A homelessness charity in Nottingham has welcomed the reversing of a Home Office policy change that left refugees and survivors of trafficking with as little as seven days to find accommodation once they received a residence permit.
Newly-recognised refugees were typically given 28 days to arrange benefits and find alternative accommodation after being granted a biometric residence permit by the Home Office.
But a policy change in August meant this period started from the day a refugee received their asylum decision letter.
As a result, some people were left with as little as seven days to move out of the accommodation the Home Office gave them while claims were processed.
It was understood the change in practice was to help the Home Office process a backlog of cases.
However, by October, more than 50 asylum seekers had come forward for homelessness support in Nottingham because of the policy change and charities said rough sleeping had risen sharply as a result.
Denis Tully, the chief executive of Emmanuel House, said the change had created “insurmountable uncertainty” for organisations providing homelessness support.
He welcomed the reversing of the policy change, which the Home Office now says had been temporary.
“The original Home Office policy of giving refugees with positive decisions only five days’ notices to quit their hotel accommodation created insurmountable uncertainty for organisations that might provide services for them,” Mr Tully told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS).
“The change of policy to giving 28 days’ notice is to be welcomed and will, in the short term, give supporting agencies the opportunity to anticipate the level of need for their services and make plans accordingly.”
The Home Office says there was a “temporary change” in operational process during the month of August when the 28-day move on period began from the date someone received a positive asylum decision, when they are recognised as a refugee or granted some other form of leave.
The change was enacted when Newark MP Robert Jenrick (Con) was the immigration minister.
He has since resigned, having said the government’s immigration plans “do not go far enough”.
The temporary change has now been reversed and the Home Office says the current operational approach remains that the 28-day move-on period should actually commence from when a biometric residence permit is issued.
A government spokesperson told the LDRS: “Once a newly recognised refugee is issued a biometric residence permit, they get 28 days to move-on from asylum accommodation.
“Support is also available through Migrant Help and their partners, which includes advice on how to access Universal Credit, the labour market and where to get assistance with housing.
“We are working with local authorities to manage the impact of asylum decisions as the legacy backlog reduces.”
Campaign groups continue to ask that the current 28-day period is extended to 56 days to further ease pressures on local authorities and charities providing homelessness support.