Dear Editor,

As one of the people representing St Mungo’s in the meetings mentioned in the Observer’s story published today (‘Secret plan to use charities to help deport rough sleepers), I am concerned that your article gives a misleading impression of our role in relation to the Home Office’s proposed Rough Sleeping Support Service (RSSS).

Too many people are stuck destitute and homeless on the street where they have unresolved or complex migration issues. St Mungo’s provides a range of services to provide support and accommodation to people in this situation, including our Street Legal service.

We have been asking the government to look into ways to ensure people have the support they need to move away from rough sleeping, regardless of their migration status, as part of its rough sleeping strategy.

A major challenge is the time it can take the Home Office to deal with ongoing cases, and we have lobbied the government to prioritise cases where resolution of a person’s migration status will unlock entitlement to benefits and public services, thus helping them to get off the streets where they are at serious risk of harm.

The Home Office has proposed using a new team called the Rough Sleeping Support Service (RSSS). Myself and a colleague have been meeting with them since January to try to make this work to help destitute people who are rough sleeping.

Throughout these discussions we have been clear that referrals to the RSSS should only take place after an individual has first received legal advice from a registered OISC adviser and has given their informed consent.

In the article it says: “Emails also reveal that homeless charity St Mungo’s has attended meetings with the Home Office to discuss allowing outreach workers to enter a homeless person’s data into RSSS without their consent.”

This implies the exact opposite of what we have been doing in the meetings, which we explained in our statement to the Observer and which is quoted later in the article.

The minutes from the meetings clearly demonstrate that our position has always been that people cannot be referred to the service unless they have first received advice and have also given their consent.

We are disappointed that the Observer has called this “secret” and “clandestine”. The RSSS was first discussed at a meeting of the government’s Rough Sleeping Advisory Panel in November last year, which includes a wide range of charities. [Government departments, the GLA and representatives from a range of statutory bodies, including local authorities, have all been involved in these discussions.] The RSSS is mentioned in the published Rough Sleeping Strategy Delivery Plan on p6 and p30.

Furthermore, as the emails seen by the Observer show, discussions have been taking place with charities including migrant organisations. At no point has anyone been asked to treat this as “secret”.

Yours sincerely,
Dominic Williamson

Executive Director of Strategy and Policy
St Mungo’s
3 Thomas More Square
London EC1W 1YW