Response to Guardian article – how we work with non-UK nationals
We are disappointed that a Guardian story published on 5 March fails to adequately represent how St Mungo’s works with people sleeping rough in relation to the Home Office.
As explained at length to journalist Diane Taylor, our role in being present with ICE teams was to support people who were vulnerable and ensure that Home Office teams recognised those vulnerabilities.
Our outreach teams are commissioned by local authorities. If they are working with non UK nationals sleeping rough they would first ensure that people understand their rights and entitlements, including, where feasible, assistance to take up options in the UK like work and housing. If the person is vulnerable, teams would look to offer appropriate support in the UK where that is an option, or in the person’s home country where this is not an option.
Some people may think it’s strange for us to be present during these operations. We took the decision that it was better to be there to provide support to vulnerable people sleeping rough than not be able to advocate for them at these times. Our role should not be confused with that of enforcement agencies.
Where local authorities or the Home Office decide to take action against individuals or groups who are sleeping rough, we are present to ensure that people who are vulnerable get the help that they need. Rough sleeping is dangerous as deaths in recent months have shown only too clearly.
We help people resolve their immigration status. That means working with the Home Office – with the person’s consent – when people haven’t got documentation. We do, and have referred people to the voluntary departures scheme.
We actively support people who are non UK nationals, for example, through the Street Legal service we run with partners and Routes Home. People not from the UK may not have entitlements to any benefits. This can result in complex situations for them with no access to housing or support services, which in turn results in long term rough sleeping which is harmful and dangerous.
We do not share information about people to 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. The average age of death of someone who’s been homeless is 47 for men, for women, 43.