The Scottish Government and COSLA are today (Wednesday 24 March) publishing a new strategy to support people living in Scotland who are at risk of homelessness and destitution due to their immigration status under UK legislation.
Ending Destitution Together is the first strategy of its kind and will set out ambitious work over the next three years to assist people with No Recourse to Public Funds, who can’t access most mainstream benefits, local authority housing or homelessness services due to stringent UK Government immigration rules.
Working together, the Scottish Government and local authorities have agreed to take action that will strengthen protection for families with children and vulnerable adults who can be at risk of extreme poverty, exploitation and abuse because of the NRPF policy.
Work will also be undertaken with charities and community groups to provide services for people in crisis. There will be a focus on ensuring people have safe accommodation, dignified access to food and other daily essentials as well as specialist legal and welfare advice to resolve their situation.
The strategy has been informed by the testimony of people who have experienced destitution because of their immigration status, as well as the knowledge of local authorities and third sector organisations providing frontline support.
Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government, Aileen Campbell said:
“This is the first strategy of its kind, with a vision to create a country where everyone has their human rights protected. It focuses on improving and strengthening support and access to services for people subject to No Recourse to Public Funds. It is morally right that everyone in our communities can access support in times of need. It is the only way to build a fairer Scotland.
“The strategy sets out initial actions to deliver essential needs, enable access to specialist advice and advocacy, and promote inclusive approaches to provision of services so that people can pursue their ambitions and be active members of our communities.
“No one in Scotland should be forced into destitution, or be at risk of exploitation and abuse, because they cannot access support at times of crisis. ”
Councillor Kelly Parry COSLA’s Community Wellbeing Spokesperson, said:
“The NRPF policy is a significant risk to human rights and creates incredible suffering within our communities.
Some of the most vulnerable people, including families with children and adults with health conditions rely on local authorities to avoid hunger and rough sleeping.
This strategy will make sure that councils can continue to provide these lifelines and strengthen the support that can be put in place locally until these policies change.
It is an ambitious commitment at a time when there is pressure on public services, an ongoing health crisis and with thousands of people from the EU are seeing changes to their rights and entitlements.
Ruth Lamb, the Project Coordinator of a Lived Experience Asylum Destitution Group said:
“Throughout the challenges of the last 18 months, both the Scottish Government and COSLA demonstrated their commitment to both the project and effecting change for those in destitution.”
“In order to be able to walk in someone else’s shoes, we must first listen, and really hear from those who have direct experience.”
Members of the Lived Experience Asylum Destitution Group said:
“Destitution affects people, real human life and our safety. It has affected us. Because of that, we know that any policy to overcome destitution must, always, be based on learning from those who have overcome it in their own lives. Who understand what destitution does to dignity. Who want to stop it happening to anyone else.”
Notes to editor
- Ending Destitution Together has been developed in partnership by the Scottish Government and COSLA. It will initially be in place from 2021-24 and will support people with No Recourse to Public Funds. The strategy can be accessed here
- NRPF is a condition which restricts access to certain public services and benefits, defined in UK immigration rules. This includes most income-based benefits, local authority housing allocations and homelessness services. It can apply to anyone who is in the UK on a visa, who has applied for asylum or protection, has insecure immigration status or is dependent on a British relative. At the end of June 2021 it will also apply to people from the EU who have not yet applied for Settled Status under the EU Settlement Scheme.
- The strategy sets out the approach that will be taken in Scotland to deliver a stronger safety net for people at risk of destitution as a result of the immigration rules, focusing on meeting people’s essential needs, providing specialist legal advice and advocacy and promoting inclusion.
- Thirteen initial actions will be progressed including a commitment to pilot a new hardship fund; work with charities to deliver new a new route-map for accommodation and to work with local authorities to strengthen financial assistance for vulnerable adults and families with children.
- To inform the development of the strategy, officials from the Scottish Government and COSLA met with people who have NRPF and who have experienced destitution including the Lived Experience Asylum Destitution Group supported by Govan Community Project and the Scottish Refugee Council and funded by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust.