Preparing and supporting EEA nationals to move away from homelessness through a return to their home country can mean the opportunity to rebuild their lives with dignity. The complexity of a person’s situation and the level of their support needs will influence whether someone requires an assisted voluntary return or a supported return.
- An assisted return will usually require support to make contact with services and/or family and home country and the organisation of travel arrangements and documentation. Usually, however, an EEA national can travel unaided.
- A supported return home, is likely to be where someone experiencing medium to high support needs (for example, having drug and alcohol issues and/or mental health problems) has made a decision to enter a form of treatment. In London, EEA nationals with complex support needs who are rough sleeping, can be referred to Routes Home for this support.
The other key variable is an EEA national’s willingness to discuss any return or whether support is required to build motivation for change and cope with difficult emotions in order to consider their options. Temporary bed spaces can enable people to be available for meetings and give them rest, stability (particularly if rough sleeping and engaged in a street lifestyle, experiencing mental health difficulties or substance use) and thinking space in order to consider their options.
Every EEA national’s needs will need to be assessed on a case-by-case basis. However, we have included some helpful hints and tips for preparing and supporting people to return depending on their level of needs:
People close to the labour market :
- For people with relatively low support needs, there may be local information available to support an individual to close their affairs in the UK and transfer back to their country of origin. For example, the Polish government has produced a welcome pack website with information that includes transferring finances, benefits and finding housing: http://powroty.gov.pl/-/formalnosci-przed-powrotem-z-wielkiej-brytanii-5272
- For people who are close to the labour market and/or eligible for assistance, Jobseekers allowance and some other entitlements can be transferred to a country on securing a move. Information can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/claim-benefits-abroad/jobseekers-allowance
- There may be advice for people about finding work in their home country through local job centres and employment exchanges. Support on ensuring that people enter into safe employments can be found via the trafficking page.
- The International organisation for migration provides information on reintegration: http://unitedkingdom.iom.int/return-and-reintegration
People who require identification documents
- Identification documents are essential for claiming entitlement or travelling. UK consulates of EEA countries can supply a range of relevant documents, including passports and travel documents, birth certificates and proof of citizenship. Further details, including contact details are contained in the Consulate information pages.
- Emergency Travel Documents allow a single entry into a country and are usually quicker and simpler to obtain than passports. However, it is important to check whether a passport is necessary for a person to make a claim for support in a home country. Emergency Travel Documents may only be valid for a few weeks.
- Check with the issuing consulate if there is an expectation to repay the cost of the permit, as some countries seek this once the client has returned home.
- Consulates will often require clients to attend appointments in person to apply for and collect documents. Waiting times for appointments vary, so be mindful of this before booking travel.
- Individual consulates may be willing to offer flexibility about timescales and fees if you explain your intention in supporting a vulnerable person to return and can demonstrate that you have exhausted any entitlements for support in the UK.
Providing support to people with mental ill health
When reconnecting people with mental health difficulties ensure that they are able to give informed consent and that there are appropriate services available in their local area. It is important to avoid returning someone to rough sleeping elsewhere.
Where there are long-standing mental health issues it can be helpful to coordinate a case conference in order to work together with mental health professionals. If the plan is for a return to home country, liaise with local health services and ensure there is appropriate transfer of discharge summaries, medication records and assessments.
Providing support to people with substance misuse issues
Consider if it is necessary to support clients with substance misuse problems to stabilise their use before a journey. This decision should be based on good quality assessment, including levels of use and any previous experiences of dangerous withdrawal symptoms or overdose.
It may be possible to access detox services for clients in the UK. This can help people to stabilise and mentally prepare for the journey and makes it easier to maintain contact with clients and to make journey arrangements.
When referring clients to detox services in their home country it is important to ensure people are clear about what this entails and what their options are after completing treatment programmes, discuss their potential anxieties and plan how they intend to manage or reduce their drug or alcohol intake in the intervening period.
Issues with the criminal justice system in home countries
If people have unspent sentences or unpaid fines in their home country, ensure work has taken place with consulates and/or local criminal justice agencies to support EEA nationals to gain a thorough understanding of the consequences of any return, for example likely length of any sentence. Whilst it is unlikely that EEA nationals who have committed offences in their home country will have problems re-entering it is worth making people aware that criminal justice agencies in their home country are likely to want to pursue these matters once they return. It can help to reassure clients if they are offered support to access advice agencies or legal services in their home country whilst still in the UK.
Where clients are subject to an Order as a result of committing a criminal offence in the UK, notify relevant agencies of the client’s intention to return to their home country and obtain authorisation for this to take place. For more minor offences, it’s worth contacting the UK Police, although this is likely to be only a precautionary measure.