At our second UK Network Event, Verena Hutcheson, Homelessness and Housing Pathways Manager Housing Needs at Reading Borough Council shared how they have been supporting those with No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF).
Starting in January 2015, Faith Christian Group has been running a Winter Shelter to provide temporary accommodation during January and February. In more recent years, they have received some Government funding to extend this into March. The scheme has a dedicated coordinator and uses a rota of local church venues who provide a team of volunteers. Together, they work to ensure those who enter their doors are met with compassion, given a meal and a bed for the evening. They are then supported in various ways to try and help them come off the streets.
Through the Winter Shelter, it was identified that a lot of the people using the shelter’s services were asylum seekers and/or EU Nationals with no recourse to public funds. It was for this reason that Reading Borough Council partnered with Faith Christian Group, Launchpad Reading and St Mungo’s Street Outreach Team to form a NRPF Project Group. The aim of the group is to focus on supporting people to obtain their settled status in the UK.
Since September 2020, the group – who currently has 35 open clients – have been meeting weekly to find ways to best support it’s cohort. This has been by allocating each person a key worker who supports them with completing forms, accompanying them to appointments and offering emotional and practical support and access to food, clothing, prescriptions and laundry facilities, in what is a very challenging situation.
To date, the NRPF Project Group has supported 16 people to obtain their pre or full-settled status in the UK which then opens the door to them being able to find accommodation and a job. Reading Refugee Support Group (RRSG) have been instrumental in supporting those people from non-EU countries who need more specialist advice around seeking asylum and refuge. Citizens Advice Reading have supported specialist immigration advice and the Red Cross have been able to support with sustenance and meeting basic needs for this cohort. Whilst the Project Group has focussed upon achieving settled status, wider partners supporting those without recourse in Reading have been crucial to each successful outcome the Group has achieved.
Verena tells us that the project has been a real learning curve for the Project team. Through working directly with people with no recourse to public funds, they have found out just how difficult it truly is for this client group to find the information they need. They face significant barriers such as obtaining ID, which can take more time than expected due to working with different embassies that aren’t always based locally. The language barrier is also a challenge and especially if the person is experiencing multiple needs such as an addiction or poor mental health. Having a criminal history makes navigating the immigration system even more complex for clients and supporting professionals and it can significantly delay settled status decisions and outcomes. These barriers make it more of a challenge for them to find suitable accommodation, preventing them from being able to settle and build a home.
Although the Project team has achieved so much in engaging in this group, there is a risk that July, the funds allocated to the NRPF Project Group will come to an end and the work, coordination and learning across the organisations involved, will not be able to continue. The team in Reading are currently exploring options to continue the Project’s work. As we’re well aware, supporting people in their journey doesn’t happen overnight and takes time and perseverance. We hope the team in Reading are successful in keeping the Project Group going so they can support people in rebuilding their lives.