Previously, people seeking asylum in the UK who had been recognised as legitimate refugees had a 28-day “move-on” period requiring them to leave registered asylum support accommodation.
Recent changes have reduced this period to as little as seven days, with Newcastle City Council members agreeing the time is insufficient to engage refugees with support services and processes, leaving people exposed to possible homelessness and destitution.
Councillors on Wednesday (November 1) backed a motion calling on Government to not only reverse the change, but to extend the move-on period to at least 56 days to enable refugees to work with services to arrange accommodation and ensure Universal Credit claims are in place.
Cllr Irim Ali, Newcastle City Council cabinet member for a Dynamic City, said: “Irrespective of the fact this change was not communicated to councils before it was implemented meaning we were unable to plan for this situation, the bottom line is this policy puts refugees in an impossible position.
“Seven days is nowhere near sufficient enough time for refugees to engage with housing services or for Universal Credit payments to begin, meaning no sooner are they recognised as a refugee – incredibly vulnerable people in need of support – they then find themselves without accommodation or without the means to purchase even the most basic of goods.
“Newcastle is a proud City of Sanctuary and we take pride in being a place where people can start a new and safe life, away from wars, persecution or any other reason that makes someone feel they need to leave their home country behind.
“But local authorities don’t have the funding or the homes to deal with the consequences of this change, and what chance do refugees have if, when they arrive in another country, they are almost immediately forced into homelessness and a life of poverty?
“I strongly urge the Government to reconsider their approach and give refugees every chance of building meaningful lives for themselves.”
The motion, which was unanimously approved by members at Wednesday’s meeting of full council, called on the Government to:
- Commit to immediately roll back the changes to the move-on period to enable Local Authorities to meet the demand for homelessness prevention services.
- Work with local authorities by providing them with information on people leaving the asylum system and the funding necessary to enable us to fully support people so that they can successfully navigate the move-on period.
- Improve communication with local authorities so that we can more adequately match demand to supply.
- Ensure that all schemes and policy changes that place duty on local authorities to prevent homelessness, are designed in consultation with local authorities and are adequately funded.
- Work with councils in a meaningful way to address the homelessness impacts of their asylum and immigration policies.
- Work to increase the supply of housing to meet the needs of all residents including refugees, focusing on bringing back void accommodation and increasing access to private rented accommodation.