BULLETIN 8 - february 2021
Our latest Bulletin presents data from 43 organisations working with people in the immigration system across England, Wales and Scotland and UK-wide. The survey covers general client needs and barriers, organisational needs and funding challenges, as well as the current thematic focus areas of EU citizens and the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS), Access to Covid-19 Vaccines and Access to Learning under lockdown.
Client Needs and Barriers
The top three areas of need amongst clients are:
- Housing (reported by 60% of organisations) with inadequate accommodation and homeless or risk of homelessness cited as the main issues
- Digital access (53%), including lack of or insufficient access to devices and wifi/data and need for digital skills development.
- Legal support (47%), including lack of access to good quality legal advice, support or representation on their immigration case, rights or status.
For clients living in hotels and barracks, social isolation and lack of access to mental health support (73%) and lack of access to legal advice (61%) remain the top needs, while a lack of access to general advice / information (73%) has risen from the 7th highest to the most common need since the Bulletin 7.
The top three barriers to support for clients are:
- Inability to access digital services (79%)
- Language or communication difficulties exacerbated by remote service delivery (76%)
- Inability to access emotional support or meaningful activities in their community (71%)
Organisational Needs and Funding
The main organisational challenges reported are:
- Difficulty in supporting clients to access remote services - e.g. provision of hardware, internet, or training (54%)
- Difficulty in outreach to new clients or hard-to-reach groups when they need support (46%)
- Insufficient, inflexible or insecure funding (41%)
Specific organisational funding issues reported are:
- Lack of staff capacity to engage in fundraising (63%)
- Funding gaps for key staff roles impacting project sustainability (47%)
- Main grants/funding ending within the next 3 months (39%)
EU Citizens and the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS)
The EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) is an online application which all EU, EEA or Swiss citizens must complete to continue living in the UK after Brexit. The deadline for applying for settled status is 30th June 2021.
Of the 14 organisations working with EU citizens, 86% told us they have clients who are not aware of the EUSS process.
Several challenges were reported in relation to the EUSS online application, including:
- Lack of access to digital devices to progress their application (93%)
- Lack of digital skills to understand/complete the application (93%)
- Poor English language or literacy (79%)
- Insufficient evidence of their time in the UK, for example because they have been homeless, or they are economically inactive (79%)
- Lack of internet access to progress application (57%)
"Frontline staff are experiencing a change in attitude from housing teams in local authorities since 1st Jan. Now they refuse to work with clients without EUSS in place." (Survey respondent)
The top issues facing EU citizens with insecure status are: Unemployment or underemployment (93%), homelessness, or risk of homelessness (79%) and destitution or risk of destitution (79%).
Reported groups who are disproportionately impacted by issues relating to the EUSS process include: Homeless and/or destitute EU nationals; Children; Economically inactive individuals; Roma communities and people with serious mental health issues.
Organisations are responding to these challenges by helping clients to navigate the EUSS application and delivering information and awareness campaigns about the process. To better support these clients, organisations need additional targeted funding and more staff capacity to support clients with their applications.
Access to Covid-19 Vaccinations
Organisations reported the main barriers preventing clients accessing information about the Covid-19 vaccine:
- Language barriers and a lack of translated information
- Lack of awareness and understanding about the vaccination process
- Misinformation or fake/ inaccurate information about the vaccine
Reported barriers to accessing the vaccine include lack of access to health services (i.e. issues with registering with a GP), concerns about being charged for the vaccine, fear it will impact their immigration case, and travel costs to vaccine sites. Mistrust, fear and suspicion of the Covid-19 vaccine was also raised.
The most effective ways reported by organisations to communicate with clients about the Covid-19 vaccines include Whatsapp messages, easy to read written guidance and videos.
Access to Learning in Lockdown
Of the 29 organisations supporting families with school-aged children, 76% do not think children are receiving enough support to engage in online learning, due to digital access issues as well as lack of support or guidance for parents who are expected to supervise the tasks.
The main issues reported in relation to home learning include:
- Internet connection; inadequate (86%) or none (76%)
- Parents struggling to support children's learning due to language barriers (86%) or lack of formal education (66%)
- No access to devices for online learning (83 %)
Specific concerns were raised around children in temporary accommodation that is unsuitable for home-learning: including lack of safe space to learn, parents not being able to access necessary mental health support, poverty and lack of basic provisions such as fuel, food and clothing.
“Some children are getting online support but others have to negotiate the work on their device. Most parents don't have a clue about helping them access schoolwork...their children really do struggle to do anything at all.”