The Home Office has “messed up” the accommodation scheme for the 16,000 Afghan households that fled Kabul for Britain, according to Andy Gale speaking at Locata’s virtual National Users Group (NUG) meeting last week.
Hundreds of council officers tuned in to the webinar to hear one of the country’s top housing consultants set out the challenges facing homelessness team in 2022.
He highlighted the problems increasingly facing councils with the high number of Afghan households getting “fed up” being accommodated in bridging hotels.
Virtual NUG watched by hundreds of officers
Homelessness and Housing officers from across the country joined the National Users Group (NUG) webinar on Thursday, February 17.
Peter Riley gave an overview of the latest developments at Locata before Andy Gale gave a detailed presentation that included a caselaw update and potential areas for legal challenge, as well as setting out the key challenges faced by Housing Options Services in 2022 and offering solutions on how to overcome them.
More than 350 officers registered for the webinar which ended with a question-and-answer session.
Peter, Andy and Jake Baker from Locata, were only able to answer a proportion of the questions. So, we have prepared a document that answers all the questions that were submitted and can be downloaded below.
A full recording of the webinar is also available on the Locata website, as well as downloadable pdfs of both Peter’s and Andy’s presentations.
“Out of the 16,000 Afghan people taken out of Kabul airport, only 4,000 have been resettled to date,” said Andy Gale. “That means there are 12,000 still in bridging hotels. That’s costing £4.7 million a day for the Home Office including asylum seekers accommodated in hotels.
“That means kids are not getting into schools and there are all sorts of issues here. So, inevitably, and what’s starting to happen, is that people are voting with their feet and they are coming on to you.
“They are not asylum seekers. They have status with recourse to public funds and people are leaving bridging hotels and applying to local authorities directly.
“You could argue that its an example of why the Home Office should never touch an accommodation scheme because they’ll just mess it up.”
Andy Gale said that homelessness officers are facing applications from Afghan households that cannot wait any longer for a move under the Home Office ARAP or ACRS schemes.
“But what do you do as a local authority?”, he asked. “Do you make a decision that they are not homeless because they still have hotel accommodation?
“But that brings in the question of `reasonable to occupy`. If I’m in a bridging hotel for 12 or 18 months, are you saying you are not homeless because its `reasonable to occupy` accommodation in a hotel after 12 months?”
Andy Gale said there were further issues to consider, such as whether the people presenting as homeless had a local connection.
“So, if I’ve been accommodated in a hotel in the area, is that `normal residence of choice`? Can the applicant then claim that they have a local connection.”
A full recording of the webinar is now available on the Locata website. Follow this link.