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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. Back in March, the government announced funding to 'provide thousands of long-term, safe homes for vulnerable rough sleepers,' mainly in hotels. In a letter of May 28, government minister Luke Hall asked councils to devise new move-on plans by June 11 and confirmed there would be £433 million of government support over the lifetime of the parliament. This is intended to help 6,000 rough sleepers into permanent accommodation in the long term, with 3,300 being assisted in the next 12 months. There is separate funding of £105 million for interim solutions before long-term ones come on stream. In a Guardian article, leader of the government taskforce, Louise Casey, explains the background.
  • Rough sleeping and NRPF - England. How do we help rough sleepers who don’t have access to public funds? In the July newsletter (pdf), Liz Davies explains (second article) what is available for those not eligible for homeless assistance. NACCOM has a guide (pdf, March 30) to working with councils to help rough sleepers with 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 in Glasgow and Edinburgh. 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.
  • 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). Landlords currently have to give three months' notice to seek possession, and the court service has suspended all ongoing housing possession actions. However, landlords will now be able to start eviction proceedings after August 23 (revised date announced June 5). There will be new rules about evictions that will take effect on that date, described in an email from MHCLG (pdf). Government advice to landlords and tenants is here (updated July 23). And here is a CIH fact sheet (pdf, April 9). CIH published proposals to reduce post-Covid evictions (June 1) which were not taken up. London Renters' Union has published guidance for tenants faced with eviction in different languages. The Welsh Government announced on 23 July that the evictions notice period would be extended from three to six months in Wales after August 23. The Nearly Legal blog is sceptical about the new regulations, saying they will not reduce the number of possession claims, or tackle the likely substantial increase in claims as a result of the pandemic; they will, however, possibly mean that those claims will take longer.
  • 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. Due to Coronavirus restrictions, the Tribunal postponed all casesfrom 18 March to 9 July meaning that no private notices could be issued. Issuing a notice that hasn’t been approved by the Tribunal is a criminal offence. CIH has published proposals to reduce post-Covid evictions (June 1).
  • Private rented tenancies. CIH has a good practice guide on maintaining tenancies during the crisis (pdf, April 20). It applies across the UK.
  • No recourse to public funds - England and Wales. A House of Commons briefing sets out how people are affected by NRPF during the crisis.The NRPF Network has published guidance for local authorities (pdf) who give support to people who don't have access to public funds. Twenty organisations have written to the prime minister arguing for NRPF to be suspended. Councils have made a similar call (June 12). Project 17 can help with short-term hotel accommodation where people with NRPF are refused help and are challenging the refusal.
  • No recourse to public funds - Scotland. COSLA have issued detailed advice which points out that:
    • Local authorities have statutory public health duties to provide emergency accommodation to all people with NRPF who are roofless or rough sleeping during the pandemic, in addition to continued duties to safeguard vulnerable people under social care legislation.
    • Local authorities can provide financial support, food or other emergency assistance, so long as the source of funding is not a prohibited public fund (such as the Scottish Welfare Fund) and can work with third sector partners  to provide that support.
    • Where someone is receiving assistance solely on public health grounds, this will be provided on a temporary basis, as part of the response to pandemic.
    • Any support provided and costs incurred should be clearly recorded and reviewed, in line with changes in public health advice and/or any relevant changes in UK immigration rules during this period.
  • Extra money for local services. The government is providing English local authorities with £3.2 billion in total to provide extra services during the crisis, in part to provide rough sleeper accommodation. Initial funding allocations to each council were shown here and the second set is here.
  • 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. In a letter to the Red Cross, the government announced that - at least until the end of June - asylum seekers whose claim has been decided will not be required to leave supported accommodation, whether or not their claim is rejected. They also continue to receive support payments until they successfully receive a universal credit payment. So far (July 12) there has been no change to the Home Office position.
  • Other asylum seeker issues. Guidance for asylum seekers and those supporting them is available from ASAP. They have guidance correct at April 17 (pdf) and this will be updated. 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.
  • 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, updated 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 is temporarily suspended. The Home Office has produced a detailed FAQ document forstakeholders.
  • 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.
  • 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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Chartered Institute of Housing