Recognition of Reserved Matters
This strategy is clear that there are limits on action that can be taken because immigration and nationality, including NRPF policy, are reserved to the UK Parliament.
During engagement to inform the strategy development, people with lived experience and supporting organisations raised a number issues about reserved policy and legislation which impact people living in communities across Scotland.
The Scottish Government and COSLA will continue to raise issues with the UK Government and seek to influence future immigration policy.
Current key issues include:
Removal of NRPF conditions for the most vulnerable
The UK Government should immediately remove and cease to apply NRPF conditions to people in vulnerable circumstances, particularly in the cases of families with children and vulnerable adults, including those with care needs, people at risk of rough sleeping and women experiencing domestic abuse.
This has also been recommended by the UK Parliament’s All Parliamentary Group on Homelessness.
Removal of the Scottish Welfare Fund from the restricted public funds list
The UK Government should remove the Scottish Welfare Fund from the list of restricted public funds set out under Paragraph 6 of the Immigration Rules. This would:
- enable crisis and community care grants to be provided from the Scottish Welfare Fund to people subject to NRPF, where they are eligible, on the same basis as anyone else and as originally intended;
- ensure a means to provide people subject to NRPF with a limited level of immediate support when they face short term financial crisis; and
- enable the Scottish Welfare Fund to be used as a mechanism to provide funding to anyone who needs it at a time of crisis, rather than requiring parallel systems (e.g. to provide grants during COVID-19).
The Scottish Welfare Fund provides crisis grants. It does not provide a long-term income, but is designed to enable people to access support when they have an emergency situation. It is distributed by local authorities and is available throughout Scotland.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Scottish Welfare Fund has provided an existing route to support quick distribution of grants to people in need. However, its inclusion on the restricted public funds list has prevented it being used to support everyone in Scotland. Instead, alternative means of supporting people subject to NRPF had to be identified. Scottish Ministers should be able to determine eligibility for the Scottish Welfare Fund.
Provision of accommodation
To enable the Scottish Government to realise its ambition for everyone to have a settled home, the UK Government should allow funding for accommodation for people with NRPF. Being able to access shelter is an essential need, but it can also enable people to access other services and advice they need. Not allowing people with NRPF access to emergency accommodation increases the likelihood of people being forced to live in informal and insecure arrangements; to people rough sleeping; or in exploitative or abusive relationships.
The UK Government should remove rough sleeping as one of the general grounds for refusal in the immigration rules, particularly as the NRPF condition contributes to non-UK nationals experiencing homelessness.
Funding of refuge places and extension of Destitution Domestic Violence (DDV) Concession
The UK Government should enable funding of refuge spaces for people subject to NRPF, by either allowing housing benefit to be accessed when it is being used to support provision of refuge spaces, or by allowing an alternative funding route for refuge spaces as a form of emergency accommodation which is not restricted by NRPF.
We welcome the UK Government policy, published in July 2019, on responding to reports of domestic abuse from asylum seekers. This policy is clear that where someone who is accommodated by the Home Office while seeking asylum reports domestic abuse, they must immediately be offered safe alternative accommodation and must be referred to a specialist organisation for assessment and supported by a domestic violence specialist worker.
The DDV Concession enables people who are in the UK on a partner visa to claim public funds, while applying to settle in the UK, following breakdown of their relationship due to domestic violence. However, the concession does not extend to people whose partner has limited leave, including as a refugee. The concession should be available to anyone who is in the UK as a dependant on someone else’s visa or protection status, regardless of the timescale of that status. The concession should also be available for people who have status in their own right in the UK and experience domestic abuse. Where the concession is applied, this should prompt a safeguarding protocol which will enable people to access the support they need, without fear of being subject to removal if they cannot meet certain visa conditions while resolving risk issues. For example, a student with minimum class attendance requirements as part of their visa conditions should be granted access to benefits and given reasonable time to ensure that they are safe and able to continue their studies.
Improvements to the Asylum System
In line with our New Scots approach, people seeking asylum should be supported to integrate from day one of arrival. The Home Secretary has recognised that the UK asylum system is “fundamentally broken”. When seeking to improve the system the following issues should be addressed:
- Resource for Asylum Dispersal Areas
The UK Government should provide funding to local authorities which agree to be asylum dispersal areas to support the costs of local services and community integration. At present, local authorities that accept asylum dispersal in the UK do not receive any funding from the Home Office to support the services they deliver, such as social care, education and community assets.
- Improve Asylum System Processes and Support
- Registration of asylum claims in Glasgow
The UK Government should continue to allow the registration of asylum claims in Glasgow. This measure was introduced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and means that people living in Scotland do not have to make the difficult and costly journey to Croydon to claim asylum. For the same reasons, the UK Government should also continue to allow further submissions to be made electronically or by post, instead of requiring people to travel to Liverpool.
- Financial support for asylum seekers
The UK Government should ensure that the financial element of support provided to people seeking asylum reflects the real costs of daily life, including digital access and travel costs. Digital access and travel are essential to ensure people can access support services, legal advice and information, including health guidance. Digital platforms are also increasingly being used to report asylum accommodation faults or issues. The Home Office should reflect the cost of living in the support that they provide, whether by increasing support rates, or the provision of essential services such as WiFi in asylum accommodation and bus passes.
- Registration of asylum claims in Glasgow
- Permission to work for asylum seekers.
The UK Government should allow people seeking asylum to work. Currently, there are very limited circumstances in which people seeking asylum may be granted permission to work while awaiting a decision on their application. Granting permission to work would benefit people’s wellbeing by allowing them to use and develop skills; make connections in work environments; help to support themselves and their families; contribute to our economy; and restore dignity.
- Extension of the move on period for newly recognised refugees
The UK Government should extend the move on period for newly recognised refugees to a minimum of 56 days. The current move-on period for newly recognised refugees is just 28 days. During this time, people who have not been permitted to work while awaiting a decision on their asylum application are expected to find a job, or apply for Universal Credit and find their own accommodation. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the 28 day positive move-on has not been applied, recognising that most people would not have suitable alternative accommodation and support or employment in place to be able to leave their asylum accommodation safely and in line with public health guidance. This has enabled the development of better coordination between asylum accommodation providers, local authorities and newly recognised refugees.
“As young people, we want to work. People who are seeking asylum want to give back to a place of safety, allow us that. We want to work with our hands and contribute here. Don’t waste us and make us only able to take healthcare or money. Let us do something and be productive”
“I still have hope. I can suffer today, so long as I can hope for tomorrow.”