Having a quick look at our statistics and find that the section 4 team average to give a final decision (positive or negative) on an application is 20 days. For section 95 applications, however, clients are waiting an average of 58 days! The form is the same, the destitution test is the same and there is clearer eligibility criteria. Where the application is for a family there is even a slight rise in processing time, to 62 days!
How can one team be so much slower than another? Destitute clients and their families should not be waiting nearly 2 months for a decision, this often forces them deeper into debt, puts unnecessary pressure on social services or forces people into dangerous situations.
On top of poor processing times, the last few months have seen significant delays in accommodating clients. The North West provider of Home Office accommodation, Serco, informed us that they are missing their targets (usually 9 or 2 working days for section 4 clients depending on the client’s situation) as their properties are full and they cannot procure more houses as quickly as needed.
In one case, an Eritrean service user of ours in her late 50s, was granted section 4 support on 18 December 2016 and is still waiting to be accommodated. In the time she has waited, she has spent one night wandering the streets and the last week in a night shelter in Salford. She was initially told by Serco that she would move on 9/2/16 but when the day came she received no phone call and no one came to collect her. Serco later advised that they had given the property to someone else and had no explanation why she was not informed. Again on 16/2/16, she was ready to move but Serco did not collect her, advising that the only house they have available for her is not meeting fire regulations. Nearly 2 months after support had been granted, these delays are unacceptable and a breach of her human rights. She has been promised a house again by the end of this week… I’m not holding my breath.