Geoff Knott
Models of accommodation and support for migrants

Housing Justice, NACCOM and Praxis produced a very timely report in July 2015 giving insights to projects around the UK which accommodate and support migrants with no recourse to public funds (NRPF). These provide services with few resources but great commitment and invention.

The individuals and organisations taking these schemes forward often work in relative isolation. This resource gathers information about their work in order that people can learn about the issues and what people are doing to respond to them.

The key messages are:

There are a range of projects across the UK which have highlighted the presence of destitute migrants and the need to develop responses to their humanitarian needs. These projects have also developed innovative practices that have the potential to inspire others. This resource identifies some of the elements of best practice in relation to these models.

Projects are at the cutting edge of practice and generally under-resourced. Though work in this area has risks, there are good ways to minimise and manage these which are described in this resource.

There are a range of ways in which people can further work in this area. This resource summarises recommendations for current projects, funders and investors and those thinking of setting up projects in this area.

Existing projects inevitably respond to particular local configurations of people, existing services, housing market and types of migrant needing support. As a result all projects will need to assess which model works best for them in the particular local circumstances. Given this, there is potential to pilot other approaches or combinations of approaches.

Projects are usually providing accommodation and other support for migrants with NRPF on a shoestring. It should be noted, however, that projects do not measure their value uniquely in financial terms. The value lies in the benefits to the users, to those who work with them and to the communities in which they live. All these flow essentially from the commitment embedded in these projects to ‘make it work’ for all involved. The contribution of commitment and volunteer time is considerable.

Supporting people who have for whatever reason reached the end of their time in the UK is a key concern for those thinking about doing work in this area. Many projects deal well with this sensitive issue, acknowledging that failure to open up a discussion with migrants about what will happen and how they may plan for it lets them down. Unless the conversations are held which help the individual understand what the future will hold in the UK, with no support and no money potentially for the rest of their lives, the ‘choice’ of voluntary return may not have a chance to settle in focus. When that discussion is held without an agenda in a project, with somebody the individual trusts, it may be that for the first time the real choice becomes clear. For all projects, managing the boundary between telling users about how the system works and appearing to support it is a difficult one.

All successful projects are thoroughly embedded in local networks, and this is especially important in enabling access to good quality advice for users. There is, however, room for more and better partnerships with housing providers both to learn from their experience and to encourage increased engagement.

Download the full report here.