Hundreds of refugees and asylum seekers have sought homelessness support in Nottingham

People sleeping rough in Nottingham city centre
People sleeping rough in Nottingham city centre
By Joe Locker, Local Democracy Reporter

Hundreds of asylum seekers and refugees have sought homelessness support in Nottingham in six months.

Latest Home Office figures show about 1,550 people sought asylum in Nottingham in September last year, and Nottingham City Council says recent changes to the asylum application process led to significant increases in homelessness.

Newly-recognised refugees were typically given 28 days to arrange benefits and find alternative accommodation after being granted a biometric residence permit by the Home Office.

However, a policy change in August last year meant this period started from the day a person received their asylum decision letter.

As a result, some people were left with as little as seven days to move out of accommodation the Home Office gave them while claims were processed.

It was understood the change in practice was to help the Home Office process a backlog of cases.

The policy change has since been reversed following backlash, and the Home Office cited it as being a “temporary change” only.

Oliver Wilkinson-Dale, a former outreach worker who is now the council’s public health manager, said it proved a “challenge” for the city.

The issue was highlighted in a report recommending changes to services to better help people seeking asylum in the city.

During a Health and Wellbeing Board meeting on Wednesday, May 29, he said: “It is something that has not just been identified as a challenge here, it is something other areas are dealing with.

“The problem we have is when we were making this [plan] we were at the height of that and I think we will need to monitor it.

“Clearly at the time of writing [the report] it was quite a large challenge for the city, there was quite a significant increase in people presenting as homeless to the city council.”

According to the report, called the Joint Strategic Needs Assessment (JSNA), the number of people seeking asylum and refugees approaching the council for homelessness assistance reached a high of 213 people between September 1 and December 31 last year.

Asylum seekers and refugees accounted for 26 per cent of the total number of people who asked for homelessness support over that period.

The number of people who needed assistance was up from 149 in the same period in 2022.

Between January 1 and March 31 this year, the council says the number reduced to 186 people.

While there are support services and operational structures in place, Nottingham currently has no group with strategic oversight around health needs of refugee and asylum seeker populations.

The report seeks to address this by recommending services be redesigned to account for an influx in people and creating a strategic partnership between the NHS, council, police, and the voluntary and community sectors.

Some of the primary challenges identified relate to poor oral health care, mental health needs, as well as the current high risks of homelessness and challenges for families placed in temporary accommodation.

Dr Margaret Abbott, health inequalities clinical lead, added: “Why are we concerned about people in this group? It is very much they do have high levels of health need and poor wellbeing.

“That can stem from where they have come from, the situation and the medical conditions they had before they left their country of origin, and then whatever caused them to leave their country of origin, which may be conflict, armed conflict or persecution.

“Then the travel on the way to this country, which may be quite dangerous, may mean they had lack of access to medicines, food and water.

“When they come here too they may experience discrimination, racism and isolation. So all of that will effect their health and wellbeing and result in high levels of mental health problems, particularly high rates of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in this group, up to 30 per cent.”

The report was endorsed by the council.

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