Up until 2017, when funding ceased, the Project provided advice and support to ethnic minorities facing homelessness and other housing issues.
Clients often presented with multiple issues, for example: financial problems that arise from errors with benefit payments may lead to the risk of eviction or even homelessness. The main issues faced by clients accessing the service between December 2015 and December 2016 included problems with benefits, eviction/homelessness, being threatened with eviction/homelessness, employability, overcrowding, affordable tenancy, rent arrears, immigration, problems with safety/health, domestic abuse, and money/debt problems.
Benefits and financial issues are the consistent problems facing clients. Since December 2015, affordability has been an issue in both privately rented accommodation and social housing, where tenants struggle with rental costs, even for temporary accommodation. As the welfare and immigration systems become more restrictive and complicated for migrants, more individuals are falling through the net and facing great financial hardship or homelessness. For many clients, financial problems have been directly linked to losing the right to reside (for EEA nationals), or dealing with No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF). It is likely that further financial hardship and increased rent arrears can be expected with continual changes in welfare benefits, immigration legislation, and the Brexit process.
Impact of Benefit changes
From April 2014, EEA jobseekers without a permanent right to reside have been unable to claim Housing Benefit, and are now only allowed to receive Jobseekers’ Allowance for six months. Underoccupancy fees – the bedroom tax – was applied from March 2014, reducing Housing Benefit payments for tenants in social housing with one or more ‘spare’ bedrooms. As of April 2016, Housing Benefit can only be backdated by one month. Benefit caps, the shift to Universal Credit, and limits on Child Benefit will also reduce the amount many people can claim.
These issues, combined with outcomes of decisions made by the DWP, especially around the Right to Reside, can lead to individuals struggling financially, accruing debt and rent arrears, which they are then unable to repay with Housing Benefit.
Language barriers and a lack of knowledge about rights and entitlements have meant that a number of people accessing the MEHP service have done so at crisis point, when the timescale to resolve these issues is limited. All of the above has led to an ever-increasing requirement for the specialist advice provided by the MEHP.
Data Source: 2016, Minority Ethnic Housing Project (MEHP), 2016: Annual Report.
Category: Qualitative Data
Topics: Brexit Ethnicity Hostile Environment Housing NRPF Poverty