On my first morning at The Passage I was granted the blessing of a leisurely start: at eleven I presented myself at reception and met Miranda, who was to be my supervisor, for the first time. No work got done that morning, instead we talked about the project that I was to work on and agreed some first steps.
My work consisted of researching, and then writing a report on, the situation of European economic migrants with ‘no recourse to public funds’. These are both terms that would benefit from clarification. For the purposes of my report, I effectively considered any national of a country in the European Economic Area (EEA) other than the UK to be an economic migrant. This was generally an accurate assumption within the group of people that I was considering: the homeless. No recourse to public funds is a pleasant little turn of phrase that I first encountered in a document published by Westminster City Council: it means that a person is not eligible for any benefits.
So why was I looking at this particular group of people? Because they are an increasingly problematic client group (The Passage refers to the homeless people who use their services as clients) for organisations like The Passage. This is because of two separate changes in the rules regarding eligibility for certain benefits: on January 1st eligibility for jobseeker’s allowance was removed for non UK EEA nationals and on April 1st housing benefit was removed as well. This is a simplification as there are saving clauses and exceptional circumstances.
My task was to contact organisations that worked with this client group all over London and find out how they were responding to the changes and to develop a clear picture of the work that The Passage was able to do. The ideal outcome of this exercise would be to discover some way of effectively helping these clients or some service to which they could be referred. If that was not achievable then the report would serve to clarify the situation and draw together information on it in to one place.