Hastings and Eastbourne are linked towns within East Sussex affected, like most coastal communities, by ongoing concerns with street homelessness.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, local statutory and voluntary sector agencies were already working together to try and address the situation and the numbers of individuals who were rough sleeping in both towns had greatly reduced. However, despite more extensive attention, there remained a continuing dilemma for individuals who had no recourse to public funding (NRPF).
In response to the pandemic, the Department for Levelling up Housing and Communities (DLUHC) made central government funding available to local authorities to place all rough sleepers, regardless of status, into temporary accommodation under the “Covid 19 Everybody in” scheme in order to prevent infection and reduce risk.
The Hastings Voluntary Action Links Project is a weekly drop-in providing access to support and advice for asylum seekers, refugees and migrant communities living in East Sussex. The project serves a client group who are predominantly Black, Asian and minority ethnic, and who will have come to the UK as adults, not have English as a first language and will currently or previously be subject to immigration controls.
The funding made available over the past two years allowed greater equity of provision for individuals who were without housing in part because of their immigration status and their No Recourse to Public Funds status; this included EU and non-EU citizens. The situation also created easier conditions for organisations to work collaboratively to offer increased support. The temporary period of stability also created the right environment for individuals to move from chaotic life circumstances and trauma into more settled conditions.
The easing of lockdown measures has meant that central funding for the scheme ended at the beginning of the new financial year (2022/23). For most former rough sleepers housed during the pandemic, support in some measure has been able to continue, but for individuals with no recourse to public funding, support has come to an abrupt finish.
Of four (NRPF) individuals in Eastbourne who remained accommodated up until the scheme finished, three went back onto the streets and all three were non-white. In a town where the census in 2011 found that less than 7% identified as being from an ethnic minority, this is a proportionally high number and indicates a disproportionate impact.
One of the men being supported in Eastbourne made a suicide attempt prior to losing his accommodation and has now gone under the care of the mental health crisis teams although, we have been informed that he may be back on the street now. The cost of this obviously critical intervention would be far higher than maintaining him in temporary accommodation.
Seaview, a charity providing health, wellbeing and outreach services to rough sleepers, has also been working with individuals in Hastings who fall within this category. As recovery progress had been made during the time of settlement, several local charities have decided to pool resources to provide ongoing housing temporarily, but with limited access to any other support this is essentially just postponing a return to the street.
An unexpected positive outcome from a global crisis, for this particular group of migrants, predominantly from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds, was that unusual conditions were created for greater equity and access, resulting in recovery and progress. There is enormous risk that this positive impact will quickly be reversed, creating inevitable cost to human life, and ultimately far greater health costs in terms of public resources.
As the “ Everybody in” scheme was central funding disbursed nationally during the pandemic, are there other examples of how withdrawal of this funding is impacting on individuals and communities you are working with? Please contact email@example.com.