Branch Secretary :

Deportation plans threaten homelessness services

Frontline homelessness workers oppose brutal policy


Homelessness workers reacted with anger at proposals to deport rough sleepers.  Vulnerable people sleeping rough often mistrust agencies and are unwilling to engage; such ‘hard to reach’ groups are likely to become more entrenched because of these proposals.


Forced deportation is traumatic and unethical and the wider effect will undermine services.


“This brutal policy threatens unacceptable human consequences for people targeted for deportation. It also threatens the effectiveness of work with rough sleepers with serious potential health consequences in a pandemic. We call on the management of homelessness agencies to learn the lessons from previous mistakes and to clearly state their commitment to maintain professional standards of confidentiality when working with clients. Commissioning local authorities must also step forward to ensure standards are maintained. Failure to do so could fatally undermine work with rough sleepers this winter” Commented Jack Jeffrey, Unite housing workers branch secretary who is a front-line worker with rough sleepers in London.


Failure of government policy


The housing crisis is dramatically highlighted by rough sleeping. If the government really want to reduce rough sleeping, they should start by reversing cuts to services supporting rough sleepers.  The housing crisis results from the failure of UK government housing policy and not foreigners.


The Unite housing workers branch which represents front line workers in agencies working with rough sleepers welcomed statements from political leaders and leading figures in the sector describing this proposal as immoral and unacceptable. There are now essential steps that will need to be taken.


In order to support the continued effectiveness of homelessness agencies it is vital to be able to give assurance that they will maintain clear measures to ensure that client information is confidential.


Essential steps


Two immediate steps must be taken to ensure the effectiveness of work with rough sleepers this winter:


1          The London Mayor Sadiq Kahn must remove the Home Office from the London ‘No Nights Sleeping Rough’ taskforce and guarantee they will not get info from the CHAIN database or information on foreign nationals currently in GLA emergency hotel provision.


2          Local authorities that commission services must require that they do not facilitate data sharing or joint working with the Home Office or their Immigration Enforcement Teams.


Restore cuts to rough sleeper services


Rapid commitments to take these steps are important to minimise damage to services through the winter.  On behalf of our members working with rough sleepers we have warned agencies against breaking down boundaries with immigration enforcement agencies in the past.  We hope that management will act with these lessons in mind.


We also call on the government to restore cuts to provision for rough sleepers.


If homelessness workers are in any way perceived as associated with organisations implementing forced deportation, they are placed at increased personal risk. Unite will ensure that health and safety risk assessments are reviewed regularly, appropriate changes to working pasterns are made and where required extra resources are made available.  


Paul Kershaw  October 22nd 2020


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