Migration issue: ‘Ballymena Daily’ reveals the contents of a fact sheet produced following a multi-agency meeting

Ballymena Town Hall
Ballymena Town Hall

With debate at fever-pitch in Ballymena at the moment regarding migrants coming to live in the area, a meeting has been held in the town with input from a number of statutory agencies.

Now, ‘Ballymena Daily’ can reveal the contents of a fact sheet which has been produced following the meeting.

It reads as follows:

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‘Background

Following on from a Multi-Agency meeting with political representatives regarding local community concerns, this first factsheet has been developed in partnership with statutory agencies. It provides various information and reminds every one of the mechanisms through which any future concerns from the community or politicians can be reported and investigated.

Social media provides a forum for people to express their views, whether positive or negative. The misuse of social media can cause significant reputational damage, negative impact and increased tensions. If the PSNI consider a message or post to be potentially criminal/racist they will take appropriate action.

As people from diverse nationalities, cultures and ethnic backgrounds make their home here and integrate with the existing community, community leaders need to have the facts around any issues real or perceived so these can be identified and addressed and that tensions can be resolved.

Below are the facts regarding:

Migration and Travel

The UK had imposed restrictions on the access to labour markets of A2 (Bulgaria and Romania) citizens in 2007. These restrictions were lifted in January 2014, when citizens of these countries gained the same rights as all other EU citizens to live and work in any country under the reciprocal arrangements within the European Union.

It has not been possible to accurately determine the number of new people coming to live in Ballymena over the past year. The Roma community may identify as Roma or the country from which they have migrated from, be that Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary etc.

Recruitment

The recruitment agencies have confirmed they are only advertising jobs in Ballymena within Northern Ireland.

This is via Facebook, Buy & Sell websites, local job boards, stands in the local shopping centres and door-to-door residential leaflet drops. There is no recruitment campaign outside of NI.

Within the manufacturing industry in Ballymena, there is a shortage of labour with the number of job vacancies vastly outnumbering the number of applicants.

The recruitment agencies are regulated by the Department of Environment and are licensed to supply workers into the Agri- Food Industry.

Failure to comply would result in the agencies losing their operating licenses. The agencies also link in with the UK Border Control.

The agencies complies weekly reports, which will identify any address with more than six workers registered to it. If there are more than six the agency will investigate this

When an applicant registers with the recruitment agency to apply for a job the process is the same regardless of nationality:

Provide evidence of Right to Work. The documents checked where relevant and any concerns directed to the Home Office.

Pass an assessment test (the agency conduct this on behalf of the employer)

Attend and pass a six hour induction, and only at this point can a be job offered.

The recruitment agencies track the length of employment and have advised that aside from seasonal work generally people remain in long-term employment.

The healthcare industry is the only sector that requires pre-employment health screening. Applicants for the food industry are required by the agency to complete a pre-employment medical questionnaire.

Housing

Social Housing

The Housing Executive is committed to the principles of equality, openness and fairness and all applications are considered equally. All applicants must pass strict eligibility criteria before being placed on the waiting list for Social Housing in Northern Ireland. All allocations are made in accordance with the Rules of the Housing Selection Scheme and further eligibility checks are carried out prior to any offers being made. Our last quarterly figures show that of the 2,410 persons registered on the Waiting List for Mid & East Antrim Borough Council Area 5.07% are Persons from Abroad. Of the properties allocated in the preceding 12 months, 2.5% were allocated to Persons from Abroad.

Houses of Multiple Occupation

Powers for Houses of Multiple Occupation do not transfer to Councils until April 2019. Until then the responsibility lies with the NIHE.

If a landlord has a number of properties which are deemed as a House of Multiple Occupation (HMO), each of the properties in multiple occupation have to be registered

The Housing Executive is responsible for ensuring that HMOs meet a number of requirements in relation to the overall condition of the dwelling, and the number of people living in the dwelling. The Housing (NI) Order 1992, Article 76 deals with overcrowding in houses in multiple occupation.

A property is likely to be classed as a House in Multiple Occupation if:

there are 3 or more people from 2 or more families living in it, e.g. a group of young professionals or students or a couple living with an unrelated friend or

it is a flat in a building which was originally one dwelling house.

The following categories are exempt from registration:

any HMO which is occupied by persons who comprise no more than two families

any HMO which is occupied by no more than two persons in addition to the owner (or owners) and members of the family (or families) of owner(s).

If the house has been registered with NIHE then the landlord should be able to show a HMO registration certificate. This means that at the time of registration that the property complied with the Fitness for Human Habitation Standard, and the HMO Amenity and Fire standards.

The HMO certificate also imposes certain conditions:

To ensure that the property is managed to a proper standard; and

To ensure the property continues to meet the standard to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of the tenants; and

Specifies the maximum number of people allowed to share the house.

There are two separate standards relating to the space available and a dwelling is deemed overcrowded when the number of persons sleeping in the dwelling is such as to contravene the Room Standard or the Space Standard.

Room Standard – The room standard is contravened when the number of persons sleeping in a dwelling and the number of rooms available as sleeping accommodation is such that two persons of opposite sexes, over the age of 12, who are not living together as husband and wife must sleep in the same room. At this time, we have no reports of houses not being registered as HMOs that are not HMOs.

The Space Standard – The space standard is contravened when the number of persons sleeping in a dwelling is in excess of the permitted number, having regard to the number and floor area of the rooms of the dwelling available as sleeping accommodation.

For this purpose, no account shall be taken of a child under the age of one, and a child aged one or over but under twelve shall be reckoned as one-half of a unit.

Further Information is available through the Houses of Multiple Occupation Standards (2002), https://www.nihe.gov.uk/hmo_standards.pdf

Policing

Crime figures:

Crime figures in the Ballymena, Braid and Broughshane DEA areas of mid and East Antrim are: – For the period from 1st April to 21st September 2019, total crime is up 19%, which is a total of 299 crimes. In the same period, the outcome rate is 33% (an increase of 4 percentage points) meaning someone is made amenable of a third of all crimes. Police investigate crime regardless of gender, ethnicity, religious beliefs or sexuality.

Immigration:

Responsibility for law enforcement around immigration lies with Border Force which sits within the Home Office. They secure the UK border by carrying out immigration and customs controls for people and goods entering the UK. Their website can be accessed here: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/border-force

Hate Crime:

Police continue to make it clear that hate crime, in any form, will not be tolerated. We work with our partners across the public, private and voluntary sectors to provide reassurance and support to victims and promote tolerance and respect for all cultures and identities.

A hate crime or incident will be recorded where it is perceived that the perpetrator’s hostility or prejudice against any person or property is on the grounds of the victim’s ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, political opinion or disability. The impact of hate crime can be long lasting and far-reaching, going beyond the victim’s own experience and increasing fear in the wider community.

Reporting will help police tackle hate crime. The information you provide is important and will enable us to identify areas of concern, patterns of behaviour, and may assist in identifying and prosecuting offenders.

Stop and search:

We use stop and search powers to help protect communities throughout Northern Ireland. These powers are vital in helping us to prevent, detect and investigate crime.

A police officer can stop and search a person or vehicle under the PACE (NI) Order 1989 if they have reasonable grounds to suspect that they have prohibited or stolen articles. These grounds can only be gained through observing behaviour or other relevant factors. They cannot be made on stereotypical images or on specific age, racial or religious profile.

Providing reassurance:

Making sure that everyone feels safe is a priority for police and we are keen to work with our partners to reduce tensions and maintain a safe and peaceful community for all.

The public can expect to see increased visibility in the town centre and in our public spaces to provide reassurance to all who live, work and visit Ballymena and the wider Mid and East Antrim area.

We will continue to engage with all members of the community to address concerns, tackle criminality and provide reassurance. All this will be done in partnership with others to ensure social and other issues and concerns are addressed by the appropriate agency.

Education

The Education Authority’s (EA) Intercultural Education Service (IES) is a regional service that provides advice, guidance and focused support to schools, families and other educational support services to help meet the additional educational needs of pupils from target communities: Travellers; Newcomers*; Asylum-Seekers; Refugees and Roma.

Our aim is;

“To give our children and young people the best start in life and to provide a high quality education for every child”

The IES provides;

1 A help-desk available from Monday to Friday for immediate answers to questions: HELPDESK NUMBER: 02894482210.

2. Support for schools who are working with Newcomer pupils for the first time or who require immediate support due to an urgent issue.

3. On-going school based support for schools wishing to access more in-depth support and training for staff on intercultural awareness, assessment and planning and curriculum access.

4. Interpreting services to help teachers communicate with Newcomer families.

5. On-line courses for teachers developed by IES to support teachers and other staff in mainstream classrooms. They are available through Queen’s University, School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work, Open Learning Programme.

6. Translated documents and other resources for schools to support intercultural awareness, welcome and communication with home, assessment and planning and curriculum access.

As part of the Children & Young People’s Services (CYPS) directorate, the IES works closely with other CYPS services i.e Education Welfare Service and Youth Service, as well as the School Development Service and key external partner agencies including Health and Social Care Trusts and District Councils.

The Education Authority are aware that there has been a number of enquiries made to a local school, and that the school indicated that they were at capacity. However as no formal application was made they have no way of allocating/placing these children in an alternative school.

Environmental Health and Waste

Environmental Health and Waste are aware of a number of areas where there have been issues in relation to disposal of household waste and have been targeting these areas in response.

From January 2017 to September 2018 the areas with the highest number of Fixed Penalty Notices issued for littering of fly tipping were:

Pentagon Retail Park = 16

Larne Road Link = 14

Clarence Street = 11

Waveney Road = 5

Clonavon = 3

Galgorm Road = 3

The nationality of those issued with fixed penalty notices is not recorded.

Council’s Environmental Health and Waste Departments have been working closely within the community over the last few months to ensure there is awareness and access to waste and recycling information.

This has included providing correspondence in alternative languages and hand delivering these to targeted areas, and speaking to some landlords within these areas. These areas included:

Bridge Street

Clarence Street

Clonavon Road

Clonavon Terrace

Cullybackey Road

Galgorm Street

Kinhilt Street

North Street

Prospect Place

Waveney Avenue

Waveney Road

In addition, there has been active education through the Council’s waste webpages, the recent provision of a Household Recycling Centre leaflet (translated into Romanian, Slovakian, Bulgarian and Polish) and education on how to use the recycling centres when residents arrive on site, in partnership with the Inter Ethnic Forum.

Council are currently translating the Home Recycling Advice leaflet into the same four languages and will be in a position to distribute these in early October 2018.

This will provide residents with information on what types of waste and recycling is accepted/not accepted into bin facilities, and details instructions on the use of their own bins, in line with Council policy.

Clothing bins

There have been no reports of theft from clothing bins regarding the Roma community.

Animals

There has been no reports of animals being butchered in private homes or fly tipped thereafter.

Benefits and Entitlements

Where a person is no longer in work because their contract has terminated, they may be eligible to apply for certain benefit.

To access Jobseeker’s Allowance, claimants apply through their local Jobs & Benefits office, who will arrange for an appointment to gather the appropriate information. Once this has been gathered, the information in sent to the Benefit Processing Centre for a Decision Maker to assess the information and decide on the claimant’s eligibility for an award of benefit.

There are different qualifying criteria for different benefits. The main criteria for receipt of Jobseeker’s Allowance are:

be available for work, capable of work and actively seeking work

be aged 18 or over but below State Pension age

work less than 16 hours per week on average, depending on the amount of your wage

not be in certain types of education

not receive certain other benefits

live in Northern Ireland

Please see NI Direct link below which provides more information on Jobseeker’s Allowance and Universal Credit

https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/jobseekers-allowance

https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/universal-credit

For further information on other benefit entitlements, please see appropriate page on NI Direct website.

In respect of EEA citizens who are in receipt of Jobseeker’s Allowance, after they have been in receipt for 91 days, an additional assessment is conducted on whether the individual has a genuine prospect of work. If the individual cannot provide compelling evidence, then their claim may be closed for Jobseeker’s allowance.

Health

Healthcare is free of charge to people who are resident in the UK. People who do not usually live in the UK are not automatically entitled to use the NHS free of charge. Residency is therefore the main qualifying criterion applicable.

Any patient attending the Trust who cannot establish that they have permanently lived in Northern Ireland for at least 12 months or can demonstrate that they are planning to permanently settle are not entitled to hospital treatment whether they are registered with a GP or not.

Emergency Care

Generally, treatment given in an Emergency Department (ED) for a condition that requires immediate medical assessment will be exempt from charges whether, or not the patient is resident in the UK. However, treatment beyond the Emergency Department may be chargeable.

Screening

The NHSCT has a process in place to offer TB screening to all notified new entrants from high incidence TB countries. In 2016, the Northern Health and Social Care Trust had the lowest level of TB cases at 2.4 per 100,000 population (PHA)

Assessing Need and Risk (Safeguarding)

The Regional Assessment framework, (UNOCINI, DHSSPS 2011), governs the task of assessing need and risk within the Northern Health and Social Care Trust. Each of the families coming to the attention of the Trust is assessed under this framework in a manner, which is sensitive to issues associated with ethnicity. The thresholds underpinning decision-making are applied uniformly in respect of children and their families irrespective of the ethnic origin of that family.’

The factsheet provided the following contact details:

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