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Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Campaigners attack asylum support pilot

Street Sleeper 2 by David ShankboneImage via Wikipedia

Source: Inside Housing

By Emily Twinch

A pilot scheme designed to get rough sleeping failed asylum seekers off the streets faster has been criticised for being too narrow and bureaucratic.

Campaigners say the trial should be open to families, and that the form that has to be completed to access support is overly complicated.

Failed asylum seekers who are unable to go back to their home countries qualify for support from the government under section 4 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999.

The pilot scheme, which was due to be launched earlier this month, is supposed to help eligible parties get quicker access to accommodation.

Voluntary groups are asked to identify people who are 'genuinely street homeless' and qualify for the support in one or two days. They are then moved to a hostel in Birmingham until section 4 accommodation can be found with one of the government's providers, which should take place within nine days.

The process is underpinned by a new national application form, and should be faster than current schemes which can take several months. But organisations dealing with asylum seekers say the form will make it more difficult to get help.

Dr Rhetta Moran, matron of Refugees and Asylum Seekers Participatory Action Research, said: 'This is really about finding other ways to limit the numbers of section 4 awards.

'What they are doing is asking for a deeper level of information about your homelessness.'

Campaigners have also criticised the pilot for being for single adults and childless couples only.

Dave Stamp, project manager of Asylum Support and Immigration Resource Team, said: 'The pilot projectŠ specifically excludes some of the most vulnerable groups, stating that it "will be for adult singles and childless couples only".'

Gerry Hickey, legal advisor at Asylum Support Appeals Project, added: 'It's a step in the right direction, where people qualify they need to be supported immediately.

'But it needs to be rolled out to everybody. It's a shame it does not include families because they are often the most vulnerable.

'We are concerned about the length of the form and the time and resources of smaller organisations to fill that in and whether people will understand it'.

A Home Office spokesperson said: 'This [new] form provides the UK Border Agency with more information than before. It also removes the need for UKBA to request more information, which happened in some cases.
'The form was introduced following lengthy consultation with key stakeholders including the voluntary sector. We will review the form after three months of operation.'
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