Home Office Policy Further Discriminates Against Rough Sleepers

Many organisations and local authorities across the UK have voiced serious concern over a new Home Office policy affecting migrants that makes rough sleeping grounds for removal for non-UK nationals, providing the Home Office with the discretion to cancel of refuse a person’s leave to remain if they are found to be rough sleeping.

The new policy came into force on the 1st of December however the Home Office is yet to publish guidance on how the policy should be implemented by local authorities. 

Many migrants are affected by No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) conditions, as part of their leave to remain or visa conditions, or due to their status in the asylum system, meaning they cannot legally access social security or access homelessness services when they fall on tough times. Those seeking asylum in the UK are also not permitted to work, cutting off another route out of destitution. Many fear that the new policy will drive those with NRPF into dangerous or exploitative situations to avoid risking their leave to remain as people may be fearful to access outreach services and routes out of rough sleeping at the risk of deportation. 

It is estimated that 300-500 people in Scotland with NRPF experience destitution at any one time who may be affected by this policy change and find their leave to remain at risk due to a lack of resources as a result of Home Office policy. Homeless Network Scotland joined as a signatory on a joint letter to Home Secretary Priti Patel MP and Secretary of State Robert Jenrick MP to bring attention to the concerns of many migrant and homelessness organisations across the UK. The full letter can be found here.  A response to the letter was received on 14 December 2020, notably confirming that the new rules will not come into effect until new guidance is published. The response can be found here.

Homeless Network Scotland are working with the Everyone Home Collective to develop a 5 year strategy for Scotland to support people with NRPF to access accommodation, legal advice, advocacy and practical assistance in line with the route map outlining how to create a society where we prevent destitution amongst people with NRPF and protect human rights. The full route map can be found here

Learning Lounge Open For Bookings 2021

Our Learning Lounge for January-March 2021 training courses is now open for bookings.

Our 2021 knowledge and learning prospectus uses the technology we have all become familiar with in recent months, such as video conferencing and webinars, to compensate for being unable to serve up more traditional training in person. Each session is interactive, fast paced and participatory as well as using the most up to date evidence and research from across the sector.

Most importantly our new menu of training includes new ingredients, drawing on what we have learned since March 2020, as an organisation and as a sector. You will find respected and popular favourites plus brand new options.

Take a look at our training brochure here and book your place here. You can also subscribe to our newsletter to receive updates about future courses.

Reflecting on a Year of Influencing Change – and What we Have Learnt Along the Way

Led by Change Leads from across Scotland, All in for Change is supported by partner organisations, Homeless Network Scotland, Cyrenians and the Scottish Community Development Centre (SCDC) – each bringing a unique perspective and focus. 

As we continue to celebrate the 1st year anniversary of the launch of All in for Change, Shelly Coyle, Ginny Cooper and Susan Paxton reflect on their experience supporting the group to grow and evolve since it launched last December.

Ginny, Homeless Network Scotland: “All in for Change is a unique and exciting programme. We provide support and guidance to the Change Team, working together to make sense of the knowledge shared and translating this into key messages and actions to pass on to policy makers and those making critical decisions for homelessness in Scotland. The pandemic has shown how flexible the team can be – adapting to meeting online and taking on shifting priorities in Scotland’s actions to end homelessness. We too have had to adapt to support this.” 

Susan, SCDC: “Looking back I think we’ve come a long way in the past year, it’s been such an amazing learning experience and one that I’m grateful for. We all came into the programme after it had started and I was excited to be meeting the Change Leads for the first time at the monthly retreat in March, then COVID hit and I thought ‘what are we going to do now?’.”

“We decided to go ahead with the retreat as planned but moved it online, and we proved pretty quickly that it could be done (and we’ve been doing them ever since) but there were challenges, both technical and about the relationships we were trying to build. None of us have even met in person yet, but the Team are so determined and passionate about ending homelessness that everyone pulled together, everyone’s contributed, and the Change Leads have responded to every opportunity put in front of them. The amount of work they’ve done has been truly inspirational in what has been a really challenging time.”   

Shelly, Cyrenians: “From my perspective, a really special part of this work has been observing the relationships that Change Leads have formed, watching barriers between those from different sectors, and people with different experience, eroded. This is the goal, I suppose, in all our work in this sector, that we see each other as people, and all experience is equally valued. Perhaps we could be seen as a little microcosm of what the rest of society could be like.” 

Ginny: “This experience has taught me so much already. First and foremost, to be flexible and embrace the different perspectives and personalities of the people who make up the team – allowing us to disagree and work things out together. We are continuously learning. Second, to not rely on too rigid a structure and allocate time for people to share and listen to each other. It has been important to accept when working in this way that, although the programme does have a goal and purpose, the pace and direction has to be shaped by the team.” 

“Like anything new, it can be challenging at times. It is hard at first to see how the passion for change, seen amongst Change Leads, translates to influence and creates impact at policy level. It’s about trusting the process and giving it time.” 

Shelly: “It has been a privilege to see how Change Leads have firstly found their voice as a team, and then become aware of the potential of the place at the table that they have been afforded by linking into the Homelessness Prevention and Strategy Group (HPSG) and speaking directly to policy makers and influencers. I am excited how hungry the team are to capture a wider breadth of experience, to learn more from their networks and then draw on this knowledge and ensure policy makers are listening and responding. It’s a pretty unique situation.”

Susan: “We (SCDC) came into the programme as co-production ‘experts’, which is misleading because we always say there are no experts in co-production! We all have our own unique insights, experiences, knowledge and perspectives and no one is more important than anyone else. As facilitators we had to learn when we were doing too much and taking too much of a lead, and when to step back. I think we navigated that reasonably well because we were determined to listen to what Change Leads were telling us – what was working, what wasn’t and reacting and responding all along the way.” 

“I think creating the space for conversations, both about what’s happening in policy but also about what Change Leads were experiencing during COVID has helped build strong foundations for us to work well together as a Team. We’re still learning, but we know a lot more about striking that balance between getting work done and making sure the way we’re working feels right for everyone involved.”

Ginny: “We have many things we still need to work out. How to better embrace the range of needs and skills in the group and allow these to develop and grow. How to ensure we create a unified goal and voice, but still respect the experiences and knowledge of the individual members.”

“I’m encouraged by the support the Change Team are receiving from decision makers, and the rest of the sector. This has shown us that there is a growing thirst for partnering with people with personal and professional experience to develop and deliver the best policies to end homelessness in Scotland.”

All in for Change is an inclusive programme where, through clear messages and information sharing, a collaborative effort to end homelessness in Scotland is driven. It provides the vehicle for ‘planning and policy’ to plug into ‘practice, place and lived experience’ in an informal, but informed and connected way.

Homeless Network Scotland bring a wealth of experience capturing the voice of lived experience around policy work and influence and their national network connections enhance the programme.

Cyrenians bring a rich perspective that is embedded within frontline homeless service provision in Edinburgh, mid-Lothian and Falkirk and also their links with the Scottish Frontline Network.

Scottish Community Development Centre (SCDC) are the Scottish leaders in community development and co-production and ensure the programme adheres to the original values.All in for Changeis the participation arm of the Homelessness Prevention and Strategy Group (HPSG) and is funded by the Scottish Government and the Frontline Network, from St Martin-in-the-Fields.

I Have Never Looked Back!

This week marks the first birthday of All in for Change! 

All in for Change wouldn’t be what it is today without the passion of the Change Team. It is their unique skills and personalities which drive the programme and influence change.

Alison Kennedy reflects on here experience of being part of this collaborative team:

In December 2019, I was successful in becoming a Change Lead for All in For Change after my manager suggested I would be a good addition to the team. My key skills include my ability to collaborate across housing, health and social care, addictions services, justice and the third sector. I am highly skilled at working outside and across traditional boundaries and always try to develop joined up approaches. I am naturally good at this as I am a positive, outgoing person with a down-to-earth nature that enables me to form effective relationships with a range of stakeholders. I am glad to say my skill set has been complimentary to the aims and vision of All in For Change and I am thankful I applied, and I have never looked back! I am passionate about working in homelessness services and about promoting a culture that embeds kindness, dignity and compassion. Since working in social services, I have developed better awareness of the shame, stigma and isolation that people who experience homelessness can feel and understand how important it is for us as a nation to be well-informed and well-trained in responding to trauma, addictions and mental ill-health. It is really exciting to be part of a group of people who are on the same page and be involved in something where I can work with others who share my passion to effect real change.

Being a Change Leadhas been such a fantastic opportunity to begin to build relationships with people  who have lived experience of homelessness and who work in homelessness and to join forces to influence policy and strategy and make strides in turning that into real change on the ground. It has been great working with people who share the same knowledge and understanding of the root causes and drivers of homelessness, and the importance of social connections in a persons’ life as well as an understanding as to how these relationships act as a mechanism to tackle and end the cycle of homelessness. It feels like we are in something together that has the potential to be worthwhile and bring about change.

One of the highlights of being a Change Lead has been the monthly retreats where we get together for the day to hash out of plan of action. Both the ones we managed to have in person in Falkirk and the subsequent ones online as a result of Covid have been excellent. I have been able to get to know people who have lived experience which has been profound and humbling. Now, I am continuing to build on the connections I have made and am excited to join forces with my fellow Change Leads. For example, William Wright from Shelter and I are collaborating to further improve our respective services and really show what joined up working is all about. I have also worked in partnership with Viki Fox from Cyrenians and the thought of how much more we can do together is refreshing and a real opportunity we can’t miss. Together, we have been able to break down so many of the usual barriers to effective joint working and work towards our shared goals which the Change Team has solidified.

I have had countless opportunities being a Change Lead, one of the biggest for me so far was being invited to speak alongside other professionals about the importance of relationships at the ‘Safe As Houses’ Scotland’s Annual Homelessness Conference in November which I absolutely loved and would recommend to anyone to get involved if the chance arises. There really is no better opportunity to be able to speak to others about what you are passionate about and what you bring to the table. For me, this is where I feel I have the biggest influence as people get the chance to hear what I have to say and can decide to get on board with me for real partnership working and collaboration.

BLOG: Time to Shelve the System?

Homeless Network Scotland has joined Mayday Trust, Changing Lives and Platfform in a UK-wide alliance that provides a place for those that live or work in a system they want to change. Maggie Brunjes, Chief Executive of Homeless Network Scotland, blogs as part of the launch week.

When the supermarket shelves were run dry at the start of lockdown, it got me thinking for the first time about the systems and mechanisms that underpin the smooth running of big supermarkets. We had some time on our hands.

Customer demand drives what supermarkets provide, how much and how often. We are free to enter and leave with mutual benefit, having exercised choice over what we want. We don’t really see or feel those systems or give them much thought – because they largely work for us. But at the start of the year, the supermarket systems didn’t (couldn’t) respond with enough flexibility, and for a moment it affected us all.

An unseen system that bends flexibly to what people want is exactly what this New System Alliance wants for people going through their toughest times. We need to put lives first – and build systems around them. Because when we do it the other way – try to fit people to services – the system becomes inefficient, it perpetuates the worst parts of itself and enforces its norms to survive. And this means people get overlooked, or segregated, damaged by their experience – or just opt out altogether.

We all see when it works well, which is why we can see when it doesn’t. For most of us living and working within these systems, we know it doesn’t always build from what works – and often forgets what matters. Too often the entry point becomes the same label stuck on us – mental health, addictions, offender, rough sleeper, vulnerable, challenging, complex, chaotic. And a labyrinth of services and systems, of policies and procedures, of rules and regulations. It is a system unable to connect in a way that prevents people from falling through the gaps and which frustrates the people who want to help. And this waste of human potential – and expense of getting it wrong – affects us all.

So, what does a new system look like? What do we take and what do we shelve? The New System Alliance is a place to keep talking and to start building. For me, this change needs at the very least:

  • To really feature people – lots of people, the critical mass needed to create real and lasting change. Building from the magic ingredient of relationships, how we all connect and interact with each other – that people make systems, in all our different ways.
  • To value normality – home, community, safety, wellbeing, recognition, love. The most basic ingredients to build and live our lives, and what most people are trying to secure. Yet these are the very things that are most often removed or replaced with ‘professional’ alternatives when people really need them most.
  • To recognise the unfairness at the root of hard lives, which means some of us are much more likely than others to experience mental ill-health, addictions, homelessness, the justice system, trauma, abuse and violence.
  • To be preventative, anticipatory, flexible and responsive. A system that puts people first, with choice and control, and provides a soft cushion for people going through tough times, not a hard edge.
  • To build from what’s strong, rather than what’s wrong. Without segregating people from their communities, trying to ‘fix’ or patronise adults – and without driving a wedge of difference and distance between all our connected lives.

The pandemic has created the opportunity to think and act big. In Scotland, there is already a determined policy environment – some of the most progressive voices in the drive for big systems-change are coming from within national and local government and across the health and social care service. But we need more help to convert that radical big thinking into real change on the ground and create together a better, fairer, experience for everyone.

More at www.newsystemalliance.org or drop us a line at hello@homelessnetwork.scot