration status).
  • Hostels and day centres. There is government guidance for hostel or day centre providers of services for people in England experiencing rough sleeping. Welsh Government guidance is here and Scottish Government guidance here (pdf). CIH has produced good practice guidance (pdf, March 25) for those running temporary accommodation and day centres.
  • Domestic abuse victims may not receive the help they need. As the risk of domestic violence increases, refuges may either be full or may turn away migrant women with no access to public funds. Public Interest Law Centre and Southall Black Sisters launched a legal challenge to the government to secure funding for accommodation for abuse survivors. Resources which may help include:
  • Modern slavery victims - will be allowed to stay in government-funded safe accommodation for the next three months.
  • Visa extensions. Visas are extended for those unable to return home during the crisis.
  • Refugee resettlement has been suspended. The Home Office has produced a detailed FAQ document for stakeholders. Refugee Action points out (October) that resettlement has still not resumed.
  • Reporting conditions during the crisis. After lobbying by Migrants Organise and the Helen Bamber Foundation, reporting conditions have been temporarily paused.
  • Free schools meals have been extended to a wider range of families including those with NRPF. Project 17 has a user-friendly information sheet and application letter.
  • Emergency grant funding - voluntary groups. Crisis has a UK-wide fund to assist groups working in the homelessness sector during the crisis. There is a lengthy list of organisations of all types offering grants during the crisis at GrantsOnline.
  • Advice for migrants who do not have long-term leave. The government has a page of brief points of advice for migrants on health, housing, etc. (updated November 2020).
  • Official sources of information
    • The Home Office has a help centre for immigration queries related to coronavirus.
    • The Whitehall government has set up a page with links to government guidance for local authorities, which is regularly updated.
    • DWP now offers up-to-date benefits and support information via WhatsApp. Access the service by sending ‘Hi’ in a WhatsApp message to 07860 064 422.
    • The Welsh Government has a similar page with sections on housing and benefits.
    • In Scotland, Cosla has a page of guidance on migrant-related issues for local authorities.
  • Other national sources of information

Please let us know of any developments that should be posted here (email with any suggestions).

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