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Supporting people with no access to public funds

One of our current priority projects is to try and help people experiencing homelessness who are not eligible for any public funds due to their immigration status - which effectively leaves them destitute. Our new project aims to support these people to lead productive lives in Oxfordshire. 

The issue

200 people who were sleeping rough in Oxfordshire have been housed in temporary accommodation during the COVID-19 pandemic. This has been a significant achievement, and its success proves that homelessness can be ended if given priority and adequate resources.

However, these arrangements end from 31st March 2021. After that, local councils are not permitted to use their resources to house people with a status referred to as “NRPF” (No Recourse to Public Funds). The majority are from outside the EEA and have a pending or unresolved asylum claim. They are not allowed to work; neither are they eligible for benefits, nor allowed to use public services except for basic health care.

In many cases this policy effectively leaves people destitute. However, for them living in hardship in Oxfordshire is preferable to a return to their own countries, where they may face danger or even worse conditions. This often makes them vulnerable to abuse and exploitation, and a return to the streets also places them at risk of deportation to a place where they may not be safe.

Providing good longer-term solutions for these people not only helps them, it also helps to protect the wider community during the current pandemic.

The programme

The objective of the programme is to provide tailored support for each person, to the point where they become self-sufficient and contribute positively to the Oxfordshire community. The approach involves:

  • Following ‘Housing First’ principles. These specify that without stable accommodation and support fitted to their needs, no person is likely to remain safe, mentally well and able to start looking after themselves. So finding accommodation for these 21 people is the first priority.
  • Assessing needs. We recognise this, and that each participant has their own personal strengths, weaknesses and aspirations. Understanding these and designing a support and development programme suited to the individual is a cornerstone of the approach.
  • Resolving immigration status. This is typically the main barrier to progress. This part of the programme will lift people from being in a state of ‘limbo’, so that each of them can be helped to develop a plan that offers the best available outcome in their circumstances.
  • Measuring success. We will work with the Centre for Homelessness Impact (CHI) to ensure the project is evaluated independently. Going forward, the project is expected to provide a model for future development of support for people with NRPF.
  • Providing resources and funding. A project budget in the range £1.36 to £1.48 million will be needed over the five-year term of the project.

Programme management and governance

The programme was initiated by OHM and designed by a coalition of leading local organisations covering the specialist areas needed. OHM’s Steering Group will oversee the project, supported by charitable funding from the Oxfordshire Community Foundation (OCF). Delivery will be managed by three well respected organisations in this field:

  • Aspire will be responsible for property management and maintenance services
  • Asylum Welcome will provide professional advice to support asylum claims for those from outside the EEA, and applications for settled status for those from within the EEA
  • Connection Support will create individual plans to help clients move forward – including providing support related to any trauma clients may have experienced

Next steps

The first group of six clients will be housed and supported first thanks to accommodation provided by Soha Housing. It is hoped that a further six clients will also be offered accommodation by Soha and once this is confirmed, and further funds are raised, this next group will be added. 

The latest update is that through this project we are currently housing and supporting nine guests in five separate properties dispersed across Oxfordshire, helping them to regularise their status and rebuild their lives.

Download the full NRPF project prospectus

If you would like to talk to us about this project please email hello@oxfordshirehomelessmovement.org.