Government rejects advisory body recommendations to prevent increase in migrant rough sleeping.

Friday, 21 November 2014 - 4:09pm

The Government publishes its response to the Social Security Advisory Committee's recommendations on housing benefit. 

Photograph: Kozumel (Flickr)
Photograph: Kozumel (Flickr)

On 1 April this year, the Government introduced severe restrictions on the rights of most European migrants to claim Housing Benefit in the UK. With serious concerns about the possible consequences of this change, the Social Security Advisory Committee consulted public and voluntary sector agencies and submitted a report to Ian Duncan Smith in June.

The report recommended the Government look “as a matter of urgency” at what actions may be needed to prevent an increase in migrant rough sleeping from people losing their homes or being unable to access help at the point of crisis, and publish its findings. 

In its response to the report, published yesterday, the Government stated that there is no need for such analysis. This is contrary to the feedback we are receiving from our members.

We are hearing about evictions, individuals falling into destitution and rough sleeping, and services struggling to cope. Local authorities, Jobcentre Plus staff and homelessness agencies are confused by the new rules, which were introduced without consultation and at very short notice.

By way of example, official figures show that the London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea has seen a significant rise in migrant rough sleeping, to the extent that 71% of those on this Borough’s streets are now non-UK EEA migrants.

The Government response states that the “best option” for migrants who are unable to support themselves is to return home. However, this is not always possible and without support they are likely to end up destitute, something which should not be accepted in this country.   

This is a major setback, but Homeless Link will continue working with the Department for Work and Pensions and Jobcentre Plus to improve and simplify the residency application process for migrants, and maintaining our call for the Government to conduct a full and in-depth analysis of the impact of this policy.

We will be working with our members to continue monitoring how the change to benefit entitlements affects the people they work with and gather and present as much compelling evidence to the Government as possible.   

The SSAC report and Government response can be accessed via the following link:  https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-housing-benefit-habitual-residence-amendment-regulations-2014-si-2014-no-539-ssac-report