Hospital patients experiencing homelessness have no access to legal assistance, and one-in-five don't qualify for public funds

Hospital patients experiencing homelessness have no access to legal assistance, and one-in-five don't qualify for public funds
That’s why St Martin-in-the-Fields Charity funds the Pathway Legal Advice Project. This collaboration with the UK’s leading homeless and inclusion health charity, Pathway, is the only one of its kind providing access to vital housing and immigration advice for patients who are experiencing homelessness.

“The Pathway Legal Advice Project provides vital support to homeless patients experiencing legal issues around their immigration status and housing rights. Through our network of specialist inclusion health teams and local legal advice providers, we can start dealing with any legal concerns during a patient’s hospital admission. Legal specialists continue to work with patients after their hospital stay to resolve what are often extremely complex cases. This help is especially important for patients with no recourse to public funds (NRPF). Supporting our patients in this way really helps to improve their future health and life chances by ensuring they have access to the housing, benefits and support services they are entitled to. No other programme exists to bridge this crucial gap but, thanks to this funding, specialist legal advice providers have dealt with over 250 enquiries or legal cases in the past 2 years. ”

 Emma Thomson, Senior Project Manager, Pathway

Why the project is so important

A home is essential to health

People experiencing homelessness face challenges accessing health, care and other support needs. Brokering access to accommodation is proven to be the essential first step in providing the stability and security needed to address mental health issues, addictions and chronic health conditions. But the vast majority of these patients have no way to kick start that process, so hospital admissions are a unique moment of opportunity to link them up to legal experts.

Legal and migration barriers pose further risk

Access to accommodation can be complicated by questions around immigration status, especially if an individual is No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF). Pathway’s experience shows that a high proportion of homeless patients have prominent and complex legal issues around immigration, alongside broader instances of NRPF, particularly in London.. There is a strong need to challenge decisions or strengthen the advice or advocacy provided on immigration and housing to ensure homeless patients’ rights are being upheld.

The support the project provides

The Pathway Legal Advice Project is designed to help some of the most vulnerable and marginalised people – those least able to access legal advice on immigration or housing.

Thanks to this funding, staff in Pathway Teams up and down the country can support their patients to access immigration or housing advice from qualified legal experts via:

  • Dedicated enquiry service for Pathway Teams to access on behalf of patients like Ben.
  • Specialist case work to resolve more complex, longer-term cases, like Ahmet‘s.
  • Bespoke training sessions and case discussions with Pathway Teams across the UK.

Funded partnerships between specialist homeless health teams in hospitals and legal advice professionals are a truly holistic way to support homeless patients. Legal experts can assist with regularising immigration status as well as looking at housing entitlement. This support is especially important for people with uncertain migration status or no access to public funds.

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