Together with Liz Davies and Connor Johnston of Garden Court Chambers, I helped draft a Bill for Crisis (the homelessness charity) that would help end rough sleeping and homelessness for all, including migrants, during the Coronavirus crisis. It would suspend the ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ and ‘Right to Reside’ tests. To read the Bill click here. To read the Explanatory Notes, click here. Please support Crisis’ work. To read more about Crisis, click here.
The Bill would help achieve an end to rough sleeping and homelessness by:
- Creating a new temporary duty on local authorities in England to provide emergency accommodation The duty would provide everyone who is homeless with emergency accommodation for 12 months by removing priority need and eligibility tests. In addition, the relief duty would also been extended to cover everyone during this period, so that councils can begin to do the meaningful work needed to help people out of hotels and into permanent accommodation. It would not require councils to provide permanent housing directly. Crisis will be calling for this duty to be fully backed by funding.
- Temporarily providing additional support to people with no recourse to public funds (NRPF): The legislation will temporarily lift NRPF status for 12 months for people who are assisted under this new legislation – not more widely, and only for a limited period of time. This will ensure that emergency accommodation can be funded via the welfare system for a limited period of time, therefore reliving the burden on local authorities around funding. Without this, a significant proportion of people currently being supported are likely to return to the streets once emergency protections end, reversing progress towards ending rough sleeping seen in recent months. Furthermore without measures to lift the status, councils will be left to pick up a much bigger bill.
- Temporarily suspending the benefit cap: This will support local authorities to find affordable, move on accommodation for those that are currently in emergency accommodation. Suspending the cap for 12 months as drafted in the emergency legislation will also prevent people from being hit by the cap if they are newly homeless and are unable to return to work once the 9 month protection from the cap ends.
- Extending protections for renters: These clauses are largely based on the draft clauses from the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee and would provide judges with greater discretion to prevent renters being evicted when rent arrears arise as a direct result of coronavirus. Crisis believes this measure is vital to help stem the flow of people into homelessness as a result of the economic impact of the pandemic over the coming months.