Hackney Council pledges to 'Support not Deport' rough sleepers
Hackney Council has pledged to boycott new government immigration rules that make rough sleeping grounds to deport non-British nationals from the UK.
The guidance asks the Council to refer migrant rough sleepers who have ‘refused repeated offers of suitable support and engaged in persistent anti-social behaviour’ to the Home Office.
However, the Council is supporting a campaign by charity, Homeless Link, called ‘Support don’t Deport’, which calls on councils and homelessness charities to refuse to make these referrals.
This campaign has also seen a coalition of 150 charities, trade unions, lawyers and local authorities write to the Home Office raising concerns that the new rules would disproportionately affect victims of modern slavery.
This new policy will drive people who are already vulnerable -- including victims of modern slavery -- away from the support they need and will hamper efforts to end rough sleeping. The government’s policy has no place in Hackney, where we are committed to doing everything we can to help our migrant community. We will not back a policy that further makes this country a hostile environment to those who need our support and care most.
Migrants who are rough sleeping, or who are at risk of homelessnes, must be able to approach and work with us with confidence and trust, and not face the threat of deportation.
The Council has been working tirelessly to tackle homelessness in the borough, with that work accelerating over the course of the pandemic. In the past 18 months we have significantly reduced the number of people at risk of rough sleeping or rough sleeping already, with 219 accommodated. However, we know we have more to do, and our commitment to eliminating rough sleeping completely in our borough continues.
Rick Henderson, CEO of Homeless Link, said: “I’d like to congratulate Hackney Council for taking a stand and putting the wellbeing of people it supports above anything else. In many cases, people sleeping rough have experienced significant trauma in their lives. As a result, they often have multiple, complex needs such as mental health issues and issues with drugs and/or alcohol. This can make it hard for people to engage with services and take up offers of support. It should never be grounds for changing someone’s immigration status.
“The nuances and intricacies of policies like these often aren’t understood well on the ground. We fear that, if local authorities and homelessness charities don’t take a clear stand on this issue, fear around deportation could prevent many of society's most vulnerable people from accessing support. Hackney Council’s commitment has confirmed this won’t be the case in its local authority area.”
Hackney Council currently supports 55 people in emergency accommodation. The Council is continuing to support people into longer-term housing. Starting earlier this year, the Council has been carrying out extensive renovations of five buildings in Hackney in order to provide much-needed modern accommodation for homeless single people in the borough.
The majority of this work will create self-contained units, with ensuites and kitchenettes, and insulation improvements, and with a number of specially designed rooms for those with high needs. The high specification finish includes wifi, CCTV, 24-hour security and hostel managers on site, in line with all new Council hostels.
In tandem with this work, the Council will provide supported accommodation schemes for people with medium and high needs.