From the age of 18, Jaden spent nearly five years sleeping in a homelessness shelter and on the streets. The problem? Not being allowed access to benefits, employment, education, and housing while he tried to regulate his migration status and get indefinite leave remain.
Jaden had grown up in London from a very early age. He only learned he was not a British citizen when his mum forced him out of the family home and he presented as homeless at his local authority.
Aged 19, Ayo spent many a night on a park bench and a couple of years in a church. The reason? He appealed a failed asylum application and was not entitled public funds during this time, so lost the support he initially had when arriving as an unaccompanied child. Ayo had fled a civil war in which he had suffered the traumas of being a child soldier.
The stories and hardships of these young people are by no means exceptions. New Horizon supports young people from over 50 different countries of origin, and while the vast majority are British or don’t experience any migration difficulties, others will face often lengthy periods in which they have no recourse to public funds (NRPF) while they await their Home Office asylum or immigration decisions and documentation.
The costs of NRPF are immense, both public and human. According to London Councils research, in 2016/17 the London boroughs spent over £53 million to NRPF households, for which they received no government support: the money had to be freed up from their already much reduced budgets. There are additional funding needs, for instance because NRPF is a significant cause of street homelessness, as acknowledged in the government’s 2018 Rough Sleeping Strategy.
"Having No Recourse to Public Funds usually causes or prolongs homelessness, with the young people having to live in shelter accommodation, churches or mosques, at friends, on the streets or other unsafe places. And, while very capable, many are no allowed to go to college or work, and cannot access any other form of income."
For young people the costs are simply devastating. Having NRPF usually causes or prolongs homelessness, with the young people having to live in shelter accommodation, churches or mosques, at friends, on the streets or other unsafe places. And, while very capable, many are no allowed to go to college or work, and cannot access any other form of income. All of this happens during their crucial transition into adulthood, so they tend to start falling behind on their peers in terms of personal development, wellbeing and the road to independence, all of which has a much longer term detrimental impact.
New Horizon softens the shattering impact of destitution on affected young people in a number of ways. As a day centre we can offer basic facilities, like showers, laundry and healthy meals, and often help with food and travel costs and accessing external hardship funds. While many of these young people are already traumatised, the relentless uncertainty about what will happen with their migration status also takes its toll on physical and mental wellbeing, so our on-site primary health care and counselling provision are essential services.
We also host a satellite sessions of Lambeth Law Centre who support homeless young people when specialist migration help and advice is necessary. And our employment and education team delivers a range of pre-employment activities, including in-house ESOL sessions, so that those young people who are not yet allowed to work are not standing still but are getting employment ready.
We don’t do this alone. Our London Youth Gateway (LYG) partnership, funded by London Councils, offers comprehensive holistic, personalised and youth-specific support for homeless young people across the capital who are NRPF. By using the combined resources and dove-tailing the support of each of the seven partners, including emergency accommodation and specialist support for LGBT+ young asylum seekers, the London Youth Gateway provides a unique wrap around service which enable young people with NRPF to access almost all necessary support in a safe and appropriate environment. In this way they can also continue to develop their learning, independent livings skills and personal resilience. Offering stability and consistency in a period of high levels of uncertainty, we will support the young during the entire process, even when this may take a few years.
Both our own and this partnership work are not only life lines to the young people and essential voluntary sector services in a time of cuts in local authority budgets: they are also very effective. After many years in unbearable limbo, the Home Office granted Jaden and Ayo status to stay. Raring to finally get on with their lives, they didn’t wait a second longer to sort their housing, get into college and find jobs. Just like their peers.
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