Phil Veasey currently works as a Public Health Consultant in the London Borough of Newham where he has led on supporting the work of the Voluntary and Community Sector during the pandemic.
He is a member of the London Child Obesity Taskforce and in another part of his career Phil created and implemented the National Mini Tennis programme in the UK which is now the way children learn to play the sport globally.
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The pandemic has hit our borough like a steam train, with significant loss of life and deep lasting impacts on people’s health, social and economic wellbeing. It has shone an intense spotlight on health inequalities in Newham.
While Newham is rapidly changing, we still face many challenges. There are many who face high levels of poverty, difficult working conditions – including low levels of pay, an unhealthy urban environment in terms of air quality, access to food, housing provision, and many other factors that can damage health.
To compound these challenges we also have a number of residents with insecure immigration status – and we estimate that we may host over 10,000 with no recourse to public funds (NRPF).
The borough has taken herculean actions to attempt to meet these challenges – the Newham Food Alliance, the Social Welfare Alliance and the Migrant Community Action Plan provide good cross sector, collaborative examples.
These issues are all addressed in our Health and Wellbeing Strategy – Well Newham – 50 Steps to a Healthier Borough – see in particular Step 16 where one action includes ‘Implement new approaches to increase access to immigration support and advice’.
But … as we enter into a hoped for recovery period – what we don’t need is an additional hurdle to climb!
A hurdle that will potentially double the number of our residents with NRPF and one that will amplify our health inequalities by targeting some of our most vulnerable residents – those who are digitally excluded, who work in the cash economy and are easily exploited in so many ways for example.
And this is precisely what EUSS potentially represents for our borough.
Fortunately, the pandemic has taught the borough that we must identify the big issues of the day and come together as a whole system – of the council, voluntary and faith sectors, and health partners – to tackle them.
Siloed working belongs to the pre pandemic world and collaboration is easily the most effective way forward!
In this spirt the Council extensively consulted with the Roma Support Group and have commissioned a VCS consortium to co-design a realistic plan in the lead in period to the 30 June 2021 deadline to:
- Build awareness of the issue for ‘at risk’ residents;
- Design and implement a series of actions to pragmatically support a range of ‘at risk’ residents to complete their applications;
- Make recommendations for actions post 30th June 2021 to address;
- Suggestions of support for those residents navigating the new landscape for who did not apply on time;
- A separate piece about communicating the benefits of the new status to successful applicants.
The consortium, led by the Renewal Programme has moved at an amazing pace and is now up and running. Its super proactive and pragmatic – delivering pop up hubs in schools and places of worship and any other opportunities such as ESOL classes and rough sleeping settings, piggy backing onto existing community activity to support residents to get straight forward applications over the line and identify more complex cases for referral to immigration specialist organisations.
This blog is written on the assumptions that the Migrant Community Action Plan will help build our immigration support and advice capacity and that we can work in a joined up systems way to make the best of our borough resources. The EUSS provides a timely challenge for our borough. Although the consortium has a daunting challenge and we will reassemble to reflect on progress on this issue post the deadline – the assumptions are holding firm!