We’ve been calling on the government to protect people seeking asylum and refugees at risk due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. We are particularly concerned for people who are unable to access accommodation or support, those on limited support and those in shared accommodation who may be unable to self-isolate.
This page provides a summary of the government’s response to date, noting key temporary changes to asylum and resettlement policy and practice. Information will be updated on a daily basis. Last updated at 9:03 am on 28 January 2022 (updated Part 4 – Asylum Support – Evictions update, payments to continue & uplift in rates) to reflect an update of the asylum support financial support.
Open each headline below to see more detail.
On 22 April, the Home Office informed us that they have set up a number of temporary regional Asylum Intake Units (AIU) to enable people to attend screening interviews in additional locations aside from Croydon.
As of the 22 April, the Asylum Intake Unit (AIU) in Croydon will continue to function as normal but asylum registrations will also be able to be made at additional locations in Glasgow, Belfast, Liverpool, Leeds, Solihull and Cardiff. These additional locations are temporary and will not operate a 5-day service. Person to person contact at the Intake Units has been minimised. Further details on the opening times and how to book an appointment at each location can be found here [PDF].
The Home Office have advised that anyone who books an appointment at any location must bring their appointment letter with them to their appointment.
As before, people do not need to make an appointment if they are homeless though the Home Office advise people who need to ‘walk-in’, should contact the Asylum Intake Unit appointment line who will be able to advise whether they should attend the Asylum Intake Unit in Croydon or one of the temporary locations.
On the 5 November the Home Office confirmed [PDF] that the additional regional intake units would continue to operate in light of the new lockdown conditions.
Some reporting centres will re-open from 20 July for limited hours, outside of peak travel times. People will get a text message, email or letter when with information about their new reporting date. Further details can be found here.
The Home Office have also now provided email addresses for all the reporting centres which can be contacted if there are any issues.
The Home Office paused face to face substantive asylum interviews on the 18th March.
On the 15th June the Home Office confirmed that they plan to resume substantive interviews from the end of June 2020 using existing Video Conferencing facilities in Home Office (UKVI) buildings and VFS (the company that runs some of the Video Conferencing facilities); some of the interviewing officers will be working from home but they can make use of Home Office technology. The resumption of substantive interviews will be rolled out in three phases and eventually the Home Office intends to return to pre Covid-19 practice.
Phase 1 – Those asked to attend an asylum interview will be limited to those within close proximity to a UKVI or VFS location to help reduce need for public transport where possible. Once applicants attend a UKVI or VFS centre, UKVI or VFS staff will accompany them straight to an interview room/booth as soon as possible to avoid waiting in public areas. Interviews will then be completed remotely over video with the caseworker and interpreter in a separate location to help with social distancing. Consideration will be given under the existing process on the suitability of those interviewed using video conferencing.
Phase 2 – Face to face interviews will resume; plans are already being made to amend the physical space to put in place screens and the room layout will be changed so that social distancing (under the current 2 metre rule) can be maintained. Not all of the rooms in use pre Covid-19 will be suitable if there is not room for social distancing. It will be optional for caseworkers, and claimants, if they wish to wear personal safety equipment in the form of a mask to cover their face during interviews or wear gloves. There will be additional breaks factored in, based on the physical interviewing environment.
Phase 3 – Resumption of interviews for unaccompanied children and for families who need to use UKVI provided childcare.
In all cases there may need to be limits set on the number of people allowed to attend a substantive interviews. The Home Office has assured us that it will work with legal representatives.
The usual notice period will be given when asking an applicant to attend an interview i.e. five days.
Plans are likely to vary across UKVI regions because of different building layouts and therefore what needs to be put in place to enable substantive interviews to resume.
The Home Office have also published new guidance on the resumption of substantive interviews.
On the 5 November 2020, the Home Office confirmed [PDF] that asylum interviews would continue to take place across the UK in light of the new lockdown conditions. The invitation to attend an interview letter [PDF] has been amended to provide further guidance to people who may be feeling unwell or need to self-isolate.
Cessations of support and evictions
Following a review of the pause [PDF] on evictions at the start of the pandemic in March 2020 and a period of engagement with local authorities, the Home Office have confirmed that they will begin to resume cessations of support including evictions from asylum accommodation for people who have been granted status.
- People who have been granted status will receive their 28 day move-on letters.
- The Home Office have provided local authorities with data on the people who will be issued letters in their area.
- People who would be eligible for priority housing under homelessness law will be housed by the local authority itself. Non-priority cases will receive advice and assistance to secure housing in the private rented sector. While the local authority may not have a duty to house non-priority cases, they have been provided with the details of each of the cases in advance to help them plan.
- Migrant Help and its move-on partners will keep in touch with people and assist them to claim benefits and let the Home Office know when they receive payments.
- We were informed that the system of continuing asylum support payments until UC or other benefits have been paid was introduced as a temporary measure while the Home Office worked to clear the backlog of ‘positive cases’ (people who had their asylum claim accepted). As such, we were told it is no longer in place.
- The above process will be closely monitored and kept under review.
Negative cessations – people who were refused asylum
- On the 27 March 2020, the Home Office stopped cessations of section 4 and housed all destitute asylum-seekers who applied for s4 on the basis of the public health risks associated with the pandemic.
- The Home Office has twice attempted to begin cessations of asylum support, once in September 2020 and then again in April 2021. Both attempts to restart cessations of asylum support during a pandemic have been successfully challenged through litigation.
- As a result of a case called QBB, on the 24 May 2021, the Home Office agreed to withdraw their March 2021 negative cessations policy. It was signalled that the pause may continue until Step 4 of the UK Government’s ‘roadmap’ for removing social restrictions. (Step 4 is currently planned for 19 July 2021).
- On 21 May a separate legal challenge called AM was brought by the Home Office in the High Court against the Asylum Support Tribunal (AST). The judge agreed with the Home Office and quashed the Principal Tribunal Judge’s decision.
In summary, this outcome means that the previous “blanket” position—that refused destitute asylum-seekers are entitled to section 4 support because of COVID-19 pandemic—no longer stands.
- On 19 July the UK Government lifted all COVID-19 restrictions, reaching stage 4 of the roadmap. The Home Office confirmed that they are going to restart the process of asylum support cessations from the w/c 19 July. They will be reviewing the support entitlement of people who are on s95 and s 4 support and they will be issuing discontinuation notices to people who are not eligible to continue to receive support. The review and discontinuation of support will only apply to England for now and the Home Office is in discussions with Devolved Administrations to roll out cessations to Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland. People will be provided with 21 days notice before eviction takes place.
It is very important to support people with section 4 applications by asking Migrant Help to fill in the application (ASF1) and process any evidence and to remember some people should be able to move from s95 support to s4 support. Please note that the Home Office letter from 23 April seems to suggest that, when reviewing s95 support for people who were refused asylum, they will offer the possibility of transferring to s4 (without a break in support) if people agree to sign up to the voluntary returns process.
Please check eligibility on all possible s4 grounds, and apply for s4 as soon as possible if someone may be eligible (ideally before receiving section 95 cessation letter) to reduce the possibility of a gap in asylum support.
Please remember there is no right of appeal when someone is not eligible for section 95 asylum support because they are no longer a person seeking asylum (and asylum-seeker). People who have their support terminated can appeal these decisions to the Asylum Support Tribunal (AST).
Asylum support payments
People on section 95 support whose asylum claim and any appeal are refused will be transferred to section 4 support and will continue receiving financial support. They should receive a letter notifying them of this.
People who have received a positive decision on their asylum claim are expected to apply for mainstream welfare benefits.
On 27 January 2022, Kevin Foster, the Minister for Safe and Legal Migration, announced that asylum support rates (for both section 95 and section 4) would be increased from £39.63 to £40.85 per week, per person.
Additionally, the Minister informed that individuals living in full-board initial accommodation who are currently issued a weekly payment of £8.00 to cover essential living items not met by their accommodation provider (clothing, non-prescription medicine and travel), will also see an increase in their weekly payments to £8.24 per person.
Relaxed evidence requirements for asylum support applications
The Home Office have stated that they will not expect Migrant Help to have had sight of original supporting documents provided with asylum support applications. Migrant Help will be able to complete information to indicate they have seen copy documents.
As new birth certificates are not currently being issued, the Home Office will not expect applicants for maternity payments to produce them. A full birth certificate may be required at a later date once normal arrangements have resumed.
Changes to dispersal
In a separate letter [PDF] sent to Local Authorities the Home Office announced that as a result of the halt in evictions, accommodation providers have been instructed to procure additional properties (even in areas where the Local Authority had not previously agreed to become a dispersal area).
In light of NHS England guidance, the Home Office are not requiring providers to move people into new accommodation, unless the person is street homeless, there are other vulnerability factors or there is a court order requiring them to provide accommodation. People who have applied for S95 support in the form of accommodation and subsistence may in some circumstances be offered temporary subsistence payments to cover their essential living needs in the accommodation they are occupying.
At the end of December, we have received an update from the Home Office, through the National Asylum Stakeholder Forum (NASF) on asylum support dispersal. The update deals with Tier 4 situation which has now been superseded by the national lockdown. We are waiting for further information in light of the national lockdown.
- The Home Office asked providers for there to be no moves out of Tier 4 until further notice unless by exception and agreed by the HO. We expect the same will apply now we have a national lockdown in place.
- In order to create bed-space capacity, some people may be moved out of hotels into Dispersed Accommodation in and between English regions. We don’t yet know the impact lockdown will have on this process.
- There should be no routing in or out of Scotland.
- There should be no routing in or out of Wales inclusive of Penally (MOD site) until further notice.
We expect this will not change, considering both Wales and Scotland are now under even stricter restrictions than England.
- The Home Office is looking to allow room sharing between unrelated same-sex adults, which would be a U-turn on current practice.
On the 23 June the Home Office circulated the following with regard to the provision of internet access:
Why is the Home Office providing internet access for asylum seekers within asylum accommodation?
The Home Office is providing internet access for asylum seekers in certain parts of our accommodation as a result of recommendations made by Public Health England in direct relation to supporting well-being during lockdown and measures to support prevention of the spread of COVID-19.
How long will be internet access be provided?
It will be provided for so long as Public Health England make those recommendations in relation to controlling the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Which asylum seekers will get access to internet access?
Those asylum seekers who are currently accommodated within the larger Initial Accommodation facilities where there is no WiFi provision will have access to the internet via SIM cards.
For those within hotels accommodation, it is normal for guests to have Wi-Fi access as part of the hotel facilities.
How will internet access be provided?
Data-only SIM cards will be provided to enable access to the internet while they are within the specific accommodation locations.
Why SIM cards?
The installation of Wi-Fi within the larger Initial Accommodation locations would have not been viable during the Lockdown period both practically and in terms of the timeline. SIM cards are a cost-effective and deliverable alternative.
When will free internet access be provided to asylum seekers?
Free Wi-Fi is currently available to the asylum seekers accommodated within hotels as part of the general offer to residents. SIM cards are in the process of being issued by our accommodation providers across relevant parts of the Initial Accommodation estate.
Asylum seekers will retain the SIM card while they are in residency within that accommodation; upon leaving this accommodation the SIM card will be recovered and deactivated, unless they are being re-located to another Initial Accommodation where SIM cards are issued.
Will asylum seekers be provided with smart-phones if they don’t have them?
The requirement does not extend to the provision of mobile telephony to asylum seekers to those who do not ordinarily have their own devices. Alternatives are provided to those who wish to make calls to other agencies i.e. AIRE (Migrant Help) etc.
Are there any plans to extend free internet access to other accommodation used by asylum seekers?
There is no Public Health advice to suggest that and that is not our intention. The Home Office is however working with partners to gather details of where free Wi-Fi is provided in the towns and cities where asylum seekers live within Dispersed Accommodation to include this within Induction Packs.
The Home Office will also work with partners to ensure where there are schemes for the general UK population to gain access to free Wi-Fi, asylum seekers will be included where possible.
Following a legal challenge, the Secretary of State agreed to extend free school meal entitlement temporarily during the current crisis to children from the following groups provided their families meet the usual income threshold for free school meals:
- Children in families receiving section 4 support
- Children whose parents are Zambrano Carers
- Children in families with LtR subject to NRPF restriction
- Children whose families receive support pursuant to section 17 of the Children Act 1989 who have no recourse to public funds
Therefore, children from the above groups will now be eligible for the support under the COVID-19 school meals policy whereas originally they were excluded. The COVID-19 scheme enables eligible children to have school meals delivered and collected from school or access to £15 weekly vouchers per eligible child.
Further info and guidance on the new provisions can be found here.
General free school meal guidance is outlined here.
On 29 April the Home Office confirmed that Asylum Operations are continuing and they are able to make and serve decisions on cases where there is enough information to do so, while others will be effectively on hold.
The Home Office are reviewing cases on a case by case basis, ensuring those with significant safeguarding concerns or vulnerabilities are only served when appropriate to do so.
Decisions that may be affected, and therefore on hold include:
- Where a recipient may be vulnerable to destitution as a result of our decision.
- Where an individual is particularly vulnerable, an example being someone with mental health conditions, and also those with disabilities.
On 30 March the Home Office informed ILPA that they have put in place a process to enable asylum decisions to be served by email. The Home Office have set up a process whereby they will send an email to the legal representative (using the most recent email address they have on file) to verify the following:
- that the email address is correct
- that the representative is happy to receive emails
- that the authority to act is current
- that there are no reasons why serving the decision by email would not be appropriate
Once the above have been verified by the legal advisor, any decision on the case will be able to be served via email. The Home Office will keep this new system under review.
On 25 March, face-to-face appeal hearings at the First-tier Tribunal (the court where most asylum and immigration appeals are being heard) were not taking place. During that time the judges conducted Case Management Review (CMR) hearings by telephone to decide if a case could be decided on the papers (without a hearing). If a full hearing needed to go ahead, this was done by video.
Currently, the First-tier Tribunal has a reduced capacity to hear face to face hearings, therefore, some are still taking place via remote means (either by phone or video). Appellants are advised to not go to a Court or Tribunal building unless they have been told that their hearing is to take place in person.
The Upper Tribunal appeals and Judicial Review hearings are currently taking place in court-rooms, however, some hearings are still being conducted by remote means. Appellants should contact the Tribunal if they are unsure what the arrangements are for their hearing.
In March 2020, to protect claimants and Home Office staff, changes were made to the further submissions process to allow for representations to be made remotely. The Home Office has now reverted to their pre-pandemic approach which means further submissions should be made in person.
In August 2021, the Home Office resumed the in-person process but increased the number of locations at which further submissions can be lodged. Further submissions can now be lodged at Liverpool, Glasgow or Belfast.
The Asylum Support Tribunal (AST) is working remotely. Appeals are now either determined on the papers or conducted by telephone. The Asylum Support Appeals Project (ASAP) can represent clients in both types of appeals. The AST have introduced a new notice of appeal form to reflect these changes.
Please note that to take into account remote working the timeframes for appeals has changed, in particular the deadline for responding to directions. So it is crucial that you read the directions notice carefully. You can of course submit evidence after the deadline, but be aware that the AST are operating a skeleton staff who are all working remotely, so it’s advisable not to leave it too late. You may not receive an acknowledgement even if you ask for one. The email address to send the Notice of Appeal and your client’s response to directions is firstname.lastname@example.org
The notification of hearing and the directions notice contain important information about how your client’s appeal will be conducted, in particular whether it will be a paper or a telephone hearing. It may not always be clear however that you can request a telephone hearing even if the judge has listed the appeal as a paper hearing. Please see ASAP’s briefing note [PDF] which explains when it may be appropriate to request this.
As ASAP are no longer seeing clients face to face at the tribunal, they can now only assist in cases which are referred to them in advance. So please refer cases to ASAP as early as possible and with as much information as you can.
ASAP have amended their referral and authority forms so that they are now available as word documents which you can edit and email back. ASAP can accept verbal consent for referrals, as long as you confirm in the first instance that you have obtained permission from your client for ASAP to represent them and read their appeal documents.
Please also call the ASAP advice line if you need advice on individual cases.
Please do continue to refer to ASAP through email@example.com
ASAP have also produced a detailed Factsheet on COVID-19 and asylum support, which is available here [PDF].
The Home Office have confirmed that they will be resuming Assisted Voluntary Returns (AVR) from 13 July 2020.
The AVR service had previously been put on hold due to COVID-19.
Individuals and families who are in the UK without leave and who wish to return home, are now able to contact the Voluntary Returns Service to discuss the support options available to them using the details below:
Telephone: 0300 0040 202 Opening hours 09:00-17:00
In response to a legal challenge by Detention Action, the Home Office released 350 people held under immigration powers. The number of people held in immigration detention has reduced dramatically, from 1,225 on 1 January to 368.
In addition, the Home Office has committed to urgently review the cases of every person held in immigration detention. The Home Office has also halted the new detentions of persons liable to administrative removal to 49 countries, including Jamaica, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan, and Albania.
The Home Office has also introduced a series of protective measures for detainees including:
• Enhanced screening, identification and monitoring of those at risk or showing symptoms of COVID-19, particularly for this with underlying health conditions.
• Ensuring that persons at increased risk from COVID-19, and persons who are symptomatic, are provided with facilities to self-isolate in single-occupancy rooms and are provided with individualised care plans
• A review of cleaning practices within detention centres to ensure compliance with Public Health England guidance
• Provision of anti-bacterial cleaning materials to detainees, upon request
• The introduction of social spacing measures in communal areas
• The production of specific guidance to explain in clear terms how to reduce the risk of an outbreak of COVID-19
Having initially put Statelessness applications on hold due to capacity issues, the majority of the Statelessness Determination Team are now back up and running as of 23 April and are now able to make decisions on Stateless Leave cases.
There may be some ongoing logistical issues with part of the process that will reduce service delivery, but they have workarounds in place and so will be able to make and serve decisions.
If you have outstanding cases that you believe need to be prioritised due to particular vulnerabilities please email the Statelessness Determination Team.
All other cases will be considered in due course.
In July 2019, the Government announced that it intends to introduce a new UK Resettlement scheme once the VPRS target had been met. Following this, the Government launched the new UK Resettlement Scheme (UKRS), bringing to an end the Vulnerable Person Resettlement Scheme (VPRS), Vulnerable Children Resettlement Scheme (VCRS), and the Gateway Scheme.
There were 1,171 people granted protection through resettlement schemes in the year ending September 2021. This is 46% fewer than in the previous year, due to resettlement activity being paused between March and November 2020, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
770 people (66% of all those resettled) were resettled through the UK Resettlement scheme (UKRS), and the remainder resettled via the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme and Vulnerable Children Resettlement Scheme (which both closed at the end of February 2021), or through Community Sponsorship schemes.
In August 2021, the Government announced a new resettlement scheme for Afghans which intends to resettle 5,000 people in the first year. After months of waiting the Home Office confirmed, on 24 December, that the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS) will start in January 2022. The Minister for Afghan Resettlement, Victoria Atkins MP, will set out further details of the ACRS once the Parliament is back from recess. The ACRC will provide up to 20,000 Afghan women, children, and others most at risk with a safe and legal route to resettle in the UK.
The Home Office have informed us that they have limited capacity to process travel document applications due to COVID-19.
They advise that anyone who is in particularly difficult situation and needs their application to be considered as a matter of priority, should send a request, along with scanned recent, acceptable evidence of the circumstances and confirmation that the client is able to travel i.e. confirmation from the airline or ferry company to firstname.lastname@example.org
If the Home Office agree that the case meets the criteria for being expedited and an application has not yet been submitted online, then the applicant will need to complete an online application. If an application has already been submitted then the applicant should not apply again as this is likely to cause confusion and may delay their application.
The Home Office ask that the above is done only in the most urgent of cases as there are a limited amount of officers available to monitor this email inbox and to process cases.
In addition, please be aware that more countries are closing airports and borders on a daily basis and this will also impact on people’s ability to travel.
Finally, the Home Office are working with our delivery partners, DX, to understand and mitigate the impact of Covid-19 on their services. Please be aware that documents may take longer than usual to be delivered.
The Home Office were previously unable to process family reunion applications for a number of months while the Visa Application Centres (VACs) were closed.
We now understand that the majority of VACs have reopened and the Home Office have started to process applications again.
People who were issued a 30 day visa who were subsequently unable to travel due to travel restrictions can apply to have their visas renewed once travel restrictions are lifted.
To make a request, applicants should contact the Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre.
Applicants will need to include their name, nationality, date of birth and their GWF reference number with ‘REPLACEMENT 30 DAY VISA’ in the subject line.
Once a request has been submitted, applicants will then be contacted once the VACs reopen to arrange for a replacement visa to be endorsed in their passport. This process will be in place until the end of 2020. Further info on this process can be found here.
On the 5 June 2020, the Home Office confirmed the following:
- The Home Office will replace 30-day vignettes that have lapsed or about to expire with vignettes which are valid for travel for up to three months (90 days) and will maintain this policy until the end of the year.
- Where expired vignettes need to be reissued, we will reissue BRPs to reflect the updated leave start and end dates.
- We will issue entry clearance vignettes that are valid for up to three months to all new applications and planned applications for leave of over six months when VACs start to reopen until the end of the year.
- We will keep this policy under review
On the 28 April, the Home Office confirmed that while they continue to process Dublin III applications to reunite unaccompanied children with family members living in the UK, and are willing to accept such transfers, current travel/flight restrictions mean that in effect transfers are temporarily suspended.
In addition to the flight restrictions, arrangements for transfer under Dublin III are facilitated and undertaken by the authorities of the Member State where the child is currently residing, and as such will be affected by restrictions limiting the ability to travel to the airport and transit through countries.
On the 11 May a flight from Greece arrived in the UK, bringing 52 people, including several minors, to join family members in the UK.
The Home Office hope to be able to resume regular transfers at the earliest opportunity, once it is safe and practical to do so for all involved.
On the 20 April, the Home Office informed us that they are no longer able to accept Integration Loan applications by post.
Integration Loan application forms, can now be completed and submitted online here.
The online form should completed and submitted form by clicking on the ‘submit’ form button. This will automatically open an e-mail with the completed application form attached to the email. Supporting documents should be scanned and also attached to the email before pressing press send.
The form and the supporting documents will then be sent to Integrationloan@homeoffice.gov.uk.
Where scanning facilities are not accessible, photos of the signed application form and supporting documents will be accepted, also by email. Applicants should include their email address within the loan application so that the Home Office can inform them when their loan application has been decided.
Anyone who submitted a postal application before 20 March will have their application considered and they do not need to take any further action.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has also been making temporary changes to their policies regarding access to welfare benefits as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. We will be listing those in this section here.
- As of Tuesday 24 March, access to jobcentres is limited, with members of the public not admitted into jobcentres unless they are directed to do so with a booked appointment. Only the most vulnerable claimants who cannot access DWP services by other channels will be able to attend, with the public urged to use online services. People can still make applications for benefits online if they are eligible. Further details can be found on the government website here.
- Advances for all new UC claimants in need are now available online/via phone, with no requirement to attend the jobcentre.
- As of Tuesday 24 March, benefit reviews and reassessments, including face-to-face assessments for all sickness and disability benefits, are suspended for three months. Details can be found on the government website here.
- From 6 April, the Universal Credit standard allowance and Working Tax Credit basic element will be increased by £20 per week for one year.
- The Local Housing Allowance rates for private renters claiming the Universal Credit housing element or Housing Benefit will be increased to the 30th percentile of market rents.
- The Minimum Income Floor for all self-employed claimants affected by the economic impact of COVID-19 has been relaxed.
- National Insurance Number interviews are not currently taking place for three months effective from 17 March. The DWP have confirmed that individuals do not need a National Insurance number to apply for benefits or a job. Individuals can start work without a National Insurance Number as long as they have the right to work in the UK and employers have information to allow them to do this.
In response to the pandemic, the government change the minimum notice period for eviction notices.
Eviction notices served between 26 March 2020 and 28 August 2020 must provide a minimum notice period of three months.
Eviction notices served between 29 August 2020 and 31 March 2021, must provide a minimum notice period of six months.
The stay on possession proceedings expired on 20 September 2020 and landlords are now able to progress their possession claim through the courts.
However, in response to the latest lockdown, the Government paused evictions until 22 February 2021. During this time, landlords can serve eviction notices and courts can grant eviction orders, but court bailiffs are not permitted to carry out evictions except in the most serious cases (e.g. cases involving anti-social behaviour or where there are rent arrears of six months or more).
Once the pause comes to an end, bailiffs need to provide at least two weeks’ notice of an eviction, which means evictions in non-serious cases will resume from 8 March 2021.
Further information can be found here.
On the 26 March, the Government wrote to local authorities in England asking them to house all people sleeping rough, and those in hostels and night shelters, by the weekend. This was known as the ‘Everybody In’ initiative.
In the letter from the homelessness minister, Luke Hall MP, the Government has advised that local authorities ‘utilise alternative powers and funding to assist those with no recourse to public funds (NRPF) who require shelter and other forms of support due to the pandemic’.
As part of the ‘Everyone In’ initiative, approximately 15,000 people who were sleeping rough, in unsafe communal settings or at imminent risk of rough sleeping were placed into emergency accommodation during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Following this, the government announced the Next Steps programme which made further funding available to some local authorities to prevent people returning to rough sleeping.
On 20 December, Eddie Hughes, MP Minister for Rough Sleeping and Housing, sent a letter [PDF] to all local authorities in England to update them on plans to protect and vaccinate people sleeping rough during the COVID-19 pandemic, including non-UK nationals and those with NRPF (no recourse to public funds restriction).
Local Authorities are encouraged to exercise public health and emergency powers to provide accommodation (Section 2B National Health Service Act 2006 and associated statutory guidance published in accordance with Section 73B, and Section 138 Local Government Act 1972). Other powers, for example, the General Power of Competence (Section 1 Localism Act), can also be used for this cohort although in some (but not all) cases use will be limited unless it is necessary to avoid breach of a person’s ECHR rights. In the government’s view, the circumstances are such that the ECHR exception may well be engaged.
The Department announced a £25 million funding package to support all Local Authorities (LAs) across England to find appropriate accommodation and to use this as a way of boosting vaccination rates across this rough sleeping population. As such, LAs are encouraged to offer safe and appropriate accommodation to people who are currently rough sleeping.
The Department suggests that LAs particularly focus on the most vulnerable people sleeping rough, like those who are clinically vulnerable, as well as those with a history of rough sleeping.
In terms of supporting vaccinations, the Department’s approach is two-fold:
- Working closely with NHSEI’s Vaccine Deployment Programme to target mobile vaccination units to areas where there may be a high concentration of unvaccinated people sleeping rough.
- Providing a £3.2 million vaccination incentivisation package, which will be in place up to the end of March 2022. This will comprise of funding directly to LAs to be used flexibly to encourage the uptake of vaccination among people sleeping rough, e.g. to support activities such as travel costs, meal vouchers, or funding for staff to take people to vaccination appointments.
From 30 March 2020, Right to rent and right to work checks have been adapted to make it easier for landlords and employers to carry them out during the coronavirus outbreak.
The temporary changes will mean the Home Office will not require landlords and employers to see original documents and will allow checks to be undertaken over video calls.
These temporary changes will mean that during the coronavirus outbreak prospective renters and workers are now able to submit scanned documents, rather than originals, to show they have a right to rent or right to work.
Further information can be found here
The NHS have set up a web page that allows people living in England who have a medical condition that makes them extremely vulnerable to coronavirus to join a register.
Once registered, people will be able to ask for help and support, including getting deliveries of essential supplies like food. People can register themselves or others can register on their behalf.
People seeking asylum are able to register if they are in scope of the categories below:
1. Solid organ transplant recipients
2. People with specific cancers
- People with cancer who are undergoing active chemotherapy or radical radiotherapy for lung cancer
- People with cancers of the blood or bone marrow such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma who are at any stage of treatment
- People having immunotherapy or other continuing antibody treatments for cancer
- People having other targeted cancer treatments which can affect the immune system, such as protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors
- People who have had bone marrow or stem cell transplants in the last 6 months, or who are still taking immunosuppression drugs
3. People with severe respiratory conditions including all cystic fibrosis, severe asthma and severe COPD
4. People with rare diseases and inborn errors of metabolism that significantly increase the risk of infections (such as SCID, homozygous sickle cell)
5. People on immunosuppression therapies sufficient to significantly increase risk of infection
6. People who are pregnant with significant heart disease, congenital or acquired
Accommodation providers in England will also be supporting people in asylum accommodation who fit the above criteria to register.
The Salvation Army continues to provide support to victims of modern slavery through the Victim Care Contract (VCC) for both individuals already receiving support and new referrals. It has been confirmed, by the Home Office, that they are taking a flexible approach through existing policies, such as the extension request mechanism and Recovery Needs Assessments (RNAs).
A minimum of 45 calendar days of VCC ‘move-on’ support will be maintained for confirmed victims following their receipt of a positive Conclusive Grounds (CG) decision and the extension request process remains in place for individuals in receipt of a negative CG decision who require longer to exit support.
Support workers will continue to take into account the capacity of local services when planning move-on after a positive or negative CG decision and will not facilitate move-on unless it is safe and appropriate to do so. RNA decision-making by the Single Competent Authority will also take account of these factors.
Previous measures put in place earlier in the year, including the use of card payments for financial support will remain in place.
Members of the public can reach the Salvation Army on the referral helpline number 0800 808 3733. This number is linked to the support provided under the NRM and through the Victim Care Contract and is, therefore, the most direct and efficient way to get support for anyone who suspects that they themselves or someone else might be a victim of modern slavery and in need of help.
The Department for Education (DfE) has launched two new schemes aimed at helping children to access remote education during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Increasing data allowances on mobile devices to support disadvantaged children
Under this scheme data allowances for mobile phone users on certain networks will be increased. This is so that children and young people can access remote education if their face-to-face education is disrupted.
The request for a data increase can be made by schools, trusts and local authorities for children and young people who:
- do not have fixed broadband at home
- cannot afford additional data for their devices
- are experiencing disruption to their face-to-face education
The following networks are participating in this scheme:
- Virgin Mobile
- Tesco Mobile
- Sky Mobile
With the hope that other providers join at a later stage.
- 4G wireless routers
If increasing mobile data isn’t a suitable option for some children, schools can also request 4G wireless routers for disadvantaged children to help them get online and access remote education.
If a child cannot get a mobile data increase, a school can request 4G wireless routers for disadvantaged children, who are:
- in years 3 to 11 who do not have internet access and whose face-to-face education is disrupted
- in any year group who have been advised to shield because they (or someone they live with) are clinically extremely vulnerable
- in any year group attending a hospital school