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Home Office faces legal challenge over move to force Scots asylum seekers to travel 220 miles for appeals

 

Sunday Herald
Peter Swindon
Sunday 25 January 2015

The UK government is facing a legal challenge to strict new rules which will force impoverished asylum seekers in Scotland to travel to Liverpool for appointments with immigration officials from tomorrow.

Lawyers are working with a charity which represents penniless refugees to build a case against the change, revealed in last week’s Sunday Herald.

Most asylum seekers are not permitted to work in the UK and survive on food stamps. The new system will apply to refugees who have had their initial application rejected and all financial support withdrawn.

In a letter sent to stakeholders only a fortnight ago, UK Visas and Immigration CEO Mike Wells, said: “From 26th January 2015 we will require all failed asylum seekers wishing to submit further submissions to make an appointment to do so, in person, in Liverpool.”

The decision has been criticised by Scottish Government Communities Secretary Alex Neil, who has written to Home Secretary Theresa May to urge her to reconsider, and charities which offer support to refugees who arrive in the UK after fleeing persecution.

Glasgow-based Positive Action in Housing, which campaigns for refugees, now plans to take on the UK government with the support of a leading immigration lawyer.

The charity’s director Robina Qureshi said: “We are disgusted that the government is deliberately obstructing refugees seeking asylum by forcing them to travel to Liverpool to submit further evidence.

“They refuse to pay for travel to Liverpool for those refugees submitting fresh evidence for a judicial review or under article 8 of the human rights act, and will not be allowed to make submissions by post.

“While the rest of society is permitted to post or email information to utility providers, housing benefits, or even the passport office, refugees seeking asylum are expected to travel to Liverpool without any source of income whatsoever, or face having their asylum claims refused outright. Clearly the government is trying to block successful claims.

“There are good reasons for challenging the Liverpool decision which will adversely affect the elderly, sick, pregnant women, those suffering past trauma, those with limited networks or whose first language is not English. The ones who will suffer as always will be the poorest and most vulnerable.

“We intend to gather support to challenge this disgraceful policy. We are also working closely with asylum law firm Latta & Co to mount a legal challenge to this latest attempt to block refugees from seeking protection in the UK.”

Fraser Latta of Latta & Co suggested the UK government may have contravened European legislation which protects refugees.

He said: “I am currently in the process of examining the lawfulness of the proposed changes. They appear on the face of it to potentially obstruct the applicant’s rights under the Refugee Convention, the European Convention of Rights and the Qualification Directive.

“The claimed objective is to create a more efficient system. In reality it appears to be another attempt to create difficulties in accessing the asylum system. Indeed, it could be argued that this is in an attempt to force vulnerable people to abandon claims … It appears that this is simply a move which will create further obstacles for applicants and further delays for the Home Office.”

The change will be enforced from tomorrow and Positive Action in Housing has a fund which will provide grants for asylum seekers who will be forced to travel to Liverpool.

Qureshi said: “We will be offering crisis grants to pay for asylum seekers to travel by bus to Liverpool in order to prove their claims.

“Members of the public can donate to the Winter Destitution Fund by visiting paih.org and clicking on the link on the home page.”

When asked for comment the Home Office claimed it did “not comment on legal matters”. Officials then issued the same statement the Home Office put out last week in response to the Sunday Herald’s initial story about the change to asylum rules.

It read: “The United Kingdom has a long and proud history of offering sanctuary to those who genuinely need it and each claim is carefully considered on its individual merits.

“But when someone is found not to need our protection, we expect them to leave the country voluntarily. Where they do not, we will seek to enforce their departure.

“These changes will apply only to failed asylum seekers whose claims have already been refused. They will significantly speed up decision-making, enabling us to grant protection more quickly to those who genuinely need it.”

Statement – 2 November 2012

Positive Action in Housing had a wonderful AGM on Thursday 1 November where we presented our Annual Report and Audited Accounts. The AGM was attended by over 150 people who heard speeches from members and service users, as well as a brilliant inspiring Keynote contribution on the theme of Trust by David Orr, Chief Executive of the NHF and a founder member of Positive Action in Housing.
Unfortunately, while the AGM was taking place, our website was hacked for a few minutes and false, malicious and defamatory material purporting to be from a former employee was added. Security has been further tightened on our website and the offending material removed. However, further false and malicious allegations (sent anonymously) have been discovered on social media. Our server was also flooded with offensive emails on Friday morning – something clearly designed to hurt our staff and volunteers.
On behalf of the trustees, we wish to assure our members, supporters and friends that this matter is being taken extremely seriously and has been placed in the hands of Strathclyde Police who are also investigating large amounts of racist and antisemitic hatemail sent to our Chief Executive Officer, Robina Qureshi. These investigations are in addition to the police investigation into the alleged embezzlement of funds by a former employee. It remains our intention to cooperate fully with Strathclyde Police to secure criminal prosecution and to allow nothing to hamper that.
Should you receive or discover any form of communications from someone purporting to be a former employee of this charity, please ignore it and kindly alert us immediately by emailing home@paih.org and all evidence will be acted upon and reported to the police.
Please be assured that the work of Positive Action in Housing continues. We have a vigorous new training programme with some new and exciting projects. Our Money Skills Project continues to help those suffering poverty from the BME, refugee and new migrant communities. the Lifeline Project continues to assist those facing destitution in Glasgow or elsewhere in Scotland. Our work with members to assist with policy matters, best practice in equality and diversity, and to help build closer links with minority ethnic communities also continues. Our anti racist work to stop hate crime and challenge far right activity in our communities also continues. The management committee, staff and volunteers are united that nothing will be allowed to hamper this important work.
Finally, we are thankful for all the support and good wishes we have received during this time.

Yours sincerely,

Jelina Berlow-Rahman, Chair
Najimee Parveen, Vice Chair
Linda Brown, Company Secretary
Philip Tompkins, Treasurer

News – October 19 2012

In July 2012, Positive Action in Housing announced its discovery of an alleged fraud committed against the charity by a former employee, and its instigation of a police investigation.

Robina Qureshi, Chief Executive Officer of Positive Action in Housing, said:

“We are determined to be open and transparent and keep our members, supporters and everyone we work with as informed as possible, even though we can’t fully comment until the police investigation is concluded.”

“Fortunately, we caught the problem, recovered the majority of the funds and there has been no impact on our frontline services.  However, it remains our intention to vigorously pursue criminal and then civil proceedings for the crime committed against this charity, its service users, volunteers, staff and trustees. We work with some of the poorest and most vulnerable groups in society and are determined to continue that work for years to come and honour the trust placed in us by our members, donors, and supporters.”

The charity’s trustees are fully confident of recovering the full amount of the allegedly misappropriated funds, totalling £69,664, and has so far recovered £50,000 from insurance. Further measures are being pursued for the recovery of the remainder.

Since July, Positive Action in Housing commissioned an independent forensic audit of the charity’s finances, which gave the charity’s accounts and procedures a clean bill of health.

The charity’s trustees also provided a full report to the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR), which ensures that trustees act appropriately to protect a charity’s assets in such cases. The OSCR has informed Positive Action in Housing’s trustees that it has no concerns and commended the charity’s actions and its speed at handling the situation.

The charity has also carried out an extensive review of its financial and non-financial systems.

Robina Qureshi said: “This appears to have been a betrayal of trust that found an opportunity to exploit procedures that had served us well for 16 years. It was a painful experience but an important lesson that has made us stronger, including through improved fraud prevention and detection measures.”

She added: “We are grateful for the steadfast support that the charity has received from our members, funders, and supporters during this time and to Strathclyde Police for their help throughout. Our work to help those whom this charity was set up to serve, destitute and poor people from refugee, migrant and minority ethnic communities, continues unhindered and is a testament to the charity’s strength.
Positive Action in Housing Ltd is a registered Scottish charity working with communities, voluntary organisations and faith groups to give everyone an equal chance to live in good quality, affordable and safe homes, free from discrimination and the fear of racial harassment and violence.

In case of media queries, please email home@paih.org

Messages of Support

Messages of Support for Positive Action in Housing on the occasion of our Fifteenth AGM

Motion to the Scottish Parliament S3M-07137 That the Parliament congratulates Positive Action in Housing on the occasion of its 15th anniversary; considers that it has provided many important and valuable services over the years in its work to improve the housing opportunities of ethnic minority communities and to support asylum seekers and refugees; acknowledges its campaigning role in relation to these and other race equality issues, and looks forward to many more years in which it can contribute to the creation of a fairer and more equal society.

– Proposed by Malcolm Chisholm (Edinburgh North and Leith), supported by: Jackie Baillie, Mary Mulligan, Jamie Hepburn, Aileen Campbell, Marlyn Glen, Shirley-Anne Somerville, Mr Frank McAveety, Linda Fabiani, Bob Doris, Gil Paterson, Trish Godman, Patrick Harvie, Angela Constance, Robin Harper

 

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown

Over fifteen gruelling years, Positive Action has provided both invaluable moral and practical support to some of the most disenfranchised and impoverished people on these islands. Despised by millions of Britons, denied human rights by official bodies and
demonised by the media, these are impossibly hard times for those who seek refuge. Positive Action stands with and for them- also an impossibly hard thing in these times. I salute their commitment and courage.

– Yasmin Alibhai-Brown

 

Pete Murray. Photo © Jonathan Warren

I congratulate PAIH on its magnificent and pioneering work for the last fifteen years.  I would also like to take the opportunity to extend my personal thanks and the gratitude of the National Union of Journalists for the generous and valuable advice and support which PAIH has consistently provided to me and to union members in the city.  I am sure our solidarity will continue and I wish all of you the very best.

– Pete Murray, President, National Union of Journalists

 

Positive Action in Housing has become one of the most important voices
in civil society in Scotland.  It has a great record of direct support
for some of the most vulnerable people in the country.  It has also been
a consistent voice in opposing some of the worst excesses of the
state.  For a small voluntary organisation PAiH has an impact and reach
hugely greater than its size. The need for the work now is as great as
it has ever been, and with public spending cuts its work will become
harder.  But Positive Action in Housing is critical.  The first 15 years
have shown what a small organisation with real passion and commitment
can do.  That will be put to the test even more – but it’s a test that
Positive Action in Housing will pass. Many thanks for all you’ve done
and will continue to do.

– David Orr, Chief Executive, National Housing federation

 

Congratulations on your 15th AGM, you have rendered great unforgettable
services to asylum seekers and refugees over these years…I wish you
further success in your distinguished humanitarian work…

– Mohamed Al Shagra

 

Over 15 years PAIH has been in the forefront of working to help those
who are facing major difficulties with discrimination, disadvantage and
exclusion and who find it almost impossible to make any progress without
such help. I, along with all other like minded people, are delighted to
pay tribute to the selflessness, integrity, dedication and
extraordinary activities by Positive Action in Housing. All good wishes
and continued strength in the ongoing struggle for justice and equality
outcomes.

– Sir Herman Ouseley OBE

 

The right to live in a comfortable and affordable home without fear of
persecution shouldn’t be too much to ask, especially in a country as
rich as ours. Unfortunately the reality is very different for many
people. If you live in inadequate, unsafe accommodation it affects every
part of your life. It can become impossible to work or access education
when you are insecure about your own and your children’s safety or if
you and your family’s health is being detrimentally affected. Positive
Action in Housing makes a vital difference to people’s lives by enabling
them to live safely in decent housing. By sorting out secure and
affordable accommodation they allow people to transform other aspects of
their lives. Positive Action in Housing provides an essential service
and transforms lives.

– Louise Welsh, Writer

 

Every day people die unnecessarily all over the world, – they die of
preventable diseases, they die because they lack the safeguards and
essentials we don’t even consider in our daily lives, they die because
of man-made and natural disasters. Still others don’t die – they simply
suffer beyond what many of us could tolerate and continue to suffer
because they have no choice. Their lives become a death in life. Many of
us are aware of this and Scottish people are often generous and
outspoken when it comes to charitable giving, campaigns to cancel
foreign debt, or appeals after disasters like the recent Tsunami, or the
flooding in Pakistan. The population of Great Britain and Scotland are
consistently more tolerant, reasonable and humane than our governments.
Many of us are also aware that political oppression, intolerable
hardship, war and civil unrest can drive human beings like ourselves to
become refugees – people who have lost everything including their
country of birth. This means that the same people who receive our
compassion and understanding when we see them on television may arrive
in the United Kingdom, in Scotland. They may – because they are
unimaginably courageous and determined – manage to become refugees in
our country. And in our country these same people will be imprisoned
like criminals, harassed by a variety of authorities, kept in conditions
of permanent uncertainty, stripped of their dignity, their ability to
contribute to their new home and sometimes of their health and mental
well-being. It seems strange that this is not a source of daily outrage
in Scotland and that we can do no better than torment those who have
nothing beyond their will to survive even our wilful neglect and abuse.
Positive Action in Housing is an organisation which works in Scotland
and exists to support the most vulnerable amongst us – people constantly
portrayed as a threat in the wider media, people hidden from our
compassion – refugees and vulnerable ethnic minorities. PAIH helps the
people of Scotland to express their humanity and to help refugees become
new citizens and contributing Scots, rather than prisoners and victims
of governmental insensitivity which amounts to torture. PAIH is part of a
long Scottish tradition of humanitarian and open-hearted actions and
something of which we can be proud.

– A L Kennedy, Writer

 

I would like to thank PAiH for their support at the Thursday drop-in at
the Portal in Govan.  A caseworker attends every week to provide much
needed specialised housing advice to often very vulnerable people.  This
service is very much appreciated.

– Angela Gardiner, Network Coordinator, Govan and Craigton Integration Network

 

We would like to congratulate you on reaching your 15th birthday and
wish you all the best luck for the next 15 years. Keep up the fine work!

– Carey Watson, Service Co-ordination Worker, Hamilton & Clydesdale Women’s Aid

 

Could I pass on the best wishes of South Lanarkshire Branch of UNISON
for all the work you have done in the past 15 years and in particular
for your work in supporting asylum seekers and those left destitute by
the uncaring and uncivilised policies of the government.

– Stephen Smellie, Secretary, South Lanarkshire UNISON

 

Congratulations on PAIH’s 15th birthday. You continue to help some of
the most vulnerable people in Scotland. Your work with those who are
destitute is inspirational and very humbling.

– Emma Clifford, Glasgow Girl

 

Congratulations on 15 years of providing a truly valuable and much
needed service to people who otherwise have no other resources to turn
to. This is a charitable organisation in every sense of the term. May
God accept and reward your great humanitarian efforts.

– Nayar Hussain

 


During the time I’ve worked in Glasgow covering social issues, Positive Action in Housing has been a constant presence and an extremely useful one.
Journalistically, it is invaluable – in alerting the media to stories of concern, and in terms of bringing people into the public eye who are usually powerless, sometimes with language barriers to telling their story. Often those people are resigned to their inability to be heard or treated fairly by society at large.
People come to PAIH because they trust the workers here, and know – because they hear through the grapevine – that here is an organisation which will take them seriously.
PAIH has brought a series of issues into the public eye which would otherwise have gone under the radar, and been a thorn in the side of those who would rather ignore such issues as the national shame of the detention of children of asylum seeking families or the despair of the thousands left destitute by the asylum system.
While the struggle for funds is obviously constant, I am always impressed with the way PAIH continues to campaign even as it seeks the backing for its work. Many better funded organisations are less outspoken.
I admire PAIH because Robina Qureshi is no respecter of institution or status where injustice needs to be tackled. It is worth thinking about how unusual that is – journalistically I encounter people all the time who would like to speak out, but don’t – due to concern over offending funders or alienating those in political power.
I congratulate PAIH on its 15 years of sterling grassroots work and hope it will continue to fight the good fight for another 15 years and more.

– Stephen Naysmith, Society Editor, The Herald

Destitute Refugee Attacked on the Streets of Glasgow

As we wrote this, a quiet, gently spoken young Iranian ‘asylum seeker’, Ali Mohammed Sadegh, was asleep in the back of our office…We would not normally allow this but then this is not a normal situation. On Friday 16th April at 11.30 pm, Ali was viciously beaten and stabbed by a group of 6 white men in what we believe was a racially motivated crime…Ali has been absolutely destitute for seven months. He has absolutely nowhere else to go but the street where he, and many others like him, have been forced out of their homes after being deemed ‘failed asylum seekers’.

Illustrating the disgrace of the UK’s asylum & immigration policy

Ali Mohammed Sadegh – a personal story
Positive Action in Housing wishes to highlight the utterly inhumane treatment of one of our clients as a result of an asylum and immigration policy that has absolutely no regard for human life.
As we wrote this, a quiet, gently spoken young Iranian ‘asylum seeker’, Ali Mohammed Sadegh, was asleep in the back of our office. (Our offices are in disarray this week because they are being painted; our staff are doing their best to deliver a one to one service to people whose dignity has been assaulted at almost every step of the asylum process).
A room divider that we normally use for separating break out rooms gave him a bare bit of privacy to rest and think. We would not normally allow this but then this is not a normal situation. On Friday 16th April at 11.30 pm, Ali was viciously beaten and stabbed by a group of 6 white men in what we believe was a racially motivated crime. They held a knife to his throat, called him a black bastard and a f***ing refugee bastard, demanded his money which he handled over, £40. They then stabbed him seven times in the back and kicked his head in repeatedly, leaving him for dead. Ali left hospital last night despite having no where to go.

What was he doing out at that time of night when he was attacked?
Ali has been absolutely destitute for seven months. He has absolutely nowhere else to go but the street where he, and many others like him, have been forced out of their homes after being deemed ‘failed asylum seekers’. On some occasions he kept out of the cold and away from danger on the streets by riding the buses across Glasgow during night time. This appears to be a regular pattern for many asylum seekers in his situation. At the time of his attack, he was waiting for the night time bus.

Ali’s lawyer referred him to Positive Action in Housing in January 2004. A month before he attempted an overdose and spent three nights in the western infirmary – at least then he had a bed. We arranged for him to be assessed by a psychiatrist who made it clear that he has mental health issues and should under no circumstances be left on the street. Ali is denied any benefits whatsoever or the right to work. Despite this he has ‘signed on’ weekly with the Immigration and Nationality Directorate at Festival Court, Govan.

Since he was forced out onto the street, Ali has been through the Social Work Department, NHS, Scottish Refugee Council, Glasgow Association for Mental Health (GAMH) and Refugee Survival Trust. GAMH gave a letter of support but Ali was not qualified for assistance for all the other agencies.

Positive Action in Housing is assisting Ali and others in his position because there is absolutely no other service available to refugees who are made destitute by the government’s asylum & immigration policy. What have we done? We are paying for accommodation for Ali and giving him a small amount of cash provided from donations given by individuals and trade unions to our Hardship Fund. We receive no other funding to do this.

After 7 months on the streets, after being rejected by almost everyone he has went to for help Ali has given up on being able to secure refuge in the UK. Ali is unable to return to Iran because if he does he faces being jailed and tortured. He is considering leaving for another country altogether. We are exploring ways in which we can help him.

The reason we are sharing Ali’s story is because he typifies the experience of so many refugees who are systematically denied:

a) their basic human rights to food shelter and clothing by the government’s asylum and immigration policy,
b) support from local authorities who are not allowed to give them ‘recourse to public funds’.
c) Charitable help once they become starving and homeless by the very charitable and voluntary organisations who were set up to respond to people at this level of desperation because of the government’s asylum and immigration policy.

Robina Qureshi, Director, said:
“So long as the government abdicates its human rights responsibilities, Positive Action in housing will continue to provide a service to destitute refugees with donations provided by individuals, churches, trade unions and others.
And we will continue to highlight and expose the true scale of the problem of destitute refugees in Scotland.”
You can send a message of solidarity/support
for Ali Mohammed Sadegh c/o home@paih.org
Source for this message, inquiries/further information:
“Positive Action in Housing”
home@paih.org

Scottish Ethnic Minorities Directory 2002

Launch of Scottish Ethnic Minorities Directory 2002 

GLASGOW

Monday 4 June 2001 11.45 am – 1.30pm

Speakers: Margaret Curran MSP, Deputy Minister for Social Justice, Subhash Joshi MBE, Chair (PAIH) and Robina Qureshi, Director (PAIH).  This launch will also commemorate the contribution of Subhash Joshi, who passed away in May 2001, to the voluntary sector. A buffet lunch will be served immediately after brief speakers’ contributions. 

If you would like to attend please contact Lorna on 0141 353 2220.

Housing for a Multiracial Society – Review Response – November 1999

Housing for a Multiracial Society

 A Response to Scottish Homes’ Review

Of the Ethnic Minority Housing Strategy

For Glasgow 1995-1998 and the Consultative

Report on Key Findings and Draft Action

Plan for 1999-2002

 

November 1999

 

 


  1. Introduction

 

  • 1. Positive Action in Housing (PAiH) is a black & minority ethnic housing organisation, working to combat racial harassment and black homelessness in Scotland. Throughout its work, PAiH draws its perspective from those at the margins of society. This has meant supporting issues that affect their daily lives – homelessness, racial harassment and attacks, enduring unmet housing needs and restricted employment and training opportunities.

 

  • 2. We welcome the opportunity to comment on Scottish Homes’ Ethnic Minority Housing Strategy for Glasgow, particularly as we submitted a widely circulated response to the draft Race Equality Policy in 1994. We also welcome the progress made by Scottish Homes and the Housing Association movement since the Commission for Racial Equality’s formal investigation in 1993, but remain conscious of the persistence of racial disadvantage, discrimination and harassment within the housing sector.

 

  1. The Consultation Exercise

 

  • 1. The Consultative Report is jargon-heavy and presents a barrier to genuine partnership.

 

  • 2. We are concerned that Positive Action in Housing was not involved at the review stage of the Strategy. Given that responses are needed by November 99 and the Action Plan will be published in December 99, what real scope is there for our views to be taken into account?

 

  • 3. This paper details Positive Action in Housing’s concerns about the Consultation Paper. We comment on the overall Strategy and answer the questions posed on the Draft Action Plan. This paper should be read in conjunction with Scottish Homes’ Consultation Paper.

 

  1. The Corporate Strategy

 

  • 1 In 1994, Scottish Homes set out to ‘become the leader of racial equality in Scotland. At the same time, the Commission for Racial Equality warned that unless Scottish Homes demonstrated leadership within three years this would ‘lead to doubts over Scottish Homes’ commitment to racial equality’.

 

  • 2 According to the recently published review[1] of the Strategy, Scottish Homes ‘has fallen short of its aspiration to be a leader in racial equality’. In light of this, we are forced to question Scottish Homes’ commitment to racial equality. In our view, the Strategy failed to perform well in key areas because of several factors:

 

  • 2.1 Midway through the Strategy, Scottish Homes did not replace its Race Equality Officer who played a crucial role in disseminating information and building links and confidence with grassroots black & minority ethnic organisations.

 

  • Scottish Homes ignored pressure
  • 2.2 from the Commission for Racial Equality, the Housing Equality Action Unit, the SFHA and black & minority ethnic groups to develop a specific and costed strategy to support black & minority ethnic led housing associations. The complementary approach of specialist and mainstream housing provision offers:

 

  • An unrivalled specialism in black and minority ethnic needs;
  • Genuine self-determination to black and minority ethnic communities
  • The impetus to the mainstream housing movement to follow best practice in black and minority ethnic housing provision.

 

  • 2.3 Scottish Homes has failed to sufficiently involve black & minority ethnic organisations in several areas of its work. We should be able to expect this level of accountability and co-working from a publicly funded housing agency.

 

  1. Investment Programme (Page 3)

 

  • 1. We are pleased that there was an overspend of the £5.0 million targeted at Glasgow for the period 1995-98. This was a step in the right direction towards addressing historical discrimination and exclusion of black and minority ethnic communities since the 1950s within the public and then the voluntary housing sectors.

 

  • 2. We are very disappointed that Scottish Homes is u turning on ring-fenced funding. Ring fencing made Scottish Homes accountable to black and minority ethnic communities and encouraged the development of schemes or housing for black & minority ethnic needs.

 

  • 3. Despite the commendable efforts of a small number of housing associations, Scottish Homes failed to allocate sufficient ring-fenced money to address the pressing need for larger housing and other types of housing in safe areas. The lack of larger housing in safe areas can also be attributed to Scottish Homes’ development funding regime, which militates against the building of larger housing.

 

  • 4. We recommend that Scottish Homes:

 

  • Continues ring-fenced funding;
  • Increase this ring-fenced money to £75 million over the period 1999-2002;
  • Define the unmet housing needs to be addressed in partnership with Positive Action in Housing and black and minority ethnic housing agencies.

 

  1. Black and minority ethnic-led housing associations

 

  • 1 The Commission for Racial Equality in its 1993 investigation of housing providers called on Scottish Homes to support black and minority ethnic led housing associations. Positive Action in Housing supports it, the government, the Housing Corporation, the SFHA and the Commission for Racial Equality – so why not Scottish Homes?

 

  • 2 Positive Action in Housing has supported local groups in their attempts to set up black and minority ethnic housing associations. But, without the close involvement and resources from Scottish Homes, this approach is unlikely to reach fruition. We would like to see development funding targeted towards black and minority ethnic housing associations. Such an approach would complement mainstream housing provision in the same way as disability or older peoples’ housing has been developed by a combination of specialist and mainstream.

 

  1. Allocations (Page 3/4)

 

  • 1 Tenant Representation

 

  • 2 We are pleased to note that black and minority ethnic tenants represent 19.2% of core-area housing associations. But the document does not state the percentage of black and minority ethnic lets across Glasgow. We would expect the target to be at least 5%.

 

  • 3 We are pleased to see an increase (of 38%) in the number of black and minority ethnic tenants of the core area housing associations, but remain conscious of the steady decrease from 95-98 in the number of lets to black and minority ethnic tenants in Glasgow and Scotland as a whole.

 

  • 4 This must be seen against the sharp increase in housing referrals to Positive Action in Housing. During 1998/99 we received 743 enquiries, 92% from Glasgow[2].

 

  • 5 The latest SCORE Statistics (SFHA) shows that for 1998/99 only 1.5% of lets went to black and minority ethnic households. SCORE’s explanation for this decrease is ‘the decline in the inner city building programme in favour of the outer estates’[3]. We disagree with this view, particularly as ring fencing for black and minority ethnic housing was only just kicking in against the grain of the national development strategy[4].

 

  • 6 Shared Ownership

 

  • 7 In 1998/99 both shared ownership and GRO grants proved beyond the reach of black and minority ethnic communities[5]. Additionally, there is no reference in the Scottish Homes document to the poor take up of shared ownership.

 

  • 8 We are aware of the strong preference amongst our service-users for a route to home ownership, not least to establish a sense of security. Historically[6], and today, black and minority ethnic people are unlikely to get a foot on the ladder to home ownership in the public and voluntary sectors because of exclusion and poverty[7].

 

  • 9 The three main problems facing black and minority ethnic tenants during 1998/99 are:

 

  • Overcrowding
  • Racial harassment and,
  • Homelessness

 

  • 10 The problem of severe overcrowding in our communities has existed – and been researched exhaustively – for decades. The problems have multiplied several times over because of the failure to build sufficient 3,4 and 5 apartments in safe, multiracial areas.[8]

 

  • 11 Research carried out by the University of Stirling[9] found that the scale of overcrowding in Glasgow’s black and minority ethnic communities is FIFTEEN times greater than it was[10] ten years ago. Specifically, Pakistani households are ELEVEN times more likely to suffer overcrowding than the general population.

 

  • 12 We are concerned that housing providers have sometimes suggested that overcrowded families should separate into smaller units. This flawed approach places an expectation on black and minority ethnic families to fit into a housing system traditionally geared to the needs of a white – rather than a multiracial – society.

 

  • 13 Our success rate with helping families to be rehoused is severely hindered by the lack of suitable housing in safe areas. Only 47% of cases were resolved in less than 6 months. 14.3% were resolved in 6-12 months. 38.8% were resolved in more than a year. 8% of our cases are unlikely to ever be resolved because of lack of suitable housing in multiracial areas.

 

  1. Raising Awareness & Promoting Involvement (Page 5)

 

  • 1 We fully support Scottish Homes’ commitment to work with any group dedicated to the housing interests of black and minority ethnic communities.

 

  • 2 Scottish Homes has a duty to consult all key partners concerned with black and minority ethnic housing interests. This includes partners funded/influenced by Scottish Homes, e.g. WOSREHF. It also includes black and minority ethnic organisations not funded/influenced/controlled by Scottish Homes. Consulting widely and openly helps to ensure accountability and inform public policy. It is pointless being selective or exclusive about which partners are to be involved in the review of the Ethnic Minority Housing Strategy. (See also 2.1 – 2.3).

 

  • 3 Outreach Work and Supported Ethnic Minority Community Groups

 

  • 4 Without performance indicators it is difficult to ascertain progress. How successful have outreach projects been in qualitative and quantitative terms? For example,

 

  • How did Scottish Homes measure the ‘significant impact’, which led to a raised profile of housing associations amongst black and minority ethnic communities?

 

  • How did Scottish Homes assess the ‘improved cultural and racial awareness among Association staff and committee members’?

 

  • What has changed in the associations’ mainstream practices or services to black and minority ethnic communities as a result of outreach work?

 

We should like to see performance indicators for outreach work in order to be clear about the level of success or otherwise.

 

  • 5 Promoting Involvement in Housing Associations (pp5-6)

 

  • 6 We welcome the progress made to promote black and minority ethnic shareholder membership.

 

  • 7 However, the figures on committee representation are most disappointing. In a three-year period, Scottish Homes has managed to recruit only SIX black and minority ethnic committee members. We are also conscious of the reality of tokenism on mainstream committees.

 

  • 8 In 1996, Scottish Homes concluded that[11] “Although there have been some successes in participation, fundamentally community based housing associations as a group cannot be said to effectively represent in membership or management the local communities they aim to serve, and the community participation ethos has to date failed to embrace effectively ethnic minority groups.” How successful has the Strategy been to promote empowerment of black and minority ethnic communities in Scottish Housing?

 

  • 9 What difference does the presence of one or two black committee members make to black and minority ethnic housing issues in mainstream housing associations? We fully support Scottish Homes comments on this issue: “There is no evidence to show that the presence of one or two black and minority ethnic committee members have any measurable effect in steering Associations towards improved targeting of Ethnic Minority housing needs. Only in those Associations with substantial representation (e.g. Charing Cross Housing Association) is there a clear link between membership and improved provision.”[12]

 

  • 10 Positive Action in Housing believes that the empowerment and genuine involvement of black and minority ethnic communities (in order for black and minority ethnic issues to be considered in the mainstream) will only happen once:

 

  • There is a level playing field
  • Scottish Homes supports black and minority ethnic housing associations[13].

 

  • 11 We recommend that Scottish Homes gets to grips with its own findings from 1996 about the reality of black and minority ethnic involvement on mainstream committees (rather than point to disparate numbers on a handful of committees as a measure of black and minority ethnic empowerment and influencing of black and minority ethnic issues).

 

  • 12 It would be wrong to assume that black and minority ethnic members are/should be interested in the race equality aspects of the committees’ agenda, or that the responsibility for race equality lies with black and minority ethnic members. The responsibility, of course, lies with the entire management committee.

 

  • 8 Taking the Strategy Forward – Page 7

 

  • 1 Potential for Improvement (p7)

 

  • 2 The targets for the Social & Environmental Grant programme and the GRO grant would have been met had there been a properly targeted and widely circulated information campaign for black and minority ethnic organisations. Both these grant possibilities could benefit many black and minority ethnic people in housing need. What measures will be taken to use GRO grants to address black and minority ethnic needs with private developers? How do we know that black and minority ethnic people in housing need are not facing indirect discrimination?

 

  • 3 What was the ‘degree of variance among core area housing associations with regard to the nature of their approach to improving performance in meeting ethnic minority needs?’ This is unclear.

 

  • 4 Withdrawing ring fenced funding

 

  • 5 In March 1997, Scottish Homes stated[14] that ring-fenced funding would be discontinued after 1998, ‘as appropriate structures and procedures will by then be in place to ensure balanced Housing Association provision through mainstream housing allocation and development programmes’.

 

  • 6 We are disappointed that Scottish Homes is withdrawing ring-fenced funding despite the fact that its own review proves that the agency has failed to adopt ‘appropriate structures and procedures’ to ensure proper attention is paid to black & minority ethnic housing needs[15].

 

  • 7 For several years, the Housing Corporation has been dedicated to ring-fenced funding to meet black and minority ethnic housing needs. So why, in the light of its own poor Review, does Scottish Homes still insist that it doesn’t need ring-fenced funding?

 

  • 8 We strongly recommend that Scottish Homes continue ring-fenced funding, instead of disbanding it in favour of structures that are simply not working for black & minority ethnic communities.

 

  • 9 Target Setting (pp7-8)

 

  • 10 Scottish Homes Registration & Supervision should be sensitive to which part of the ethnic minority strategy they emphasise to core area and non-core area housing associations. For example, target setting for black and minority ethnic committee members by non-core housing associations may be unrealistic or result in tokenism.

 

  • 11 We estimate the figure for Glasgow’s black and minority ethnic population to be around 5%[16]. Scottish Homes should set a 5% target for the black and minority ethnic representation in Glasgow housing associations.

 

  • 12 Housing Associations in multiracial areas should set targets (for black and minority ethnic tenant representation) that are higher than their area of operation to take account of historical disadvantage and the disproportionately higher level of housing deprivation found in black communities. These housing associations should set targets for committee and shareholder membership that reflect the ethnic composition of their areas of operation.

 

  • 13 What measures will Scottish Homes Registration and Supervision take to support and lead housing associations towards fulfilling their targets? What punitive measures will Scottish Homes take against housing associations that fail to comply with the Strategy?

 

  • 14 Racial Harassment Policies

 

  • 15 In non-core areas, the implementation and monitoring of effective racial harassment policies and procedures requires specific attention[17]. The best support mechanism to enable ethnic minority households to sustain their tenancies (especially in non-core areas) is to see a demonstrable record of the housing association or co-op to get rid of racist tenants – fast – and put a stop to racial harassment in and around the neighbourhood – fast. Otherwise it is unlikely that black and minority ethnic tenants will wish to move or remain there – particularly in non-core areas.

 

9.                Partnership Working (p8)

 

  • 1 We welcome Scottish Homes’ commitment to work with ‘all key partners’ during 1999 – 2002. We welcome Scottish Homes’ invitation to respond to consultation documents such as this. However, we would appreciate earlier involvement in the development of the race equality strategy.

 

  • 2 We are concerned that Scottish Homes appears to expect black and minority ethnic organisations to become members of other organisations in order to gain access to the consultation/partnership process. This is wholly unacceptable.[18] Scottish Homes must consult openly with all black and minority ethnic organisations with a housing interest.

 

  1. Direct Action by Scottish Homes (p9-10)

 

  • 1 Given the past failure to develop Strategy & Development Funding Plans and Programme Agreements why is Scottish Homes favouring this route over ring-fenced funding? This approach lacks clarity, accountability and hard targets in monetary terms. It is a step in the wrong direction for the Ethnic Minority Housing Strategy. (See 8.4-8.8).

 

  • 2 Geographical areas

 

  • 3 Various reports show that ‘area’ is the most crucial and sensitive factor in the right move for black and minority ethnic communities, yet Scottish Homes seems to be making a decision about which areas are right for our communities.

 

  • 4 Outreach

 

  • 5 We are unclear as to the quantifiable benefits of outreach work. What happened to the workers on these temporary projects? Were they taken on by the housing associations after the project’s ended? Was the project work integrated into the mainstream housing associations work after the project money ran out? Where is the monitoring framework to assess these factors?

 

  • 6 Funding for Best Practice

 

  • 7 Will external grant funding during 1999–2002 to develop best practice guidance and training/awareness sessions for housing association staff and committee members be accessible to black and minority ethnic organisations?

 

  • 8 Awareness Training

 

  • 9 What are the performance indicators for assessing the impact of training/awareness of ethnic minority housing issues for Scottish Homes’ staff?

 

  1. Questions for Consultation (pp10-11)

  • 1 The consultation document asks specific questions about the Action Plan. We would add the following to support the previous points.

 

  • 2 How can Scottish Homes and its housing association partners work more effectively together to meet the future housing needs of ethnic minority communities in Glasgow?

 

By consulting openly with black and minority ethnic organisations with a housing interest. By involving black and minority ethnic organisations at the start of the consultation process – not the end. Not ignoring black and minority ethnic organisations as key partners. By calling on Scottish Homes Board to support the setting up of black and minority ethnic led housing associations.

 

  • 3 How can ethnic minority households in Glasgow be further encouraged to apply for social rented housing out with traditional core settlement areas?

 

Racial harassment and the fear of racial harassment determine black and minority ethnic households’ choice for housing.   It is disappointing that Scottish Homes proposes that minority ethnic households in Glasgow should seek social housing out with core settlement areas, having not sufficiently addressed these communities needs in their areas of preference. (Minority ethnic applicants have risen by 15% on the ‘core area’ housing association waiting lists since 1994/95.)   In the absence of a track record of anti-racist work in non-core areas, black and minority ethnic communities are vulnerable and likely to suffer from racial violence, racial abuse and isolation[19]. Furthermore they will have no infrastructure of community support and people will be living in fear of their lives. This question smacks of social engineering and dispersal of black and minority ethnic communities so that numbers aren’t a problem. Whatever happened to self-determination and the individual’s right to live where he/she chooses? Do black and minority ethnic communities not have the right to choose? Why should black & minority ethnic households be coerced into moving anywhere they don’t want to? Their reluctance should speak for itself.

 

  • 4 How can housing associations and other public sector landlords support ethnic minority tenants who take up rented housing in areas out with traditional core settlement areas?

 

By having well implemented racial harassment policies with a demonstrable track record of stopping racial harassment in its tracks and protecting black & minority ethnic tenants without quibbling or playing down the problem.

 

  • 5 How can housing associations across Glasgow improve access to their existing housing for ethnic minorities and what role can Scottish Homes and key partners play in this process?

 

By supporting a black & minority ethnic housing association and learning from its expertise and experience.

 

  • 6 Are our proposals on target setting reasonable?

 

No. See Section 8.8-8.13.

 

Black & Minority Ethnic Tenant Representation

 

We expect the target for black & minority ethnic tenant representation for core area housing associations to be at least 30%, given the high ethnic minority populations and the level of housing deprivation caused by:

 

  • Past exclusion
  • Failure to address unmet needs, and
  • Institutionalised racism

 

Representation of black & minority ethnic workers

 

How many black & minority ethnic workers were recruited during 1995-98? What is the representation of black and minority ethnic workers in Glasgow housing associations? Why was this issue not covered in the Glasgow Strategy? There is no reference to targets being set for the recruitment of black and minority ethnic workers and trainees. We suggest that Scottish Homes sets a target of 5% black and minority ethnic workers across Glasgow, much higher in multiracial areas. Representation should be monitored across all levels of seniority in the workforce. The figures should be made available publicly.

 

  • Are our proposals on SDFPs and Programme Agreement reasonable and what might the timescale be for their phased implementation from core areas to the outer city and the wider region?

 

 

No. See 8.4–8.8. Scottish Homes should revert to the ring-fenced approach and more vigorously and appropriately target ring-fenced money to specific/unmet black & minority ethnic housing needs in open consultation with black & minority ethnic organisations including Positive Action In Housing.

 

 

12.8   

Given the findings from our review, what should our key measurable objectives be, and how can they best be monitored?

 

As stated earlier, t

he report makes no reference to the numbers of black & minority ethnic workers recruited during the period 1995-98. This is surprising as the recruitment of black & minority ethnic workers is an important issue for Scottish Homes to be promoting. What was the experience of PATH trainees taken on in Glasgow? What support is to be given to PATH Scotland?

 

We recommend that PATH Scotland receives core funding of at least £75,000 per annum from 2000-2003. We are also disappointed that, give Scottish Homes poor track record of recruiting black and minority ethnic workers, Scottish Homes has only taken up one or two PATH trainee. We recommend that Scottish Homes takes up ten PATH trainees in Glasgow over the period 1999-2002 and persuades those housing associations in multiracial areas with under-representative workforces to recruit PATH trainees in appropriate numbers.

 

We have serious reservations about the proposal for Strategy & Development Funding Plans in the absence of ring-fenced funds. As Scottish Homes own review demonstrates, housing associations may not have the relevant knowledge and specialist skills required in assessing the unmet housing needs and aspirations amongst the minority ethnic communities.

 

The failure to strategically plan and provide for the specific/unmet needs of black and minority ethnic communities is a significant factor of the low number of lets. It is time that a race equality strategy combined with strong policy enforcement addresses the needs of black and minority ethnic communities living in multiracial areas. We strongly feel that such a strategy would be best carried out by a programme of ring fenced funding of at least £75 million over the next three years.   This strategy should be focused on:

 

  • Building housing

 

  • Supporting black and minority ethnic organisations to take up partnership with housing providers, and

 

  • Supporting black and minority ethnic groups to manage/own houses as housing associations in their own right.

 

This would lead to empowerment of black communities as committee members, shareholders and employees within the Scottish housing movement.

 

We recommend that the main development priorities for black and minority ethnic communities over 1999-2002 is:

 

  • Suitably designed sheltered housing for Indian/Pakistani elders in safe, multiracial areas [20].

 

  • A vigorous development programme to build three, four and five apartment housing in safe, multiracial areas.

 

Positive Action in Housing[21]

November 1999

 

 

 

 

References

 

Scottish Homes Glasgow & North Clyde Region

Review of the Ethnic Minority Housing Strategy for Glasgow 1995-1998 – Consultative Report on Key Findings and Draft Action Plan (1999)

 

SFHA SCORE Housing Association Lettings In Scotland

The Score Annual Digest 98-99 (October 99)

 

Scottish Homes Glasgow District Office

Ethnic Minority Housing in Glasgow – Development Funding Strategy (1996)

 

Positive Action in Housing

4th Annual Report (1999)

 

Housing Equality Action Unit

Ethnic Minority Housing Response to the Consultation Paper (1994)

 

Positive Action in Housing

Investing in Modernisation – Response to the Government Green Paper (June 1999)

 

Positive Action in Housing

Position Paper: Ethnic Minority Led Housing Associations (November 1995)

 

Scottish Homes

Action for Racial Equality (October 1994)

 

Housing Equality Action Unit

Black & minority ethnic housing associations – Myths and Realities (1992)

 

Housing Equality Action Unit

Ethnic Minority Housing – Testing Good Intentions (June 1995)

[1] Organisational Development Support 1999

[2] Our statistics[2] show a clear link between poor housing, poor health and poverty.

[3] SCORE Statistics

[4] There was a steady increase in money from 95/96 (£1.258m) to 98/99 (£3.287m) for black and minority ethnic housing needs.

[5] We note from SCORE statistics that in 1998/99, only one sale to a ‘non-white’ household was recorded out of the 388 sales (0.003%).

[6] In the eighties and nineties, black and minority ethnic people lost out on right to buy because of exclusion and racial harassment from the council housing sector.

[7] To qualify for shared ownership, you must have a minimum level of income.

[8] We are aware of several cases where families with two or three children have been waiting years, even a decade or more for suitable sized housing.

[9] “Too white, Too Rough, Too Many Problems…”

[10] Experience of Ethnic Minority Housing Applicants Glasgow 1989 Glasgow City Council

[11] Ethnic Minority Housing in Glasgow – Scottish Homes Glasgow District Office – Development Funding strategy (1996)

[12] Ethnic Minority Housing in Glasgow – Scottish Homes Glasgow District Office – Development Funding strategy (1996)

[13] As we have always stated, such associations have an excellent track record of involving black and minority ethnic people as shareholders, committee members and give them the experience and skills to work effectively in mainstream housing associations.

 

[14] Scottish Homes Ethnic Minority Housing in Glasgow – Development Funding Strategy (March 1997)

[15] We also note that most ‘housing association Strategy & Development funding Plans and Programme Agreements have not provided sufficient analysis of the local housing needs of ethnic minorities or developed targets for anticipated future demand’.

[16] Although the 1991 census says Glasgow’s black and minority ethnic population is 3.2% these figures are almost ten years out of date. They are also under-representative of the black and minority ethnic community because of under-reporting.

[17] Racial harassment (actual or potential) and community support are two issues consistently highlighted as the reason why black and minority ethnic communities prefer to remain in multiracial areas.

[18] Otherwise this raises questions as to why Scottish Homes is not helping Positive Action in Housing to increase its membership.

[19] From research undertaken by Scottish Homes (The Experience of Households from Minority Ethnic Groups in the Scottish Housing System. 1994) the findings clearly state that ‘racial harassment and attack was a key issue for many minority ethnic households and there was a dominant concern to live in safe neighbourhoods’.

[20] Research carried out by Positive Action in Housing (1999) for Bield, Hanover and Kirk Care Housing Associations shows a high projected need over the next 20 years. These groups appear to be overlooked.

[21] Thanks go to Akhtar Khan for help in preparing this response.