Non-UK rough sleepers need more support, meeting hears
- Credit: Ian Burt/PA Wire/Jonathan Brady
Clarity is needed so help can be given to rough sleeping non-UK nationals in west Norfolk, a meeting has heard.
At a Tuesday meeting of the borough council’s environment and community panel, Conservative councillor Lesley Bambridge raised the plight of homeless non-UK nationals.
The difficulty in helping rough sleeping people who aren’t British citizens was mentioned in an officer-authored report as a “key emerging challenge” for the authority.
Ms Bambridge said: “Some of those people have been around for five years now, but presumably they haven’t got settled status, so what happens to them?
“Are they just permanently going to be in the night shelter, with no money, because they can’t get access to funds, or is anything going to happen?”
An officer replied: “There is clearly an issue about the cohort of non-UK nationals.
"We had a letter from government in the summer that wasn’t entirely helpful, in the sense that it said we needed to do everything we could to ensure the human rights of folks were respected.
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"Essentially the message was that we didn’t let people remain on the streets - however, that they weren’t entitled to any public support at all, from housing benefits to accommodation.
"We couldn’t offer them accommodation [that] we would do to people from the UK, so we had a number of discussions with members of the MHCLG, as it was then, and essentially the response was 'you need to engage your charitable sector and voluntary sector partners, but you can’t use public funds to support this cohort'.
"So you know, it’s a difficult position we’re in and we are looking at solutions to this, but we’ve put it as a bullet point on there [on the meeting agenda] because, particularly at this time of year, it’s a challenge, and there’s no obvious solution for that.”
A spokesperson from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said it "has been clear" that councils should "exhaust all options to support those unable to access statutory homelessness assistance".
"As well as working with voluntary partners this should include considering discretionary powers and engaging with Home Office to regularise statuses where appropriate," they said, adding the department was spending more than £800m this year to tackle rough sleeping.