Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Immigration Advice

Category Archives: Immigration Advice
The housing rights of successful asylum seekers

This article is a continuation of the article “What new legal rights and entitlements does a positive decision on your asylum application give you”, published in Issue 2 of Community Advice E-Newsletter (May 15, 2010).

In Issue 2 of Community Advice Newsletter we have already explained that successful asylum seekers who have been granted a refugee status, humanitarian protection or discretionary leave to remain in the UK (the three positive outcomes of the asylum process) have broadly the same rights and entitlements as other UK citizens.
Yet, while successful asylums are entitled to receive free housing advice, they have no automatic right to housing in the UK.
What difficulties can arise upon a change of your immigration status and what actions could you take to deal effectively with them?
! Remember, If you have been receiving asylum support while waiting for your permission to stay in the UK, it will stop within 28 days of receiving your permission to stay in the UK. This might make it hard for you to sustain yourself and your family, especially if it takes you longer to secure employment.
Register with the nearest office of your Jobcentre Plus as soon as possible. This is the government agency which deals with all claims for benefits. This is where your application will be prepared and processed. Contacts of your nearest office can be found here.
Added to this will be the need to secure your own housing.
! Remember, upon receiving a positive decision on your asylum application, you will have 28 days to leave the accommodation which had been provided to you by the UKBA. It is essential that you use this time effectively to secure at least one of the following housing options:

            -social housing
            -private accommodation
            -applying with your local council as a homeless person
Applying for Social Housing
“Social housing” is a housing scheme offered by local councils or housing associations. Be advised that due to the very high demands for social housing, many applications may be either delayed or rejected. This is why it is essential that you consider and work to secure an alternative housing option along this one.
Applications for social housing can be made with any council in London. However, be advised that priority is given to applications where “local connection” is present. Any of the following will be considered a “local connection”: (1) you work in this area, (2) you have lived in this area for at least 6 months or 3 out of the last 5 years, (3) have a close family member who has lived there for 5 years, (4) you have been accommodated there by the UKBA at the point of receiving your new immigration status.
In order to apply for social housing, you will need to fill in a form available in the council`s offices or website. Upon submitting this form you will be entered in the council`s Waiting List (also called “Housing Register”).
! Remember, if you experience difficulties with filling in the form the council should help you and, if needed, an interpreter should be provided.
! Alternatively, please contact us by calling 02088036161 or emailing us at advice@afsi.org.uk and we will do this for you!
! Remember, the outcome of your application depends on the information you have provided in your application form: in order to help the council identify your case as priority case, it is important that you include detailed information about any medical, personal or financial problems you might have.
Applying for Private Accommodation
While a private housing (a property owned and let by a private landlord) is a more expensive option, it is still possible to get help with covering some of your costs:
Local Housing Allowance: this is a scheme to help private tenants who are out of work or on a low income pay their home rent. Find out how to calculate the Local Housing Allowance you are entitled to get by following this link
Housing Benefits: this is a scheme for social housing tenants on low income. Follow this link to find out how you can apply for Housing Benefits.
Rent Guarantee/Deposit Scheme: this scheme can help you to cover the deposit which you will need to provide prior to moving to your new private home. Contact a local advice agency (find a list of advice agencies below) to check if this scheme is available in your area.
Refugee Integration Loan: this is another scheme which can help you with covering your deposit. A booklet providing detailed explanation on the loan in different is available here. Be advised that this loan will have to be paid back in the future. The application form for the RIL must have been sent to you along with the decision letter from the UKBA, yet if you have not received it you can request one by contacting the Integration Loan Team at the UKBA on 020 8196 5440.
Applying with your local council as a homeless person
You might be eligible to apply for housing as a homeless person because of your immigration status, age (if you are under 18 or over 60 year old), marital status (if you have a child and/or pregnant wife), or health situation (if you are ill or disabled). Again, a “local connection” with the council you apply with will give your application a priority. For more information on this option please contact any of the institutions outlined above.
This article has been published in Issue 4 of Action for Social Integration’s Community Advice E-Newsletter, July 19th 2010


Dealing with Positive Asylum Applications


What new rights and entitlements does a positive decision on your asylum application give you?
Receiving a positive decision on your asylum application by the UK Border Agency (UKBA) would mean that you are permitted to stay in the UK, but only temporarily. You will normally be given one of the following statuses: Refugee status, Humanitarian protection or Discretionary leave.

!Remember, each one of these three statuses gives you the same rights and entitlements as any one UK citizen. You are allowed to work, use health services and apply for housing and welfare benefits in the same way as other UK residents.
 
!Remember,  if you have been receiving asylum support while waiting for your permission to stay in the UK, it will stop within 28 days of receiving your permission to stay in the UK. This might make it hard for you to sustain yourself and your family, especially if it takes you longer to secure employment. Register with the nearest office of your Jobcentre Plus as soon as possible. This is the government agency which deals with all claims for benefits and where your application will be prepared and processed.

You can find the contacts of your nearest Jobcentre Plus office by following this link.
 
Your right to work
You will receive your permission to work in a letter from the UKBA. You should contact Jobcentre Plus for any job related enquiries, guidance and tips on finding employment.

More information on your employment rights and further guidance can be found in the following online guide “Refugee Guide to Training and Employment”, produced by the Refugee Council.

Would you like to continue practicing your former occupation in the UK? In order to find out whether a qualification received overseas can be recognized in the UK, we would advise you to visit the website of the UK National Academic Recognition Information Centre (UK NARIC). You can request an assessment of your qualifications online. However, please, be advised that you will be charged for this service!
 
Your right to use health services
Once receiving a positive decision on your asylum application, you are entitled to free health care in the UK. The free health care services provided by the NHS include emergency and routine medical treatment, maternity and child health, dental treatment, eye tests and glasses, certain medicine prescriptions.
 
Your entitlement to welfare benefits
You can apply for social security benefits, upon receiving a positive decision on your asylum application, if you have little or no income. There are a range of schemes within the social benefits system which you can apply under. For more information on the different benefits available and further guidelines on your eligibility, please see the section on Welfare Benefits displayed above.

Apart from the standard welfare benefits available to all UK citizens, you might also be able to apply for a Refugee Integration Loan (RIL). This is a loan from the government designed specifically for people with refugee status or humanitarian protection. Remember that while you can receive the RIL in addition to welfare benefits, unlike them this loan will have to be paid back in the future. The application form for the RIL must have been sent to you along with the decision letter from the UKBA, yet if you have not received it you can request one by contacting the Integration Loan Team at the UKBA on 020 8196 5440.

In order to discuss your benefits options in detail, please book an appointment with one of our immigration advisers on 02088036161, or contact your nearest office of Jobcentre Plus. More information on your entitlement to different welfare benefits can also be found in this short “Refugee Guide to Welfare Benefits”, produced by the Refugee Council.

It is important to know that your benefits application should be accompanied by the following documents: NASS 35 form (this form will be issued by the UKBA to all asylum seekers who have been granted a positive decision), Immigration status document (this is the letter granting you your new status), document confirming your identity with a photo, National Insurance number (you will have received your National Insurance number along with your letter from the UKBA confirming your status).
 
Your right to settlement in the UK
In order to stay permanently in the UK, upon receiving a positive decision on your asylum application, you will have to apply for an Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR), which is also called “settlement”. The period after which you can apply for an ILR will depend on the status you are granted upon approval of your asylum application:
·        A refugee status or humanitarian protection will allow you to stay in the UK for 5 years. You will have to apply for extension at the end of this period.
·        A discretionary leave will allow you to stay in the UK for 3 years or less. You can apply for an extension of further 3 years at the end of this period. After spending 6 years in the UK with a discretionary leave, the UKBA should allow you to stay in the UK indefinitely.
!Remember, it is very important that you apply for extension before your permission to stay in the UK expires. Failing to do so might potentially affect your right to work or access benefits in the UK.
 
!Remember, in order to be granted an ILR, in each one of these three cases you will have to pass a life in the UK test which examines your knowledge of language and life in the UK.
 
!Remember, in each one of these three cases, the UKBA might review your case before the end of the period you have been given for temporary stay in the UK. If, for example, conditions in your country have improved and the UKBA considers that you are no longer in need of protection, it might decide that you should leave the country. You will have the right to appeal against this decision.
 
Your housing rights
Find a detailed article on your housing rights and advice on how to avoid homelessness in the next issue of this newsletter!
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Our Vision and Services

Our vision is of a society where no one should experience discrimination on the grounds of their mental health.

Mental health problems are extremely common across society, with one in four of us experiencing them in any year. Despite being so common, people from all communities will still experience discriminatory attitudes and behaviours that can prevent people from speaking out, seeking support and playing full and active roles in our communities. The impact of mental health stigma and discrimination will vary between communities as mental health has a cultural context that affects the way communities talk about the subject and engage with people who have mental health problems. In some cultures depression, for example, doesn't exist and in others an experience of a mental health problem can be attached to a sense of shame.

For the African and Caribbean communities a key issue is the overrepresentation of young African and Caribbean men in mental health services. Misconceptions and stereotypes have led to a perception that this group is more likely to pose a risk of violent behaviour and, as a result, they are more likely to be treated as inpatients and sectioned when compared to other groups. It is well documented that this has led to a fear of talking about mental health issues more openly and a fear of using mental health services. Research by the Race Equality Foundation (2011) also highlighted fears that discrimination against Black & Minority Ethnic (BME) communities and migrant service users will increase in the austerity climate and whilst commissioning arrangements change.

Our Services

· Provide information, advice, advocacy

· Represent diversity communities in Health Care services, policies and strategies

· Organise training in health and social care in collaboration with local colleges

· Provide human resources ( including interpreters) who are suitable to the diversity communities especially to break language and cultural barriers

· Provides domiciliary care and support

· Provide services such specialised support for people with mental health needs, including people who suffer from short-term memory problems, Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.

· Provide visits to elderly people and help them with outings and home services

· Participate in local authority and NHS consultations , research events and programmes to voice the needs of diversity communities.

· Increase access to services and rights for disadvantaged people and the most vulnerable of our society

· Help and support unemployed people to look for work, including training and job preparation

· Provide legal advice in a range of issues from on Immigration and Asylum , welfare benefits, housing, health, education, community care, and training, employment, etc.

· Provide advice and guidance, information and practical help so that our service users can access opportunities they are entitled to

· Organise training and other community learning opportunities that provide new skills, increase confidence and motivation

· Support our service users to overcome barriers to learning, employment and training

· Provide support for young people with their education, training, confidence building, employment and social needs.

Objectives of our Diversity Living Programme:

· To promote the inclusion and participation of diversity communities* in integrated care.

· To inform policy, locally and nationally, and assisting in the formulation of effective policies, strategies and good practices in integrated care in order to contribute to improved health outcomes for the people from the diversity communities (e.g. Black and minority ethnic communities) and to ensure health services are able to meet their specific needs.

· To improve the quality of life for diversity people with disability, mental health problems and their families and carers through integrated care by providing inclusive advocacy and information.

· To provide service that enable diversity groups and individuals with disability /elderly and their carers to make the right choice for themselves and have an influence on decisions made about their future.

· To promote the rights of diversity people with disability, their families and carers and make sure their rights are safe and protected.

· To promoting access to information regarding healthcare issues and to raise awareness of the needs of diversity disabled children, young people, older people and their families.

· To promote the rights of older and disabled diversity people, helping them overcome and enable them to participate in decisions about their future

· To provide support and information to those suffering the isolation and loneliness that can be associated with disability and old age

· To fight against mental health stigma in refugee, black and minority ethnic communities and ensure no one should experience discrimination on the grounds of their mental health or disability.

*Diversity communities are older people, disabled people, Black, Asian, refugees, migrants, asylum seekers and other ethnic minorities.