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Petition Revoke rules for refusing or cancelling permission to stay for rough sleepers

The Government should scrap rule changes that came into effect on 1 December that will allow non-UK nationals to have permission to stay refused or cancelled for rough sleeping. Rough sleeping numbers have increased dramatically since the pandemic, particularly among those with NRPF status.

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The Government has said that this rule will be used sparingly, as a last resort. However, homelessness charities and migrant rights organisations have strongly opposed this rule, describing it as a "huge step backwards", and say that it will prevent vulnerable people asking for help. The shadow home secretary has said: “Deporting people for being homeless is immoral."

We ask that the Government listen to the groups with first hand experience of these issues and reverse their decision.

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Government responded

This response was given on 23 February 2021

The Government is committed to ending rough sleeping. The immigration rule will not be revoked but it will only be used where a person refuses support and engages in anti-social behaviour.

Read the response in full

No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) is a condition that has been applied to those staying here with a temporary immigration status under successive Governments. The general expectation of the Government is that migrants coming into the UK should be able to maintain and accommodate themselves without recourse to public funds. This reflects the need to maintain the confidence of the general public that immigration brings benefits to our country, rather than costs to the UK taxpayer. Only those who are normally or habitually resident in the UK are entitled to access benefits and social housing, reflecting their strength of connection to the UK. This includes those with indefinite leave to remain, refugees, protected persons and those granted discretionary leave.

The Government remains committed to protecting vulnerable people and has acted decisively to ensure that everyone is supported through this pandemic. Many of the wide-ranging Covid-19 measures the Government has put in place, such as the Coronavirus Job Retention scheme, have been made available to migrants with NRPF. We have published guidance and support for migrants affected by Covid-19 at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-get-support-if-youre-a-migrant-living-in-the-uk.

The Government has provided councils with £6.4 billion to support their communities through this pandemic. This includes £4.6 billion in un-ringfenced funding, £1.1 billion from the Infection Control Fund, £300 million to support Test and Trace as well as funding allocated to councils from the new Local Alert Level system and a number of grants to support communities and vulnerable people. The Government has also provided significant additional funding to local authorities to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping, with over £700 million funding in 2020-’21.

There are important safeguards in place to ensure vulnerable migrants who are destitute and have community care needs, including issues relating to human rights or the wellbeing of children, can receive support.

Local authorities may provide basic safety net support, regardless of immigration status, if it is established that there is a genuine care need that does not arise solely from destitution; for example, where there are community care needs, migrants with serious health problems or family cases where the wellbeing of a child is in question.

The new Immigration Rules introduced on 1 December, which include making provision for the refusal or cancellation of permission to stay in the UK on the basis of rough sleeping, will be used on a discretionary basis where a person refuses offers of support such as accommodation and engages in persistent anti-social behaviour. This means that every case will be considered individually, and the circumstances of each person will be taken into account before a decision is made on the most appropriate course of action.

The new rule will not apply to those with (or eligible for) leave granted under the EU Settlement Scheme or other cohorts protected by the Withdrawal Agreement, nor will it apply to those who are settled in the UK or to those granted permission to stay on the basis of asylum or human rights. Guidance will be provided for decision-makers to make clear the circumstances in which permission may be cancelled or refused, and this will also be available on GOV.UK.

If their permission to stay is cancelled or refused, a person is expected to leave the UK, but if they do not choose to leave voluntarily we may enforce their removal. They will not be subject to deportation action, which is reserved for foreign national offenders with serious and persistent criminality as well as for reasons of national security.

Home Office

This is a revised response. The Petitions Committee requested a response which more directly addressed the request of the petition. You can find the original response towards the bottom of the petition page (https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/561884)

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At 100,000 signatures, this petition will be considered for debate in Parliament

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Original Government response

We understand concerns about rough sleepers and are encouraging local authorities and charities to resolve their immigration status and unlock access to any entitlements they may be eligible for.

No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) is a condition that has been applied to those staying here with a temporary immigration status under successive Governments. The general expectation of the Government is that migrants coming into the UK should be able to maintain and accommodate themselves without recourse to public funds. This reflects the need to maintain the confidence of the general public that immigration brings benefits to our country, rather than costs to the UK taxpayer. Only those who are normally or habitually resident in the UK are entitled to access benefits and social housing, reflecting their strength of connection to the UK. This includes those with indefinite leave to remain, refugees, protected persons and those granted discretionary leave.

The Government remains committed to protecting vulnerable people and has acted decisively to ensure that everyone is supported through this pandemic. Many of the wide-ranging Covid-19 measures the Government has put in place, such as the Coronavirus Job Retention scheme, have been made available to migrants with NRPF. We have published guidance and support for migrants affected by Covid-19 at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-get-support-if-youre-a-migrant-living-in-the-uk.

The Government has provided councils with £6.4 billion to support their communities through this pandemic. This includes £4.6 billion in un-ringfenced funding, £1.1 billion from the Infection Control Fund, £300 million to support Test and Trace as well as funding allocated to councils from the new Local Alert Level system and a number of grants to support communities and vulnerable people. The Government has also provided significant additional funding to local authorities to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping, with over £700 million funding in 2020-’21.

There are important safeguards in place to ensure vulnerable migrants who are destitute and have community care needs, including issues relating to human rights or the wellbeing of children, can receive support.

Local authorities may provide basic safety net support, regardless of immigration status, if it is established that there is a genuine care need that does not arise solely from destitution; for example, where there are community care needs, migrants with serious health problems or family cases where the wellbeing of a child is in question.

The new Immigration Rules introduced on 1 December, which include making provision for the refusal or cancellation of permission to stay in the UK on the basis of rough sleeping, will be used on a discretionary basis where a person refuses offers of support such as accommodation and engages in persistent anti-social behaviour. This means that every case will be considered individually, and the circumstances of each person will be taken into account before a decision is made on the most appropriate course of action.

The new rule apply to non-EEA nationals from 1 December 2020 and will apply to newly-arriving EEA citizens from 1 January 2021. It will not apply to those with (or eligible for) leave granted under the EU Settlement Scheme or other cohorts protected by the Withdrawal Agreement, nor will it apply to those who are settled in the UK or to those granted permission to stay on the basis of asylum or human rights. Guidance will be provided for decision-makers to make clear the circumstances in which permission may be cancelled or refused, and this will also be available on GOV.UK.

If their permission to stay is cancelled or refused, a person is expected to leave the UK, but if they do not choose to leave voluntarily we may enforce their removal. They will not be subject to deportation action, which is reserved for foreign national offenders with serious and persistent criminality as well as for reasons of national security.

Home Office

This response was given on 18 December 2020. The Petitions Committee then requested a revised response, that more directly addressed the request of the petition.

Recent Parliamentary debates on homelessness, evictions, and the Vagrancy Act

Over the last two weeks, there have been two debates in Parliament which relate to the issues raised by this petition.

Find links to watch each debate, read the transcripts and access other relevant material on the following webpages:

Nickie Aiken MP’s Westminster Hall debate: Repealing and replacing the Vagrancy Act 1824: https://houseofcommons.shorthandstories.com/vagrancy-act-1824/index.html

Lord Bird’s Question for short debate: Evictions resulting from covid-19-induced poverty: https://houseofcommons.shorthandstories.com/covid-19--poverty-and-mass-evictions-/index.html

What are Westminster Hall debates?

Westminster Hall is the second Chamber of the House of Commons. Westminster Hall debates give MPs an opportunity to raise local or national issues and receive a response from a government minister. Any MP can take part in a Westminster Hall debate.

What is a Question for short debate?

Four short debates ('Questions for Short Debate') take place on Thursday every five weeks in Grand Committee of the House of Lords, away from the main Chamber. These debates are an opportunity for members of the House of Lords to discuss important current issues and draw the Government’s attention to concerns. A Government minister or spokesperson responds at the end to the issues raised in the debate.

Please note that these debates are separate from any work the Petitions Committee may do on this petition. For more information on how petitions work, see https://www.parliament.uk/get-involved/sign-a-petition/e-petitions/

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