The housing and related experiences of asylum seekers and refugees in Liverpool. A research report for the development of a city-wide, integrated housing policy.

Richard Tomlins

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned reportpeer-review


This research examined how social housing providers could best meet the needs of refugees and asylum seekers given status to remain in the UK and consequently a notional 28 days to vacate their private sector NASS accommodation and arrange permanent accommodation. The research was conducted using the De Montfort University social action model of training and employing local refugee community members to conduct the research. 202 refugees and asylum seekers were interviewed using face to face interviews and 10 focus groups of over 80 refugees and asylum seekers were conducted along with two focus groups with practitioners. The level of private sector housing provision for asylum seekers has made Liverpool a relatively unusual case in national service provision and raises issues locally in terms of establishing consistency of service provision across providers and meeting demand, particularly for emergency accommodation. There are strong arguments that these challenges can be most effectively met not simply through liaison with the local organisations, but also through the full inclusion of private and specialist providers in the Liverpool Strategic Housing Partnership (LSHP). There is no comprehensive and robust data on the size of the asylum seeker and refugee populations in Liverpool; however, it is one of the top ten recipients of dispersed asylum seekers in the UK. The City Council has been seen as beginning to develop proactive policies again and is a main partner in local support agencies. The signing of the contract with the National Asylum Support Service (NASS) for provision from March 2005 also gives
Liverpool City Council (LCC) a more formal role within the main housing provision for dispersal cases.
Access to housing
Most of our sample received over twenty days to achieve alternative accommodation when required to move out of their NASS accommodation. However, 60% did not manage to find permanent accommodation within this timescale. For over 30% of
our respondents this led to eviction, although over 30% were also provided with more time to find accommodation. It is argued in the report that single refugees should be considered as potentially vulnerable and therefore as priority for rehousing due to the requirements of the Homelessness Code of Guidance for Local Authorities. Our understanding is that in Liverpool only disabled people applying as homeless have been held to be
vulnerable with others being sent to a Direct Access Centre (DAC). Respondents to this study believed that the reluctance to move to a DAC meant people would be visibly homeless or invisibly homeless sleeping on floors with friends and family. Housing associations and private landlords housed around one third each of the refugee population and the local authority around a fifth. These outcomes did not reflect the preferences of refugees. Local authority housing and furnished accommodation were clear preferences. Hostels were viewed by refugees as being unsafe. Long waiting lists and difficulty in following the application procedures were seen as particularly problematic bureaucratic obstacles in accessing social housing accommodation.
Quality of services
Those interviewed in Liverpool were generally happy with the accommodation that they received on arrival in the city. Amongst those dissatisfied the overwhelming
reason was due to the quality of the accommodation rather than for example its size, or location. There appeared to be widespread use of interpreters from the information provided by housing organisations, although there was at the same time criticism from focus group participants about the lack of language support.
There was a relatively high demand for counselling from refugees questioning whether mainstream housing provision can adequately meet their needs. Housing provision or linked care services through a Refugee Community Organisation (RCO)
or CDS’ Supported Housing scheme offer the potential for a more holistic approach.
Focus group participants suggested that the reduction in the time taken to assess asylum claims would reduce the time that asylum seekers had to acclimatise to the local area before getting status to remain. There might therefore be an increasing preference to locate near other community resources or to move to other cities to be near work or friends or family. However there was general satisfaction with Liverpool as a place to live. Nevertheless, over 40% of people responding to the project survey reported that
they had experienced racial harassment, although there were variations between ethnic groups and people of different status with Eastern Europeans and, more generally, asylum seekers the most likely to be harassed.
It is fundamentally important to mainstream the needs of refugees in service provision. The strongest demand across the stakeholders in the study was the need for a central one stop shop to access housing and related advice and to augment/replace existing provision. However, there were quite specialised information needs amongst the refugees and asylum seekers and it may be necessary for mainstream housing providers to further engage with RCOs and Refugee Support Organisations (RSO) in the provision of information. It is essential that the current work on refugees and asylum seekers links into the Merseyside Citizens’ Panel and other initiatives in Liverpool that:
 Provide refugees and asylum seekers with a voice
 Provide a link to break down barriers between different BME communities
 Act as a funding and communication channel to break down wider barriers
between Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) communities (including asylum seeker
and refugee communities) and the majority white community.
There was a strong demand from practitioners for refugees’ access to housing services to be channelled through one source at each organisation, backed by some support for the provision of housing officers dedicated to work with refugee communities.
There is the need for local providers to be responsive to diversity in service provision and in monitoring service delivery, for example by breaking down Census categories to a more detailed set of ethnic classifications. There should be particular
consideration of gender provision with women often having to share Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) with men from a range of backgrounds.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherLiverpool Strategic Housing Partnership
Number of pages102
Publication statusPublished - 2004

Bibliographical note

Part of a series of landmark race equality reports


  • Asylum Seekers
  • Refugees
  • Ethnicity
  • Race equality
  • Housing
  • Liverpool
  • Health
  • Homelessness
  • Housing Corporation


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