BZ is from Poland. She came to the UK to work on a farm in 2006, and worked continuously from 2006 until 2014 when she became unwell with a heart condition and a back problem.
She claimed benefits, but when 2014 changes to benefits entitlement for EEA nationals came into effect, the DWP assessed her as “not having recourse to public funds” and she also failed the habitual residency test. BZ became homeless due to the benefits decision and a breakdown in her relationship.
She was found rough sleeping by Home Office Immigration Enforcement Officers in London and served with a notice that she was liable to be deported. There was a right of appeal against this decision but, because of a language barrier, BZ did not understand this and had no one to advise her on how to appeal.
She was referred into our Routes Home team by another homelessness organisation in Croydon. Routes Home staff were able to provide her with accommodation, food and other basics, such as clothes and travel expenses. She was linked in with a GP, assisted to attend GP and hospital appointments and supported with prescription needs.
The Routes Home team assessed her situation and, with her consent, asked HMRC and DWP for her records, previous employers for references and her banks to ask for five years’ worth of bank statements. She was also referred to an Accredited Immigration Advisor who met with BZ, took instructions and agreed on a course of action.
At this point it came to light that BZ had been served with the Home Office deportation notice while rough sleeping and that the 14 day deadline which BZ had to appeal against the decision had already passed.
The Immigration Advisor immediately submitted an appeal to the Tribunal and requested that the time limit in which to lodge the appeal be extended. The Tribunal was satisfied that there were exceptional reasons as to why BZ did not appeal within the 14 days, that her representative acted promptly and that there would be no prejudice to extending the time limit. As the time limit was extended, the Tribunal would then list the appeal for a hearing.
After submitting her employer and bank references and working tax details, BZ was advised that she had acquired permanent residence in the UK. At that point in September she made an application for benefits.
However, in December 2017, BZ decided to withdraw her application and asked for support in returning to her home town to be close to her family and grandchildren. Years of separation have had a massive impact of her mental health.
Routes Home staff then linked her with her local social services in her home area in Poland to ensure her support needs were assessed and appropriate supported accommodation was found for her.
Due to flight delays and the remote location of her home area in Poland, it took almost two days for her and the Routes Home worker who accompanied her to reach the destination.
Meanwhile, her Immigration Advisor had asked the Tribunal whether BZ is allowed to continue her appeal from outside the UK. In February the team received notice from the Tribunal that BZ’s hearing will go ahead in June, despite the fact that she is currently outside of the UK. The Routes Home team informed her about the decision via her social worker and will be supporting her to come over in the summer for the hearing.
The Routes Home spoke to her in March and she consented to sharing her story. She told them she was very thankful for all the support Routes Home offered, that she was “very happy to be off the streets” and “glad to see her grandchildren and sister over the weekends.”