More than 1,200 people in Scotland received vital support in the first year of an ambitious programme to end destitution caused by UK immigration policy, a new report reveals – against a backdrop of rising asylum seeker evictions and fears of the return of “lock-change” eviction tactics. Fair Way Scotland said 1,205 people excluded from state support accessed its services in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen, including 730 who received casework support in an effort to regularise their immigration status and protect them from being made homeless or forced on to the streets.
Six people were accommodated by the partnership in Glasgow with linked £50 weekly cash payments because they were excluded from all forms of public support. Sixty people in Glasgow, 291 in Edinburgh and 21 in Aberdeen accessed support and advice.
But efforts to house others – including European nationals without settled status after Brexit – will require additional independent funding available to finance accommodation, amid intense pressures on housing supply amplified by global events.
The report from Heriot-Watt University’s I-SPHERE institute, funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, calls on the UK Government to overhaul their hostile immigration policies and commit to ending destitution by design. It also urges the Scottish Government to show clearer political leadership by setting out concrete plans to fully mitigate the harm these policies create.
Ministers must deliver on their commitment to helping people with No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) or Restricted Eligibility (RE), as set out in the Green-SNP cooperation agreement, authors said, while praising the public sector for doing as much as possible to protect people before Fair Way Scotland launched.
The report also highlights the key role Registered Social Landlords can play in providing social housing to the partnership – citing the example of Maryhill Housing Association in Glasgow, which has already pledged ten flats, some of which are already occupied.
Fair Way Scotland works to provide people with safe housing in community-based properties, with linked cash payments, access to legal advice and other support including a helpline. Preventing destitution helps people to regularise their immigration status and access work or statutory support where permitted.
The report’s author Beth Watts-Cobbe, Senior Research Fellow at I-SPHERE, said: “Our report shows the distance travelled in the first year of the partnership despite political and economic uncertainty, tight council budgets and high housing demand, and the priorities ahead.
“Intolerance of rough sleeping and destitution is a marker of a civilised society. The UK and Scottish Governments will rightly be judged on taking the harms experienced by those with No Recourse to Public Funds or welfare support seriously.”
Deborah Hay, Senior Policy Advisor (Scotland) at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said: “Destitution should never be a tool of public policy. Yet, the UK Government is doing just that by locking people out of essential support, inflicting needless misery on thousands of people who want to make Scotland their home.
“Fair Way partners have demonstrated that ending destitution in Scotland is possible, despite the challenges. Scaling up Fair Way is now critical given rising demand for help, but mitigation programmes like this shouldn’t be necessary. The UK Government must commit to an urgent change of course and end destitution by design.”
Sabir Zazai, CEO of Scottish Refugee Council, said: “Safe housing and legal advice is more important than ever as the UK Government continues to pursue hostile policies and deny people their basic human rights.
“As we see a deeply concerning rise in people seeking protection being evicted from their homes, this report highlights some of the proactive ways people at risk of homelessness can be supported.”
Publication of the evaluation comes after a reported sharp rise in eviction cases going through Glasgow Sheriff Court brought by Home Office accommodation provider Mears Housing.
It follows a Home Office decision to shorten the eviction process for people seeking asylum in dispersal accommodation, raising concerns among campaigners that lock-change evictions previously used by Serco could resume. Serco’s policy between 2012 and 2019 meant locks on people’s homes could be changed without notice if they were no longer eligible for asylum support, effectively forcing them into immediate street homelessness.