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Refugee Week 2024 - "Our Home"


Vauxhall Law Centre has been serving the Liverpool City region for over 50 years, combating challenges and inequalities experienced by members of our community. I joined the team in February 2024 as an Asylum Support and Migrant Housing Caseworker. Our team assists asylum seekers, refugees and migrants who are facing issues with their Asylum Support or housing. We also assist those who have no recourse to public funds or failed asylum seekers who are destitute.

Our clients understand all too well the theme for Refugee Week this year. “Home” is fundamental for everyone, especially for those who have had to flee their homes in search of safety. For them, the ability to rebuild their lives and integrate into the local community is essential so that they feel at home in the UK. For Refugee Week this year, we reflect on the realities faced by the asylum-seeking, refugee and migrant community as they attempt to make the UK their home amidst a hostile environment and local authority failings.

Liverpool’s Homelessness Crisis

Liverpool is facing a continued housing and homelessness crisis. As the largest dispersal area for asylum seekers outside of London, Liverpool’s existing crisis was exacerbated by Home Office plans in late summer 2023 to ‘clear the backlog’ of asylum claims. This quick processing of claims - after a long period where very few asylum decisions were being made at all - resulted in a large number of people becoming homeless and being owed a legal duty by the local authority in a short period of time. Before September 2023 the Homeless team at the local authority was already leaving many homeless households without a response to requests for help. Unfortunately, the Home Office changes have now increased the pressure on the local authority, stretching resources and capacity further. We are regularly seeing people who are unable to get any response from the homelessness prevention team and are regularly left without accommodation or support. The result is a city grappling with a continued homelessness crisis.

Asylum seekers are entitled to Asylum Support whilst awaiting the processing of their asylum claim. Most often, they are placed in Home Office accommodation, however, once they have received a positive decision, they are no longer entitled to Asylum Support and are evicted from Home Office accommodation with 28 days’ notice. Since the end of last year, we have seen people given as little as 7 days' notice before eviction. Despite giving the local authority notice of their eviction from Home Office accommodation, people encounter delays in accessing support. This often leaves individuals homeless, as they are no longer entitled to reside in Home Office accommodation, but have still not been able to obtain support from the local authority. Many fall through the gap in support provision, resulting in destitution and rough sleeping.

Those who have been granted family reunion also suffer the consequences of an unresponsive and under-funded authority. Often single male refugees will be placed into supported HMOs sharing with other males. As their household number increases when children and spouses arrive under Family Reunion their accommodation becomes unsuitable and they are made to leave by the landlords. In these situations, what should be a joyous time as families are reunited is tainted with unnecessary stress and the risk of homelessness. Despite providing all of the evidence of their family’s arrival ahead of time, preparations are often not made by the local authority until after the family’s arrival and subsequent eviction from the HMO accommodation. Due to the delay in the local authority’s response, these families often have nowhere to go upon eviction, and in some cases end up rough sleeping until the local authority finally processes their application and provides suitable accommodation. One of our clients was left rough sleeping with his wife and two teenage brothers for more than two weeks after they arrived under family reunion, they were paid £2,000 by the authority in compensation following a formal complaint to the authority and were only accommodated following a threat of Judicial Review. They are now settled in temporary accommodation whilst they look for a permanent home but they should never have had to suffer through such frightening and distressing times before they received the help they were entitled to.


Our Work


VLC works on a wide variety of cases for those adversely affected by the UK’s hostile environment and Liverpool City Council’s response to the homelessness crisis.

We support our clients with completing and submitting applications for Asylum Support, Schedule 10 support, Section 17 support and other relevant applications, as well as representing clients in Asylum Support Tribunals.

We liaise with the local authority on behalf of our clients, for example, in assisting clients with their homeless presentation and with the provision of evidence of their priority needs. We advocate on behalf of our clients to ensure that the local authority adheres to its legal duties towards them, for example, in properly assessing and progressing their homeless applications and placing clients in suitable accommodation when required.

Supporting clients through this process is paramount, given the lack of understanding of the legal complexities of housing law and the local authority’s legal duties. Our clients often report difficulty in accessing homelessness support from the local authority, due to a lack of face-to-face provision, a lack of interpretation used in interactions with clients, and long delays in responses from the local authority. These factors can lead to miscommunication, a failure to take into account relevant information, and erroneous decision-making. This results in uncertainty and increased stress for clients who are already highly vulnerable. For those rough sleeping, delays in assessment or erroneous decision-making can be catastrophic.

In response to the local authority’s failure to correctly follow the legal process and fulfil their legal obligations, we regularly challenge inaction or decisions made by issuing pre-action letters. In addition, we submit complaints, following the local authority’s complaints procedure, and refer to the ombudsman when appropriate on behalf of our clients. We regularly meet with both the political leaders and departmental leads within the Authority in a bid to advocate on behalf of our clients and to improve how homeless services are provided. We are often invited to attend consultation discussions to assist in the development of improved strategies at the local authority, as well as working with partners and our wider community to share knowledge and ensure people have some awareness of their rights and how to enforce them. In addition, we are currently developing outreach advice services with partners who are on the front line with vulnerable migrants seeking housing advice. We hope that these partnerships will improve capacity and streamline the sector’s response to desperate clients who are dealing with public sector services that are not properly funded and are not adequately functioning.

Through pursuing legal processes such as judicial review and utilising complaints procedures and ombudsman referrals alongside our campaigns, education and advocacy work, we aim not only to achieve success for individual clients but also to push for systemic change in how the Local Authority manages homelessness cases.

Campaigns and collaborations

We are actively engaged in campaigns that seek to improve the conditions faced by asylum seekers, refugees and migrants in the UK. This includes the Together with Refugees campaign, developed in response to the UK’s hostile environment. We joined Together with Refugee's coalition, along with over 200 other organisations, to combat this ongoing hostility.

Since its founding, VLC has advocated for improved access to safe, secure, and high-quality housing through our campaigning on housing issues. Our Housing team regularly feature in local media, raising awareness of legal rights and systemic issues in the housing sector.

Further, VLC works closely with other organisations that support asylum seekers, refugees and migrants in Liverpool. We have developed referral pathways and have provided housing law training to organisations such as the Merseyside Refugee Support Network, Asylum Link and the British Red Cross.  

Shannon Donnelly - Asylum Support and Migrant Housing Caseworker

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