Saturday, July 21, 2007

Letter to Gerald Kaufman MP

Dear Gerald Kaufman,

I am writing to you about the question of social housing allocation to refugees. I refer here only to those granted refugee status, not asylum-seekers.

It is clear that there is much resentment about what is perceived to be the unfair prioritisation homeless refugees. Because they are homeless, they automatically get housing ahead of others who are in overcrowded or unsuitable housing, but who are not actually homeless.Although refugees are only one element in the priority homeless population, their presence is the most noticed. It is a fact that homeless refugees place a huge additional burden on council homelessness provision.

However, the sloution to this is substantially within the hands of the government. Refugees become homeless because they are evicted from NASS accommodation at the conclusion of the asylum process. The problem could be eased by adjusting the "grace period" from 28 days (in practice often much less) to three or six months; the problem could be substantially solved altogether by allowing NASS occupation licences to be transferred to social housing tenancies.The latter step would allow refugees to remain indefinitely in the (ex-)NASS properties if they so wished; it would require agreement with the NASS property providers. Unfortunately, despite representations on the subject for many years, new contracts were signed with the providers which made no provision for this.In spite of the evident unwillingness of the Home Office to contemplate this, I raise the topic again now because the rise of the BNP (9% vote in Sedgefield) is focussing attention on the matter of social housing allocation.

The cuurent system transfers a modest accommodation cost to NASS to a huge expense to local authorities in temporary housing; creates resentment against refugees and immigrants generally; builds enormous frustration and distress among those officially recognised as in need of welcome and protection; causes disruption and expense to services such as GPs and schools; seriously damages social cohesion; and even undermines the stated purpose of NASS dispersal, to settle newcomers in designated areas away from the South-East.

I urge you to take this up with the new Home Secretary. I apologise for the length of this letter, but hope ou recognise that the points made are grounded in solid experience, which I feel anyone connected with asylum or social housing could confirm.

Yours sincerely,Jim Holloway


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