Sanctuary Hosting in the news
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Sanctuary Hosting in the Oxford Times, 28th May 2020
Can we gain a fairer society after pandemic?
This pandemic is highlighting profound gaps in UK’s social security net. Rapidly, the government has opened up services for all to keep the public safe. Sanctuary Hosting, a charity based in Oxford, is familiar with one major gap – housing for people who are homeless, seeking safety in the UK and cannot access statutory housing. Local authorities must now help everyone without a home, regardless of their immigration status. But healthcare access for all remains a challenge. On 29 January, the government announced that no charge would be made to an overseas visitor for treatment of COVID 19. In recent weeks, immigration detention centres are emptying to safeguard inmates and workers within the centres. With each step we move closer to a society where everyone can access vital services to keep the public as a whole safe from COVID 19.
By bringing these problems to the surface, we are facing up to how UK social policy prevents certain groups from accessing vital services. Campaign groups are calling for undocumented migrants and those waiting for a decision from the Home Office to be given permission to stay. On 2nd April 2020, Portugal temporarily granted all migrants and asylum seekers currently in the country access to the same services as citizens for the duration of the crisis, without actually making them permanent citizens. Could the UK follow suit?
.British Citizens have much greater rights and entitlements than people with visas or asylum claims. For those denied permission to be in the UK, they face social exclusion; unable to work, rent or access non urgent healthcare without paying. The only hope to be included into society is to navigate the UK’s immigration rules and try to be granted ‘leave to remain’. The immigration rules themselves are notoriously impenetrable and ever-changing making them highly complex, even for those professionals who dedicate their lives to understanding them. The fees for each application have risen hugely in the last 10 years, as has the complexity of the forms themselves often requiring legal counsel which is also costly. Home Office decision-making is drawn out, with many people only getting their rights recognised on appeal. Therefore, even with all the will in the world to get regular immigration status, many remain socially marginalised.
Unless vital services are opened to all, we will struggle to beat this pandemic. To quote Doctors of the World, “public health is successful when you include everyone”. The government is talking to the public more openly than ever about these issues, via daily television announcements, online Home affairs select committees and numerous letters and even Home Office blogs. There is an increasing interconnection and collaboration between the work of local government, community groups and charities. These are all positives. Can we all work to make these socially inclusive policies stick? We at Sanctuary Hosting are holding out hope that as each statutory system is opened up, the UK safety net is getting mended one hole at a time, making it better for all of us in the long term.
If you would like to volunteer as a support worker or host with Sanctuary Hosting, or make a donation to help them continue their work, please visit www.sanctuaryhosting.org or call Sarah Wahby on 07378 302 491.
Sanctuary Hosting on how the voluntary sector is meeting the challenges of the COVID-19 emergency. The Oxford Times, 30 April 2020:
Kate Bowen, a long time volunteer, host and trustee at Sanctuary Hosting talks to BBC Radio Oxford’s Kat Orman on her mid-morning show:
Yasmin Gunaratnam, a Reader in Sociology at Goldsmiths, and editor of Feminist Review writes about hosting for Open Democracy:
Guest Dawit and host Dai make a film with the HuffingtonPost UK:
Amy, our Marketing and Comms officer talks to BBC Radio Oxford’s Danny Cox on Christmas day 2019 about hosting: