A review of our hardship fund

Our hardship fund was launched in 2018 and provides emergency support to meet immediate, short term needs whilst our team works on longer term solutions for children and families. Our hardship fund remains unfunded and is reliant solely on donations from lovely individuals. It is a very small fund which means we can only use it when we have run out of other options.

The hardship fund is used only when other forms of support are unavailable at the time, such as when families are refused support under either asylum provisions or local authority support under the Children Act 1989 and for age disputed minors who have had their support terminated. It is nearly always used in conjunction with legal challenges. The majority of the time, we are able to resolve a family’s situation without resorting to using the fund. The full breakdown of how it has been used will be available in our annual review when published. Until then, here are some examples of our hardship fund and what it has been used for.

Provision of accommodation

We have provided 19 nights of accommodation to street homeless children and families.

The majority of the time we are able to meet need without resorting to using the fund. All accommodation has been used to alleviate street homelessness.

Our hardship fund has been used to provide accommodation for families, primarily in the London area who have been undergoing assessments under the Children Act 1989. This has included;

A mother and 10 year old daughter with leave to remain in the UK who were initially refused support by the Local Authority. They were forced to leave the offices at the end of the day with nowhere to go. We provided a single night in a hotel whilst we conducted a challenge to the Local Authority. The next day, the local authority accepted their duty to accommodate the family.

It has also been used to support asylum seekers with emergency accommodation;

A father, mother, 5 year old child and 3 month old baby came to an advice session as they had been receiving threats and abuse from the person they had been staying with, who forced them out the home. When the police were called to the address, they simply moved the family on knowing they had nowhere else to go. They had not yet claimed asylum and were going to do so the next morning following immigration advice, so accommodation was requested as an emergency solution under the Children Act 1989. Instead of helping the family, the local authority threatened the family with the offer to accommodate the children only, suggesting that it was perfectly reasonable for the parents to then sleep on the street. It was too late in the day to provide any strong challenge to this refusal. We provided one night hotel accommodation to the family to prevent street homelessness. The family presented to the Home Office the following day to claim asylum and were immediately given asylum accommodation.

Meeting short term needs

We have provided support to 34 families to meet basic needs pending outcomes on longer term solutions.

This has included everything from baby formula and nappies, to care packages and travel to and from school.

As well as accommodation, the fund is also used to provide immediate short term funds and goods to meet immediate needs. The need usually arises when other services are closed on particular days or emergencies arise that require an immediate response;

Very recently, a mother and child in year 6 was moved into Section 17 accommodation around 2 hours from the child’s school. The local authority at the point had refused to provide subsistence, pending the outcome of a full assessment. We used our hardship fund to pay for a travelcard so that the child could attend school. During that time we challenged the local authority and now subsistence is in place and we are continuing to challenge the provision of accommodation. The local authority found it reasonable to expect the child to miss school whilst the assessment was undertaken.

Another family, a mother and 7 month old baby were also refused subsistence. Mum at this point was not eating properly and was struggling to breastfeed her child. No local food banks were open for 2 days and they could not afford to travel. We used our hardship fund to provide short term support with food for the family and Oyster top-up to enable mum to access the children’s centre and other community provision. She has since been granted subsistence by the Local Authority.

Unaccompanied and reunified children

For unaccompanied children, it is much harder to meet basic needs.

Our fund has mainly been used to support young people who have been refused support or are age disputed.

A growing area of our hardship fund has been in our work with unaccompanied and reunified children. The issue with this work, especially in the challenging of age assessments, is the length of time these challenges often take. Whilst comparatively small in number, it is the most intensive type of support we provide from our hardship fund.

C is a refused asylum seeker who is age disputed. The local authority terminated their duty and left the young person street homeless. We arranged a hosting placement to meet short term needs whilst we organised a challenge to the age assessment, but in the interim, we used the hardship fund to ensure the young person’s continuing access to education and community resources and meeting his basic needs.

In another age dispute case, we used the hardship fund to support a young person with travel to legal appointments, college and also to provide a personal care package for him.

Nick Watts