Introducing: Project 17

Project 17 aims to reduce destitution among migrant families with no access to mainstream welfare benefits. We work with families experiencing exceptional poverty to improve their access to local authority support. We believe that all children have the right to a home and enough to eat – regardless of their parents’ immigration status.

In particular, we focus on improving the implementation of support under section 17 of the Children Act 1989, which gives local authorities powers to provide support – including cash and accommodation – to families with children who are ‘in need’, even if they have no access to benefits or no leave to remain.

Unfortunately, support under s.17 is often very poorly implemented. People who should able to access it are frequently turned away. Families may be incorrectly told that there is no support available, threatened with having their children taken into care, or wrongly told they will be removed from the country. Sadly, the consequences of this can be severe and families may end up homeless, without enough money to buy food and other essentials.

Our work tries to make sure that people entitled to support under s.17 can access it effectively. To that end, we do the following:

  • Provide direct advice and advocacy for individuals from our office in Islington and from 5 outreaches across London
  • Support other organisations through training, a telephone advice line for professionals, and online resources
  • Campaign for the improved implementation of support through policy work, lobbying and litigation.

In 2015-16 our advice service worked with 321 families. The vast majority (92%) of our service users are women facing homelessness with their children. 79% were single mothers. Our clients are often at high risk of exploitation, and may be trapped in abusive relationships or coerced into sexual exploitation because of a lack of alternatives.

While most of our clients have no leave to remain, over one third have a legal right to stay in the UK, but have a restriction on their leave preventing access to public funds. Even with the right to work, many parents find it impossible to support their families without in-work benefits to help with rent and childcare costs. As a result, many of our clients are working several jobs, but are homeless because they are simply unable pay private housing costs.

Life for migrants with insecure immigration status is getting increasingly difficult. The government’s ‘hostile environment’ continues to bring immigration control further into people’s daily lives, making it more difficult for our clients to support themselves, access healthcare, and rent accommodation. We have seen a significant increase in demand for our services as the number of number of homeless families continues to grow.

If you, or a family you work with, is facing homelessness or severe poverty and has no recourse to public funds, please do get in touch. You can reach us on 07964 509 044 or by emailing [email protected]. You can find us at www.project17.org.uk.