Changes to Asylum & Resettlement policy and practice in response to Covid-19

Cessations of support and evictions
Following a review of the pause on evictions at the start of the pandemic in March 2020 and a period of engagement with local authorities, the Home Office have confirmed that they will begin to resume cessations of s…

Cessations of support and evictions

Following a review of the pause on evictions at the start of the pandemic in March 2020 and a period of engagement with local authorities, the Home Office have confirmed that they will begin to resume cessations of support including evictions from asylum accommodation for people who have been granted status.

  • People who have been granted status will receive their 28 day move-on letters.
  • The Home Office have provided local authorities with data on the people who will be issued letters in their area.
  • People who would be eligible for priority housing under homelessness law will be housed by the local authority itself.  Non-priority cases will receive advice and assistance to secure housing in the private rented sector.  Whilst the local authority may not have a duty to house non-priority cases, they have been provided with the details of each of the cases in advance to help them plan.
  • Migrant Help and its move-on partners will keep in touch with people and assist them to claim benefits and let the Home Office know when they receive payments.
  • We were informed that the system of continuing asylum support payments until UC or other benefits have been paid was introduced as a temporary measure while the Home Office worked to clear the backlog of ‘positive cases’ (people who had their asylum claim accepted). As such, we were told it is no longer in place.
  • The above process will be closely monitored and kept under review.

Negative cessations – people who were refused asylum

  • On the 27th March 2020, the Home Office stopped cessations of section 4 and housed all destitute asylum-seekers who applied for s4 on the basis of the public health risks associated with the pandemic.
  • The Home Office has twice attempted to begin cessations of asylum support, once in September 2020 and then again in April 2021. Both attempts to restart cessations of asylum support during a pandemic have been successfully challenged through litigation.
  • As a result of a case called QBB, on the 24th May 2021, the Home Office agreed to withdraw their March 2021 negative cessations policy. It was signalled that the pause may continue until Step 4 of the UK Government’s ‘roadmap’ for removing social restrictions. (Step 4 is currently planned for 19th July 2021).
  • On 21st May a separate legal challenge called AM was brought by the Home Office in the High Court against the Asylum Support Tribunal (AST). The judge agreed with the Home Office and quashed the Principal Tribunal Judge’s decision.

In summary, this outcome means that the previous “blanket” position – that refused destitute asylum-seekers are entitled to section 4 support because of Covid-19 pandemic – no longer stands.

  • On 19th July the UK Government lifted all Covind-19 restrictions, reaching stage 4 of the roadmap. The Home Office confirmed that they are going to restart the process of asylum support cessations from the w/c 19th July. They will be reviewing the support entitlement of people who are on s95 and s 4 support and they will be issuing discontinuation notices to people who are not eligible to continue to receive support. The review and discontinuation of support will only apply to England for now and the Home Office is in discussions with Devolved Administrations to roll out cessations to Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland. People will be provided with 21 days’ notice before eviction takes place.

It is very important to support people with section 4 applications by asking Migrant Help to fill in the application (ASF1) and process any evidence and to remember some people should be able to move from s95 support to s4 support. Please note that the Home Office letter from 23rd April seems to suggest that, when reviewing s95 support for people who were refused asylum, they will offer the possibility of transferring to s4 (without a break in support)  if people agree to sign up to the voluntary returns process.

Please check eligibility on all possible s4 grounds, and apply for s4 as soon as possible if someone may be eligible (ideally before receiving section 95 cessation letter) to reduce the possibility of a gap in asylum support.

Please remember there is no right of appeal when someone is not eligible for section 95 asylum support because they are no longer a person seeking asylum (and asylum-seeker). People who have their support terminated can appeal these decisions to the Asylum Support Tribunal (AST).

Asylum support payments

People on section 95 support whose asylum claim and any appeal are refused will be transferred to section 4 support and will continue receiving financial support.  They should receive a letter notifying them of this.

People who have received a positive decision on their asylum claim are expected to apply for mainstream welfare benefits.

On June 8th, the Immigration Minister, Chris Philp, announced that from June 15th, Asylum Support rates would be increased from £37.75 to £39.60 per week.  Section 4 rates would also be uplifted to £39.60.

On 27th October the Immigration Minister announced that following a full review into asylum support rates the weekly rate would be increased from £39.60 to £39.63 per week.   Along with the uplift, the Minister also announced the following new measures:

  • Those in full board accommodation  supported under section 95 or section 4(2) of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 will, for the first time, receive payments of £8 per week to cover clothing, travel and non-prescription medication
  • Those who have been in full board accommodation will also get some backdated support:
    • £3 per week for clothing needs will be backdated from  either 27th March or the date on which someone was granted support, whichever date is later
    • £4.70 per week for travel needs will be backdated to 1st July or the date on which someone was granted support, whichever date is later
    • These backdated payments will be subject to reductions where accommodation providers have provided financial support

We have received further communication from the Home Office on additional payments (£8.00 per week, per person), awarded to those who are in initial accommodation and on s95 or s4 support. It will not apply to those who are on s98.

Payments will be made by accommodation providers in three tranches:

    • First scheduled payment: 30 November – for payments up to 3 January. Total of £40 for 5 weeks.
    • Second scheduled payment: 4 January – for payments up to 7 February. Total of £40 for 5 weeks.
    • Third scheduled payment: 8 February – for payments up to 14 March. Total of £40 for 5 weeks.
  • The Home Office will also commence back payments for those who are dispersed on or after 30th November, through payments to the ASPEN card. People in full board accommodation may need to be issued with new ASPEN cards, therefore they may experience delays in getting those payments.
  • People in IAs will receive a relevant letter, either confirming that they will receive extra payments or stating they are not eligible.
  • The Home Office is in the process of calculating backdated payments for the period between March – November 2020 and didn’t commit to a time frame to finalise this piece of work.

Relaxed evidence requirements for asylum support applications

The Home Office have stated that they will not expect Migrant Help to have had sight of original supporting documents provided with asylum support applications. Migrant Help will be able to complete information to indicate they have seen copy documents.

As new birth certificates are not currently being issued, the Home Office will not expect applicants for maternity payments to produce them.  A full birth certificate may be required at a later date once normal arrangements have resumed.

Changes to dispersal

In a separate letter sent to Local Authorities the Home Office announced that as a result of the halt in evictions, accommodation providers have been instructed to procure additional properties (even in areas where the Local Authority had not previously agreed to become a dispersal area). 

In light of NHS England guidance, the Home Office are not requiring providers to move people into new accommodation, unless the person is street homeless, there are other vulnerability factors or there is a court order requiring them to provide accommodation.   People who have applied for S95 support in the form of accommodation and subsistence may in some circumstances be offered temporary subsistence payments to cover their essential living needs in the accommodation they are occupying.

At the end of December, we have received an update from the Home Office, through the National Asylum Stakeholder Forum (NASF) on asylum support dispersal. The update deals with Tier 4 situation which has now been superseded by the national lockdown. We are waiting for further information in light of the national lockdown.

Summary:

  • The Home Office asked providers for there to be no moves out of Tier 4 until further notice unless by exception and agreed by the HO. We expect the same will apply now we have a national lockdown in place.
  • In order to create bed-space capacity, some people may be moved out of hotels into Dispersed Accommodation in and between English regions. We don’t yet know the impact lockdown will have on this process.
  • There should be no routing in or out of Scotland.
  • There should be no routing in or out of Wales inclusive of Penally (MOD site) until further notice.

We expect this will not change, considering both Wales and Scotland are now under even stricter restrictions than England.

  • The Home Office is looking to allow room sharing between unrelated same-sex adults, which would be a U-turn on current practice.

This post was originally published on Refugee Council.


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Andy Hewett | Refugee Watch (2022-01-17T07:03:25+00:00) » Changes to Asylum & Resettlement policy and practice in response to Covid-19. Retrieved from https://www.refugee.watch/2021/01/13/changes-to-asylum-resettlement-policy-and-practice-in-response-to-covid-19/.
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» Changes to Asylum & Resettlement policy and practice in response to Covid-19 | Andy Hewett | Refugee Watch | https://www.refugee.watch/2021/01/13/changes-to-asylum-resettlement-policy-and-practice-in-response-to-covid-19/ | 2022-01-17T07:03:25+00:00
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