My last week at The Passage was full of meetings with representatives of the various organisations that I had contacted over the preceding weeks. If nothing else this gave me an excellent opportunity to visit some parts of London that I hadn’t previously been aware of. Fortunately the majority of my meetings were extremely useful and provided a new perspective or some new information.
One issue that I discovered through these interviews was the problem of supported accommodation beds being occupied by EEA nationals who are in fact ready to move on. These residents are covered by the saving section of the new legislation which exempts those who were in receipt of housing benefit before the legislation came in to force.
For the first week that I worked at The Passage I mainly did research from my desk. This meant working out exactly how the changes to benefits eligibility worked; a non trivial task. Reading the actual legislation was only marginally helpful so I had to look elsewhere for information. This lead me to find that the Social Services Advisory Committee (SSAC) was investigating the effects of the change. Thankfully the minutes of all the SSAC meetings are published online and I was able to find out more about the intended effects of the change. As part of their investigation, SSAC called for ‘evidence’ from organisations working with homeless people, such as St Mungo’s.
Today I thought I would provide a brief summary of developments over the last few years.
The first wave of A8 nationals (Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia) arrived in 2004. Within 8 hours of the borders opening there was a queue from the passage all the way to Victoria Coach station. At the peak of the influx 53 coaches from Warsaw arrived in a single day. As many migrants were from Catholic countries they immediately went to nearby Westminster Cathedral which directed them to The Passage. At that time a potential client did not have to have ‘support needs’ to be eligible for The Passage’s services.
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.