Community Housing Cymru Group and Tai Pawb response. Refugee and Asylum Seeker Delivery Plan Consultation Response

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1 Community Housing Cymru Group and Tai Pawb response Refugee and Asylum Seeker Delivery Plan Consultation Response This is a joint consultation response between CHC and Tai Pawb. Community Housing Cymru Group (CHC Group 1. About Us The Community Housing Cymru Group (CHC Group) is the representative body for housing associations and community mutuals in Wales, which are all not-for profit organisations. Our members provide over 158,000 homes and related housing services across Wales. In 2013/14, our members directly employed 8,400 people and spent almost 2bn (directly and indirectly) in the economy, with 81% of this spend retained in Wales. Our members work closely with local government, third sector organisations and the Welsh Government to provide a range of services in communities across Wales. Our objectives are to: Be the leading voice of the social housing sector. Promote the social housing sector in Wales. Promote the relief of financial hardship through the sector's provision of low cost social housing. Provide services, education, training, information, advice and support to members. Encourage and facilitate the provision, construction, improvement and management of low cost social housing by housing associations in Wales. Our vision is to be: A dynamic, action-based advocate for the not-for-profit housing sector. A member centred support provider, adding value to our members activities by delivering the services and advice that they need in order to provide social housing, regeneration and care services. A knowledge-based social enterprise. In 2010, CHC formed a group structure with Care & Repair Cymru and CREW Regeneration Wales in order to jointly champion not-for-profit housing, care and regeneration. 1

2 Tai Pawb Who we are Tai Pawb (housing for all) is a registered charity and a company limited by guarantee. The organisation s mission is, To promote equality and social justice in housing in Wales. It operates a membership system which is open to local authorities, registered social landlords, third (voluntary) sector organisations, other housing interests and individuals. What we do Tai Pawb works closely with the Welsh Assembly Government and other key partners on national housing strategies and key working groups, to ensure that equality is an inherent consideration in national strategic development and implementation. The organisation also provides practical advice and assistance to its members on a range of equality and diversity issues in housing and related services. Tai Pawb s vision is to be: The primary driver in the promotion of equality and diversity in housing, leading to the reduction of prejudice and disadvantage, as well as changing lives for the better. A valued partner who supports housing providers and services to recognise, respect and respond appropriately to the diversity of housing needs and characteristics of people living in Wales, including those who are vulnerable and marginalised. For further information visit: Charity registration no Company No Q1 Do you think the priorities included in the draft Refugee and Asylum Seeker Delivery Plan will improve life for asylum seekers and refugees in Wales? If you think any of the priorities should not be included please provide your reasons below All the priorities identified in the draft plan should be included as they identify some of the major areas that affect asylum seekers and refugees when they first arrive and settle in Wales. We believe that the section around UASCs should be entitled Migrant, refugee asylum seeking and UASCs to indicate that it covers all those children. Q2 Do you think there should be any other priorities addressed in the Refugee and Asylum Seeker Delivery Plan? If so, what should they be? Priorities can only be considered if they are devolved to the Welsh Government see 2

3 Yes We think that the Welsh Government should include a priority around supporting Refugee Community Organisations as a way of supporting inclusion of asylum seekers and refugees. Research shows that asylum seekers and refugees arriving in the country without family are normally isolated and Refugee Community Organisations play a part in providing a sense of belonging and personal confidence, acting as bridges to the mainstream services. Additionally, with the commencement of the Syrian Refugee Re-settlement scheme we have seen the important role that such organisations play in planning and supporting refugees. We know that Local Authorities as well as the Home Office have been contacting or are planning to work closely with such organisations to provide support for refugees, especially where local authorities haven t had the experience of dealing with refugees. Under actions in the Community Cohesion priority, there could be a commitment to running social media campaigns as well, to challenge misconceptions. Partners should be utilised and Refugee Community Organisations can play a major role working with other partners. Q3 Do you think the actions to deliver the priorities on Section 1 Health and Social Services are the most appropriate actions for refugees and asylum seekers? What other actions do you think will help tackle the priorities in this section? We welcome the Welsh Government s commitment to supporting both mental and physical health provisions for asylum seekers and refugees in Wales. We however believe that the Welsh Government should commit to funding mental health provision for asylum seekers and refugees so that any projects that are initiated are properly supported. Issuing guidance for healthcare providers is very welcome, however not sufficient. The Government should commit to reviewing specialist provision with a view to identifying and addressing gaps. Welsh Government should also make sure that access to mainstream services is improved through e.g. drop in centres and community provision. Currently mental health provision in general is under pressure and there are lengthy waiting periods to accessing services. A research report from Mind shows that there is a lack of cultural awareness and understanding of refugee issues among mainstream healthcare professionals and third sector staff and that there is limited provision of culturally appropriate services in mental healthcare. We believe that the Welsh Government should help develop appropriate services that are accessible to refugees and asylum seekers and can ensure that people receive face to face language translation when using services. In terms of reducing stigma of mental health issues, we propose that this needs to be mainstreamed into on-going mainstream initiatives such as Time to Change campaign to ensure that asylum seekers and refugees are not isolated and that they do not remain living in isolation. Asylum seekers/refugees should also be made aware of mainstream initiatives such as Time to Change. 3

4 We know that a number of our members have refugees as tenants and being able to access mainstream provision is always helpful, especially in areas where they may be few numbers and undeveloped targeted services for refugees and asylum seekers. The consideration of health needs in new areas opening up for refugees for our members who may want to participate in schemes to house new refugees and provide appropriate support but lack the experience is very important. A number of local authorities have already lost a substantial number of support staff due to the monetary cuts to local authorities and it is only appropriate that funding is committed to these areas to ensure appropriate support of refugees. We support the actions under priority 3 and believe that healthcare providers need to be aware of the needs of asylum seekers and refugees and vice versa so that asylum seekers and refugees can access services appropriately. Local authorities are likely to look predominantly to social housing providers to house refugees and Housing Associations as part of that network are well placed to work with partners to recognise support required and refer to or provide support and have some experience of supporting people through their Supporting People programmes. They may be well placed to assist in providing programmes that identify and respond to mental health issues through sign posting or providing direct support. Information on how to access health services should be readily available for refugees and asylum seekers and should be made accessible. It could be distributed through social housing providers as well as the private housing providers like Clearsprings. Information should be available for the so called failed asylum seekers as well. Priority 2 under Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC) should make reference to housing as well as UKVI, health etc. Housing providers are important partners in support provision for this group. Q4 Do you think the actions to deliver the priorities in Section 2 Education are the most appropriate actions for refugees and asylum seekers? What other actions do you think will help tackle the priorities in this section? We recommend that the Welsh Government help in opening up and delivering mentoring and shadowing schemes for young people in colleges through provision of appropriate guidance which will make it easier for organisations to take on and support asylum seekers. This would need to be highly monitored in a clear and structured way, as some could be extremely vulnerable. The course and funding through Trinity Centre does not take into account the fact that asylum seekers and refugees are dispersed through a wide area across Wales. The Welsh Government may want to consider looking at a Wales wide project that is able to provide the same service across the main dispersal areas of Wales as well as any emerging new areas. 4

5 Q5 Do you think the actions to deliver the priorities in Section 3 Housing and Advice Services are the most appropriate actions for refugees and asylum seekers? What other actions do you think will help tackle the priorities in this section? New areas of resettlement are opening up now across Wales and we recommend that the Welsh Government develops and issues good practice guidance on preparing communities to receive asylum seekers/refugees and managing community relations. If already available this guidance should be made widely available to assist in the resettlement process in the new areas. To further assist in supporting members opening up new areas of resettlement we recommend that the Welsh Government should develop or update any good practice guidance on the provision of housing and supporting refugees. We also recommend that the Welsh Government promotes training through partners, for housing professionals to understand more fully the complexity of needs for refugees and asylum seekers, promoting cross sector working, and also highlighting the commitment to reasonable adjustments where required. Research provided by Shelter Cymru 1 and Tai Pawb shows that refugees are largely unaware of policies such as the maintenance or complaints procedure and may be afraid to complain for fear of any reprisals. This means that although legislation provides room for people to complain without facing any reprisals, refugees may not be aware of the existence of such legislation. To this end we believe that the Welsh Government should work with partners to ensure that refugees are aware of their housing and other rights and entitlements through provision of information and through support initiatives. This could form part of best practice guidance. This will ensure that they are able to put in complaints where necessary and access the right accommodation that meets their health and well-being. The actions identified for advice services look extensive as long as there is supporting guidance to ensure that failed asylum seekers are able to access the advice services. In relation to the inclusivity of mainstream homelessness advice providers, we would recommend using Shelter Cymru s Equal Ground Standard which, amongst others includes standards related to accessible and culturally appropriate advice. The Ten Year Homelessness Plan for Wales identifies the need to ensure that assessments, advice and information about homelessness and its prevention are available in a range of languages and the development of monitoring systems that can provide more information and a better understanding of the diverse needs of asylum seekers/refugees within each area. We recommend that the Welsh Government uses those recommendations to support development of homelessness advice for refugees across different areas. 1 5

6 Although the Welsh Government has no control of the Immigration Bill the new legislation proposed requiring illegal migrants to show right to rent, will mean that a number of failed asylum seekers as well as asylum seekers and refugees who are undergoing appeals and may not have access to documentation are likely to find themselves homeless and in need of support services. What support is available should be included in best practice guidance. Also maybe link with the work carried out by relevant agencies. In August this year, Tai Pawb and CHC together with other housing partners, wrote to the Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty highlighting the impact of Right to Rent checks proposed in the new Immigration Bill. We feel that this will have an adverse impact on efforts to try and integrate new refugees as evidence shows that the process is very likely to be discriminatory. It will also lead to the rise in homelessness and may have impact on Local Authority resources where provision has to be made under Children Act. We recommend that the Welsh Government provides guidance that will assist support services in their work with refugees. We are happy to work together with the government to look at the impact of Right to Rent in Wales and consider mitigating actions. Further the Immigration Bill seeks to make it more difficult for failed asylum seeking families to access any support under Section 4. Although this is a non-devolved area, we wonder to what extent efforts to assist failed asylum seekers in Wales will be hampered by the introduction of this element in the Bill. This will have an impact on people s physical and mental wellbeing, which in turn will have an impact on support services. The Homelessness section, under health and safety standards currently only refers to the Local Authority discharging their homelessness duty. (for example in relation to refugees who receive status). An improvement in standards however is needed in relation to the private rented sector accommodation provided through COMPAS contracts which are ultimately outsourced to local PRS providers. Much research has been done on the inadequacy of such accommodation in relation to health and safety standards as well as the requirement to share rooms where safeguarding issues may exist (e.g. for children). We know that Home Office, as part of their contracts, issue standards required from private providers, like Clearsprings, however compliance is an issue in Wales and many asylum seekers live in substandard accommodation. We know that some local authority PRS enforcement teams inspect such properties however they face difficulties with their recommendations being taken forward by the Home Office and the provider, e.g. Clearsprings. We believe that there is a role for the Welsh Government to ensure that private accommodation for asylum seekers meets national standards and that any action from local authorities is enforceable. We also recommend providing guidance for the private rented sector to tackle possible misconceptions. 6

7 Q6 Do you think the actions to deliver the priorities in Section 4 Gender based violence, hate crime, modern slavery and community cohesion are the most appropriate actions for refugees and asylum seekers? What other actions do you think will help tackle the priorities in this section? A lot of work has been carried out in the Welsh Government Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Act 2015 and we believe that this should be able to provide extensive support for all those fleeing violence. Extensive guidance and training frameworks have been released and consulted on by the Welsh Government. We would recommend that housing organisations utilise Tai Pawb s and Welsh Government s recent publication: Hate Crime and Housing: Policy and Practice Update, which provides up to date information on how to improve policy and practice on hate crime from the perspective of social housing providers in order to prevent hate crime, support victims and deal with perpetrators. It is important that housing providers make use of the toolkit, especially in light of the development of new settlement areas. Q7 Do you think the actions to deliver the priorities in Section 5 Arts are the most appropriate actions for refugees and asylum seekers? What other actions do you think will help tackle the priorities in this section? We believe the priorities in section 5 go some way in assisting with inclusion in the Arts and culture. However we recommend that Priority 2 awareness of and provision for cultural and religious needs for women, should include everyone and not just women. We acknowledge that women may face more barriers to participating in sport but also believe that support should include support for young people, men and all asylum seekers and refugees requiring support. We believe that the Welsh Government should make information on the various ways of how communities can participate widely available through a number of channels as well as working and supporting Refugee Community Groups, who may help facilitate access to Arts, Culture and Sport. Q8 Do you think the actions to deliver the priorities in Section 6 Employment are the most appropriate actions for refugees and asylum seekers? What other actions do you think will help tackle the priorities in this section? We recommend that the Welsh Government looks widely at existing skills areas that refugees and asylum seekers may bring with them through the Credit and Qualifications Framework for Wales and helps promote opportunities through promoting work with third sector partners. Value Wales should also look at how to include refugees and asylum seekers within Community Benefits approaches to procurement. Housing providers in Wales have had real success in terms of securing 7

8 community benefits as part of their housing development contracts with private providers, for example through targeted recruitment and training approaches (see i2i project). Value Wales should recommend that such targeted approaches include refugees and asylum seekers. Q9 We have asked a number of specific questions. If you have any related issues which we have not specifically addressed, please use this space to record them: We believe that through the Action Plan the Welsh Government should be looking to develop a profile of refugees/ asylum seekers arriving in Wales, through its partnership work and through stakeholder engagement. This can help in developing some short term as well as long term strategies to the inclusion of refugees and asylum seekers. We realise that new areas are likely to open up to host refugees and build communities for refugees, we recommend that the Welsh Government uses these experiences to identify any better ways of working which are supported through learning from experience and any new challenges. Responses to consultations are likely to be made public, on the internet or in a report. If you would prefer your response to remain anonymous, please tick here: December

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