New Clause 11 - Eligibility for housing and homelessness assistance

Immigration Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:30 am on 17th November 2015.

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“The Secretary of State shall make provision by regulations to ensure that a person granted leave to enter or remain under section 3 of the Immigration Act 1971, whether under rules made under that section or otherwise, who is eligible for public funds shall also be eligible for housing and homelessness services.”—(Keir Starmer.)

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Keir Starmer Keir Starmer Shadow Minister (Home Office)

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

This is my final appearance on an amendment or new clause, and it is fitting that the new clause is a probing one. Concerns have been raised about eligibility for housing and homelessness assistance. As a result of changes to immigration law and practice, some young people in households with children given leave to remain in the UK that allows them to claim all relevant benefits have un- intentionally been made ineligible for local authority housing and homelessness services, leaving them disadvantaged and creating a problem for social services, which must house them in emergencies if housing departments cannot do so.

The intention behind the new clause is to avoid what is hopefully an unintended consequence. If a level of assurance can be given that that will not be a consequence, the new clause has no purpose.

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire Minister of State (Home Office) (Security and Immigration) 10:45 am, 17th November 2015

Migrants granted leave to enter or remain in the UK are generally expected to be able to maintain and accommodate themselves without recourse to public funds in the form of mainstream welfare benefits or local authority housing support. There is legislation in place to ensure that the majority of migrants cannot access those public funds. The Government are aware that in some cases a person granted immigration leave with no bar to accessing public funds might require local authority housing or homelessness support but would currently be ineligible as they are not settled here.

The Home Office is working with other Departments—the Department for Communities and Local Government in particular—to remedy the situation as swiftly as possible. It does not follow, however, that everyone who has been granted leave should have an immediate and enforceable claim to access local authority support and services, even where there is no bar to them accessing other public funds.

The No Recourse to Public Funds Network has highlighted the issue of the Allocation of Housing and Homelessness (Eligibility) (England) Regulations 2006, which control access to homelessness assistance and still refer to the discretionary leave category. That is quite a technical but important point. I assure the Committee that we are working closely with the Department for Communities and Local Government to examine amendments to the 2006 regulations, which is the relevant point.

There is an issue here, but I hope, with that assurance, the hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras will be minded to withdraw the new clause, while noting that this is something we are aware of and will take steps to remedy.

Photo of Keir Starmer Keir Starmer Shadow Minister (Home Office)

The purpose of a probing amendment is to identify a particular concern and seek assurance on it. The Minister gave that assurance and says all are working on a remedy. In those circumstances, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.