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St Mungos facing legal questions

Lawyers complain to Charity Commission & Information Commissioner

 

Lawyers from the Public Interest Law Unit (Pilu) have lodged a complaint with the Charity Commission and the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) about the conduct of the homeless charity St Mungo’s when it accompanied Home Office immigration, compliance and enforcement (ICE) teams on these patrols until December. 

 

Staff expressed concern

 

Through Unite, St Mungos staff have repeatedly expressed concern at the conduct of St Mungos senior management on this issue.  In response to today’s report members have spoken to Unite repeating their concerns about the executives ‘empire building’ and ‘commercial obsession without a moral compass.’ They also expressed concern at the quality of governance in the organisation that had allowed executives to endanger the reputation of the organisation apparently unchecked despite repeated warnings in meetings with management, on our website and through a formal branch resolution.

 

 

A report on The Guardian website today cites an internal St Mungos document entitled “Enforcement policy for EU and non-EU nationals not engaging with outreach team” which says that if EU migrant rough sleepers did not return to their home countries voluntarily within twelve weeks their names would be passed to the UKBA (United Kingdom Border Agency) adding “These individuals’ details will be passed on to the ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) by the outreach team. Following this a joint shift will be agreed with outreach, ICE, Parks Police to target/tackle these individuals.” 

 

Hostile environment

 

The policy which St Mungos was implementing formed part of the “hostile environment” for migrants associated with Theresa May when home secretary and recently in the news because of the Windrush scandal.  As we had warned was likely, the policy of deporting rough sleepers was found by a Judicial Review to be unlawful.

 

In addition to ethical and legal concerns, front line workers across the sector are concerned that an additional health and safety risk is posed if they are identified with the ICE teams and that work with already hard to reach groups will be endangered.  In March another homelessness agency, Crisis, commented “If it is true that people are avoiding help from outreach teams for fear of encountering the Home Office, then these people will become more vulnerable, not less.”

 

Any Unite members in the sector who feel they are being pressurised to work in an unlawful or unethical manner should contact their Unite rep or the branch.

 

In The Guardian report Howard Sinclair, chief executive of St Mungo’s is quoted as saying: “We question the accuracy of the FoI response from Brent. We haven’t heard from the information commissioner or the Charity Commission but will respond if they contact us.

 

“We take all complaints very seriously. Our policy is that we do not share information about individuals [with] the Home Office except when an individual has given their consent, or in situations where people are at significant risk to themselves or someone else. We think leaving a vulnerable person to die on the streets is unacceptable, which is why we work with various agencies to actively offer support to people away from the streets and on with their lives.”

 

A Brent council spokesperson is quoted as saying: “Our FoI response relied on information given to us by St Mungo’s. Since submitting this information, St Mungo’s has informed us that it was in fact incorrect. They have told us that they will be giving us the correct information as soon as possible.”

 

Paul  Kershaw

 

14 May 2018

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