Housing Rights Newsletter

How new immigration rules affect housing and benefits

The first newsletter of 2021 from the CIH and BMENational focuses on the immigration rule changes and how they affect housing and benefits, especially for European nationals in the UK. In the meantime, the countdown has begun for European nationals who still need to apply for settled status – our clock tells you how much time they have left.

The newsletter brings you articles and news items on:

  • How the new immigration rules affect social landlords
  • Will rough sleepers be penalised under the new immigration rules?
  • Risks loom for European nationals as the June 30th deadline approaches
  • “No recourse” is still in the news
  • More on Windrush and the hostile environment
  • Post-Brexit immigration rules – other key changes
  • Growing problems with asylum seeker accommodation
  • Other news.

BMENational Statement on Charter Flight Deportations

We note with dismay the plans by the Home Office to continue with mass deportations to Jamaica.

With a continuing health emergency caused by the Covid-19 pandemic we believe that lives are at risk, as the UK government are prepared to deport men, women and children to countries where they have few, if any, links having lived the majority of their lives in this country, also placing them at risk of destitution.

We are concerned that the government is going ahead with the deportations despite the findings of the Windrush Lessons Learned Review which highlighted the an institutional ignorance and thoughtlessness towards the issue of race and the history of the Windrush generation at the Home Office. This is now backed up by the Equality Human Rights Commission report on the development and implementation of hostile environment policies which concluded that the Home Office broke equality law and these policies impacted disproportionally upon the Windrush generation and black people validly coming into this country in later years.

We believe that the deportation plans are another area where the systemic and individualised barriers experienced by our residents lead to failure to effectively integrate race equality goals into public policy.

We will continue with our work on providing homes for our communities, building vibrant neighbourhoods and tackling homelessness.

As leaders in our sector, we believe that it is our responsibility to call out discrimination and bias especially where it affects community cohesion. We urge the government to listen to its own reviews and stop further deportations.

Cym D’Souza

Chair BMENational

About BMENational:

BME National is a collective of over 45 housing associations working in some of the most disadvantaged parts of the country. Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) housing associations were set up in the 1970s and now manage over 65,000 homes. BME National also provides a consultative and promotional platform for BME housing issues. BME National aims to highlight the contribution BME housing associations make to successful, vibrant and integrated communities while promoting equality and diversity in the delivery of housing and support services.

Bangla HA and Covid-19

Bangla Housing Association, based in East London where there is a high proportion of Asian and ethnic minority residents, recently secured a grant from the National Lottery Community Fund, which is supported by Government, to create a Covid-19 advice project for the Bangladeshi communities in Hackney and Tower Hamlets. 

BHA secured the grant, working in partnership with Spitalfields Housing Association and supported by BME London Landlords group of 14 BME led Registered Social Landlords.

In this blog post, BHA chief executive Bashir Uddin, explains the origins and aims of the project.

The Bangladeshi community in Hackney and Tower Hamlets is the largest Bangladeshi community in the country. Bangladeshis suffer twice the Covid 19-related death rate compared to people of white British ethnicity, according to Public Health England.

Research from NHS England, Public Health England, the Runnymede Trust and a number of health think tanks provide a number of reasons for this phenomenon.

They include greater poverty, intergenerational living, being in higher risk occupations, and significantly, poorer uptake of information. All point out that these factors combine to impact this community disproportionately in terms of infection, hospital admissions and death rates.

As the number of coronavirus cases are on the rise again, it is vitally important that we must get the message out effectively because with the right advice we can save lives. 

Many in the Bangladeshi community have first-hand experience of those who have died during the pandemic. Personally, I have lost two close relatives due to this virus. One of them was just 44 years old. It’s clear that the messages about how to stay safe have not been getting through.

Working with Spitalfields Housing, Bangla Housing Association will use its grant from the National Lottery Community Fund to launch a project based on following three clear practical steps.

1. Employ two Bengali speaking health professionals for six months who will visit Bangladeshi homes from the Housing Associations and the communities within which they live. The health professionals will network and liaise with NHS providers and local authority teams in Hackney and Tower Hamlets. Their role will be to provide culturally sensitive but practical advice, particularly in advance of any second spike in cases. 

2. With the help of the health workers and partners, we will develop a translated leaflet and campaign materials that will be distributed via a range of community organisations, schools and youth associations. The information will be paired with presentations by the health workers, as well as handed out during visits to homes.

3. We will produce a digitally sharable short video to post on the Bangla and Spitalfields Housing Associations websites and Facebook pages for the Bangladeshi community. The videos will be shown at community events including lunch clubs for the elderly in Hackney and Tower Hamlets, at mosques, and other local community groups. 

The project will aim to reach most of the 10,000 households and 40,000 strong community across both boroughs. Emphasis will be given to the most vulnerable, including the elderly and those with underlying health conditions. 

The project will also recruit volunteer ambassadors who will support the health workers to impart information through social media campaigns and undertake awareness raising campaigns in local schools. These ambassadors will, mainly be, young people and local community leaders.  

Our COVID-19 advice project starts at the beginning of October and will run for six months.

This is a timely project focused on getting clear messages out to the Bangladeshi community in their first language, which is not a method yet being used to provide targeted advice to an at-risk community on how to protect itself from the risk of COVID-19.  

This funding from the Coronavirus Community Support Fund distributed from the National Lottery Community Fund will help us reach those who are vulnerable and at-risk in the Bangladeshi community in East London and get them to realise how serious it is to protect yourself against Covid-19 and the serious consequences if they do not.

We Must Be Bold and Seize The Opportunity

A call to action from Khalid Mair of the Imani Housing Co-operative

You may be familiar with this story, or not so, but let me tell it anyway, over 30 years ago what are now framed as urban race riots took place in the inner cities, up and down the UK, after which came independent public inquiries, and subsequent inquiry reports recommending government investment to redress the imbalance, laying a foundation towards bringing about more social cohesion, a start to creating equal access to quality affordable homes regardless of race or origin.

The narrative of the work of the BME led registered social landlords in the subsequent 30 years is something that so many in the social housing sector are unaware of, and by default goes undervalued. Located at the heart of BME communities, the development of the BME Housing in the UK was inspired by an improbable grassroots community activism that met with allies in the social housing movement. To be more specific, key figures in the leadership of the regulator at the time (The Housing Corporation) seized the opportunity to change the landscape in the housing sector that needed to address indifference towards BME communities. The BME led social housing sector contributed to shaping a new model of social housing intervention that specifically focused on the holistic needs of the resident and the wider community.

The BME social housing sector has always been an innovator. The practice of BME housing in its early years found many larger housing associations soon following its initiative. Within the BME sector, the development of targeted training programmes that sought to develop those within their organisations and their marginalised communities to develop the skills so they could progress, alongside providing the much-needed support to tenants to get involved in enterprise as a part of community renewal and regeneration strategies.  

Effective grassroots campaigning was the driver that shaped a policy initiative that was the BME Housing strategy on a level never seen before in Europe, aiming to create new beginnings in UK history to give BME communities a stake in shaping a more inclusive society by creating their own community facing housing organisations to serve their communities in urban areas. 

Whilst providing quality homes, changing peoples lives, advocating social cohesion across communities in the UK, contributing to significantly to local economies and contributing to the evolving national identity, BME housing not only became a driver within social housing to provide equal access to social housing but continued by its very existence to make a case for social inclusion and supporting diverse communities and the challenges they face.

Where there were urban race riots in the mid-1980s, today we are now picking up the pieces of the global Coronavirus pandemic and the George Floyd protests as a new backdrop where we are awaiting subsequent inquiry reports and recommendations from these inquiries. An unlikely comparison, but one that demands a renewed reflection, at the time where all of UK society was and now again are invested in seeing positive outcomes.

BME communities in recent years have had to contend with and must reconcile the trauma of the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower Tragedy, The Windrush Scandal, and now with the fatalities, and related suffering, not mention the ongoing risks and continued stigmatisation of the impact of COVID-19. As we perceive the possibility of living with COVID-19 in the long term, social housing has a duty to respond in the positive. As BME led registered social landlords we see our duty not only to be positive but be effective with our response. 

Both BME National the UK national umbrella body the BME housing sector, and BME London Landlords (bmelondon.org) the collaboration of 14 BME led Housing Associations in London who came together in 2016 to work in collaboration, have upped the ante to work together and leverage our resources to innovate and do more for residents and wider stakeholders. 

Much activity has taken place, with seminars to look at BME Health Inequalities, Strategy Sessions to identify collective priorities moving. Engaging with local lead cabinet members to partner in local recovering plans, publishing COVID-19  and ‘Addressing Structural Inequalities Statement’ and providing online resources to understand racism, appearing at government parliamentary select sub-committees, advising mainstream HA’s with their plans for BME staff initiatives, consulting frontline community organisations to shape provision moving forward. A clear role coming into view for BME RSL’s is how to access more resources and funds to serve BME marginalised communities. 

Now we join the rest of the UK housing sector and other partners to put #Homes At The Heart campaign to work with and support the government to put quality affordable housing at the centre of the recovery plan moving forward. 

The specific context for BME led housing is that statutory homelessness is having an acute effect on BME communities in London. London had the highest overall number of homeless households in the UK; The current data on the ethnicity of rough sleepers being seen by outreach services in London is 41% come from BME communities. Additional data highlights that BME households are more likely to rent in the private rented sector,  be overcrowded, be on lower incomes, more likely to suffer from fuel poverty, more likely to live in damp conditions, less likely to own their own transport and amongst other disparities that could be mentioned.

The global protests against the injustice meted out to George Floyd, brought into sharp focus the sense of duty for BME London Landlords Collaborative to show the necessary leadership to doing more for its residents and wider BME communities to highlight and work towards addressing structural inequality. 

The disparities that affect BME communities in poverty, housing, homelessness, education, employment, health, criminal justice, social mobility are real and stark. These social determinants as related to BME communities, in themselves ask the question of society do ‘Black Lives Matter’ and, as a society, makes us all accountable to demonstrate we can answer in the positive by ensuring robust measures are in place to reduce inequality in every single indicator. We are committed to advocating for and working in partnership to support work that addresses disparities and inequalities that face BME communities in London. 

As a wider housing sector, we can only achieve this by engaging each other to realise it is important for everyone to support BME communities and create a just society. For the BME housing sector working in partnership continues to be reflected in the success of our business models. 

Now we must take it further, we must reach out to partners we have yet to work with, create more alliances, create more initiatives, we must be bold. Equally housing organisations that are not currently working with BME led housing groups, organisations, community groups must also reach out to work in partnership, they must also be bold. This is how we shape, forge, and drive the changes that are needed. We must be ready for the emergent opportunities that working partnership creates; we must attune our structures to take advantage of the moment that now presents itself.

Now more than ever the importance of working in partnership given the common societal experience we have all had with COVID-19 and are continuing to experience, has created the opportunity for us all to think and act differently. With the impending economic reality we are now being reminded of daily; institutions have no choice but to extract more value from what they have. In order to do this we need to come together as allies. The housing sector has the capacity, creativity, vision and leadership to make social innovation the new reality.

BME London Landlords the collaboration of 14 BME led Housing Associations in London and BME National stand with the rest of the UK housing sector and its partners supporting #Homes At The Heart.

Khalid Mair is Executive Chair of Imani Housing Cooperative Ltd.  provides executive support for BME London Landlords.

Black Lives Matter -Time for Change

By Tracey Gore

It has taken me sometime to be ready to put my thoughts down on paper in respect of the murder of George Floyd and the reverberations that have been felt right around the world, I have been hurting like everyone else.

At a time when we are all dealing with COVID-19, the horrific impact that it is already having on our community, so many of us have lost family and friends to this disease, the restrictions of not being able to visit family, the reality of not being able to be with them when they are taking their last breath is in itself traumatising.  The actual confirmation that this disease is disproportionately impacting upon the BME community compounding our pain.  Racial inequality continues to harm our health and wellbeing, we have been suffering.

When the video emerged showing George Floyd being pinned down to the floor; handcuffed; knee on the neck; knees on his body; calling for his mother; pleading for his life; hearing his words “I Can’t Breathe” –  at that moment, non- of us could breathe.  The pain, the inhumanity of the police officers, the casual disregard of another human being, the realisation for all of us to see, that those officers did not see George Floyd as  human.  Any person with an ounce of decency saw the senseless murder of George Floyd for what it was, murdered for simply being black.  The world stopped breathing as the reality of racism, the  dehumanisation of black people was laid bare.  For the majority of people, seeing him die in front of our eyes would have made them sick to their stomach, for black people they relived their personal and collective trauma of racism, they didn’t just see George Floyd, but every black person who had died at the hands of the police.  They relived every negative encounter they had had with the police.  They relived every act of racism that they had experienced during their lives, they relived every moment when their child had come home hurt and broken from the racism they had experienced in school, on the bus, in their work place, they relived the talks they have with their children when they walk out the door, the talk about how they have to navigate their daily lives, how to live in two worlds.  Every  woman heard the cry of George Floyd when he called for his mother, and in that instant there was the realisation that but for the grace of god that it could be my child; it could be a member of my family.

We have lived with racism and discrimination for far too long, our historians have documented it to remind the world.  We have lived it.  We have for many years been fighting the good fight in standing up to racism, calling it out and demanding change, I stood on the shoulders who came before me, who fought to enable me, a kid from Toxteth to become the Director of Steve Biko Housing Association, every generation opening the door a bit further for the next.

The leaders of this City, public, private and the voluntary sector have been told for years what the issues are and how to fix them.  There are enough policy documents, consultation exercises, research reports and reviews to fill every room in the Town Hall.  Now is the time to act and to implement change.  We have gone beyond asking what the problem is and what do you want to happen.  It’s time to act.  Taking action to address racism and discrimination is a direct route to the healing process.

What has lifted my spirits in these awful times that we are living through is the way our young people are responding, the way they are coming forward asking the questions, raising the issues, sharing their experiences, demanding change.

Our own staff member Shelique Braithwaite shared her own experiences and thoughts recently on Facebook, the Goddess Project a young black women’s group, have been supporting each other by self-love and debate and discussion, Sumuyya Khadar, artist, CLT Board member and activist has been producing powerful artwork, one of many of our young people, writing and creating powerful thoughtful, inspiring pieces.  So many of our young people have been showing up and speaking out, it makes me proud.  In times like these I go to my books, I draw strength and healing from the greats, Maya Angelou tells me to Rise, “Out of the huts of history’s shame, I rise, Up from a past that’s rooted in pain, I rise”.   Our young people are rising.

I have for a long time tried to uplift our young people, working with and supporting our youth organisations, advocating for change to make their lives better.  I have always believed young people are our future, young people will make the change we so badly want to see, we need to support them, to give them the tools, hand over the baton and open the doors.

Our annual young achievers’ awards ceremony has always been designed to give young people rightful recognition of their achievements and to enable them to have a voice, to share their hopes, dreams and concerns, to inspire them on their life’s journey.

Over the next few weeks and months I will be working to open the doors for our young people,  to facilitate a discussion with our city leaders, to lift their voices so they can be heard.  I ask City Leaders, Chief Executives, Directors, as well as turning the city buildings purple and turning social media pages black, look within your own organisations;how many people of colour do you employ? How many are in senior positions? How many sit around your Board tables? How many are on apprenticeship programmes?  How many are experiencing discrimination and it is put in the too difficult to open box.  Change starts from the top.   It is time to open your doors, pull out the chairs, let their voices be heard.  It’s time to employ people that reflect all of us and not just have pictures in brochures.  It’s time for racial equality not just in the USA but right here in the UK right here in this great city of Liverpool whose wealth was gained through the trade of stolen black people.

“We have set out on a quest for true humanity, and somewhere on the distant horizon we can see the glittering prize. Let us march forth with courage and determination, drawing strength from our common brotherhood.”  In time we shall be in the position to bestow the greatest gift possible—a more human face.” -Steve Biko

It’s our young people’s time.  Open the door, pull out a chair, it’s time for change

Tracey Gore is the Director of Steve Biko Housing Association, she has held this post since March 2003.  Tracey is a member of BME National, a National Housing Forum, chairs the strategic Equalities in Housing Group for Liverpool’s City Region Housing Associations.  Tracey is passionate about working with the diverse communities of Liverpool. enabling their voices to be heard not only in the housing sector, but the wider issues that impact upon their lives.  

Tracey will be speaking at a joint HDN/BMENational event on Black Live Matter -details below

BMENational Statement on Covid-19 Crisis

The pandemic has shed a light on existing inequalities in society.

Housing is an important social determinant of health, and the current lockdown arrangements have highlighted the central role of the home in people’s lives. Inequalities in housing provision have major repercussions for the health of our communities.

As BMENational we make a commitment to work with partners to address these inequalities. Our partners include mainstream housing associations, central, regional and local government, health authorities and the voluntary and community sector. We reaffirm our commitment to our communities both today and as we emerge from the pandemic.

Read more about our position below.

Housing Rights – our quarterly newsletter

This newsletter, from

the Chartered Institute of Housing and

BMENational, keeps you up-to-date

with developments around the housing

rights of people with different kinds of

immigration status.

Housing Chief wins Prestigious Award

The head of a Midlands Housing Association, Llewellyn Graham has been recognised as an unsung hero of the last year for his work in the Jamaican Diaspora community in the UK at Jamaica’s recent 2021 Governor-General’s Diaspora Achievement Awards for Excellence.

This year’s awards were a virtual event and featured as part of the main activities of the 9th Biennial Jamaica Diaspora Symposium under the theme “Jamaica and the Diaspora: Stronger Together for a Sustainable Future.”

It provides a platform for unsung heroes to be recognised and have their stories pivot a wave of inspiration across Jamaica and the Diaspora. Since 2008, nearly 50 Jamaicans have received these prestigious Awards in the Diaspora regions of the United States of America, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

Llewellyn Graham, Chief Executive of Great Barr based Nehemiah Housing Association, which has over 1244 properties across the West Midlands, won the award having impressed the judging panel with his significant contribution in the changing of lives in the community through his work within the housing association and as a Bishop within the Church of God of Prophecy. Importantly, they highlighted that during the COVID-19 Pandemic, Llewellyn led a dedicated team of frontline workers in the delivery of exemplary service to some of the most vulnerable members of the Jamaican-Diaspora Community.

His Excellency The Most Honourable Sir Patrick Allen, ON, GCMG, CD, KSt.J, Governor-General of Jamaica, said: “The awards recognise the unsung heroes in the community who are working behind the scenes to make it a success.  It is heartwarming to pat them on the back and say thank you and well done for the work they have been doing. 

The standard of entries was incredibly high this year, and it was very hard to pick winners from all those who were nominated. With over 35 years of dedicated service to underserved communities and the Jamaican Diaspora, Bishop Llewellyn Graham, has built a strong legacy of quality service above self.”

Llewellyn Graham commented: “I am very pleased and honored to win this award and would like to thank the team that support me both within Nehemiah Housing Association and the Church without whom the great work we do would not be possible.  I would also like to thank those who nominated me and I hope we can continue to maintain the high standards of work in future years.”

Recognition for ‘exceptional contribution to life in London’

Bangla Housing Association Chief Executive, Bashir Uddin has been praised by Sir Kenneth Olisa OBE, on behalf of her Majesty, The Queen for his ‘exceptional contribution to life in our great city’.

In a letter dated 1 June 2021 Sir Kenneth wrote:

‘Dear Bashir, as her Majesty The Queen’s personal representative in Greater London, an important part of my role is to recognise and thank those who have made an exceptional contribution to life in our great city.

It has come to my attention that you are one of those people who have long gone above and beyond the call of duty, especially with your work with the Bangla Covid Advice Project during the Covid-19 pandemic. I am therefore writing to personally thank you for all of your efforts and to encourage you to continue making positive difference to Londoners.

In these difficult times, communities need selfless people like you, to help us to maintain our spirit, to get through the challenges and hopefully, to come out the other side as an even stronger and more inclusive society’.

Bashir Uddin said ‘I am very humbled and pleased that our work with the Bangla Covid-19 Advice Project has been recognised. I must thank all of my colleagues at Bangla HA, the BCAP team, our partner organisations, BMELL, Faith Regen Foundation, the NHS, Tower Hamlets and Hackney councils for their invaluable support with this lifesaving project. Thanks to the National Lottery for funding this project. I am pleased that we have been able to support the community to our best ability during this extraordinary time and our work is not finished yet’.

Government’s race commission ignores housing issues

Gavin Smart Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing writes

The official Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, in its 258-page report, claims optimistically that Britain’s success in removing race-based disparity in fields such as education “should be regarded as a model for other white-majority countries.” Had it looked more deeply at disparities in housing, it might have reached different conclusions.

A striking feature of the report is that barely more than a page is devoted to housing issues, and this focuses on the under-representation of some ethnic groups in homeownership. Even then it doesn’t explore why, for example, only just over one-third of white households are in rented accommodation compared with (say) two-thirds of Bangladeshi ones. 

It notes that ethnic minority households are more likely to be overcrowded but doesn’t look at why this might be the case – for example, the shortage of larger rented homes for extended families – nor does it note that this might be why ethnic minorities suffered worse outcomes from the Covid-19 pandemic. Homelessness is unmentioned, even though ethnic minority households are twice as likely to be homeless as white households and half of London rough sleepers are non-UK nationals.

The report recognises that ethnic minority households are more likely to be poor but then it implies controversially that individuals or families are to blame for the negative experiences and discrimination they face, rather than structural factors. Ethnic minorities are more likely to live in deprived areas, which the commission acknowledges, but without considering why this might be the case. There are brief references to residential segregation but the topic is not examined. 

Previous official reports on community cohesion and integration are ignored or only briefly referenced. Louise Casey’s 2016 report on integration is mentioned, in order to point out that it reveals “uncomfortable truths about behaviour and attitudes among some ethnic minority groups.” It seems extraordinary that an issue which in the recent past has been held to be the cause of riots, is no longer considered important.

Hate crime receives more attention in the report, but as on other issues the commission gives the impression that the problem is overstated, blaming better recording methods for the fact that reported hate crime has increased.

There are two mentions of the Windrush scandal as an example of ‘egregious discrimination’. One of them also points to the Grenfell Tower fire, saying that: “Outcomes such as these do not come about by design, and are certainly not deliberately targeted. But, when they do occur, every step needs to be taken to ensure that the reasons why they happened are understood fully, and the causes then acted on to ensure that they are not repeated.”

However, the commissioners go on to say that “incremental progress is being made as our report has shown beyond doubt. Through focusing on what matters now, rather than refighting the battles of the past, we want to build on that progress.” As a consequence they do not look in any detail at the Windrush experience, despite the fact that it recently led to the Home Office being warned officially that it had failed to comply with equality law.

While migrants and migration receive attention, there are no references to the asylum system or to refugees, or to the ways in which immigration and benefits rules leave 100,000s of migrants with ‘no recourse to public funds’. Given that the country’s worst housing conditions are to be found in the private rented sector, there is no discussion of the way that ethnic minorities in general and new migrants in particular are so dependant on it. A recent high court ruling said that the government’s “right to rent” checks, part of the hostile environment, are discriminatory. These are unmentioned in the report.

One recommendation that might have some relevance to the housing sector is to “undertake a review to investigate and take action to address the underlying issues facing families. This Commission has identified this as a significant contributing factor to the experience of disparities.” But housing isn’t mentioned when they go into detail, despite housing disparities being so important.

Much of the discussion of the commission’s work focuses on what has been seen as its dismissal of institutional racism. The Race Equality Foundation, for example, said that “it is poorly evidenced and suggests a general lack of understanding of what [institutional racism] is and how it is related to factors such as geography and poverty.” BMENational, representing BME housing associations, who say that they received the report with “disappointment and disbelief,” note that its downplaying of structural and institutional racism means the report is “incoherent and inconsistent.”

Not only did structural racism in housing receive little attention in the commission’s work, it has also been largely ignored in subsequent media discussion. This is concerning. The Chartered Institute of Housing and other sector bodies are well aware that racial disparities exist in housing, and we want to help to expose and tackle them. If a major government-sponsored report glosses over these issues, as this one does, it makes that task even more difficult.

We are hosting a discussion on the Sewell Report on 4th May – the link to book is here.

Housing Rights Newsletter April 2021