The One Stop Shop Advice Project (OSS) supports new refugees with their resettlement after they have been granted asylum. Until recently refugees granted status in Nottingham could access Emergency Hardship Support from Nottingham City Council (NCC). Once Home Office (NASS) support ended a small weekly payment was available for a maximum of 3 weeks until mainstream benefits were in payment. This often takes longer than 3 weeks so after this the Red Cross provided a much needed £10 per person per week.
Typically a new refugee family will be provided with emergency accommodation until permanent housing is available. This can take up to 32 weeks. Until then a family may be living in a hotel with no access to cooking facilities. Some families are placed in self-contained flats in hostels if there is space. Once an offer of a house is made families sometimes have as little as 3 or 4 days to leave their temporary accommodation and move into an empty, uncarpeted property regardless of whether they have anything to cook with or sleep on. At this point the team could apply again to the NCC Emergency Hardship Support for essential household items such as a fridge, cooker, beds, bedding and some basic kitchen equipment.
In October the funding for the Emergency Hardship Support scheme dried up overnight. This Local Welfare Assistance scheme had been running since 2013 and was originally set up to provide emergency assistance following changes in the DWP’s Social Fund Provision which led to the withdrawal of Community Care Grants and Crisis Loans. This has left vulnerable new refugees with no money once NASS support ends and no guarantee that they will have basic essential furniture when they move into their new home. This is already an incredibly stressful time but with no access to Emergency Hardship Support new refugees are struggling even more than ever.
As a response British Red Cross have agreed to make immediately available £10 per week per person as soon as NASS support stops but this funding is finite and is not sufficient to support a family with food, bus fares to get children to school and other daily living costs. Critically if new refugees are allocated a National Insurance number at the same time as they receive their Refugee Status documents the waiting time for benefits is significantly reduced. This rarely happens in practice though despite it being Home Office policy for National Insurance number applications to be submitted by their caseworkers once asylum is granted.
The closure of the Emergency Hardship Support scheme affects not only refugees but vulnerable people across the city. The Arches Project do a fantastic job of redistributing furniture and white goods but with pressure from people in need from all over Nottingham their scarce resources are spread very thin. NNRF has now bought 4 worktop cooker hobs to lend out to families and other vulnerable clients for use until they have their own cooking facilities. One of the first client to be loaned a hob was overwhelmingly grateful telling me she hadn’t been able to cook for her and her daughter since July when she first moved into temporary accommodation. It is fortuitous that NNRF is in the process of setting up a Grants Team which will support applications to charitable trusts for clients in need and it is hoped that this will help to in some way to alleviate some of the hardship new refugees are experiencing.