Health boss sets out to destroy the myth that migrant workers queue jump social housing

By John Elworthy IT S a myth that migrant workers into Cambridgeshire jump queues and take over local authority housing lists, says a new study by the county s director of public health. Dr Liz Robin says only a small proportion of social housing is all

By John Elworthy

IT'S a myth that migrant workers into Cambridgeshire jump queues and take over local authority housing lists, says a new study by the county's director of public health.

Dr Liz Robin says only a small proportion of social housing is allocated to foreign nationals.

"A consequence of this is that around 90 per cent of people who arrived in the UK in the last two years are in the private rental sector," she says.


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Although people from countries within Europe may be eligible for social housing in some circumstances, for example if they are working, Dr Robin maintains there is no special treatment given to them.

"European Economic Area nationals' right to live in the UK are based on an expectation that they should be economically active or self sufficient and not place a burden on UK social assurance," says Dr Robin.

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"In order to qualify foreign nationals must not only be eligible but must also have sufficient priority under the local authority's allocation scheme. Their priority is considered on the same basis as all other applicants."

Dr Robin says the high cost of housing and a shortage of affordable housing is a key issue for migrants in Cambridgeshire, a county where the average house price is 6.4 times greater than average earnings.

A major study of migrant workers has been prepared by Dr Robin and will be presented to Cambridgeshire County Council Cabinet next week.

Dr Robin says of the 30,000 migrants attracted to the county since 2001, it is estimated that around 13,000 have remained for over a year, bringing the total number of residents in the county born abroad to 61,500.

Other issues identified in her findings show that over 80 languages are now spoken in Cambridgeshire schools, with increasing numbers of Portuguese and Polish speakers in Fenland and East Cambridgeshire and Tagalog and Malayalam speakers in areas around the hospitals.

"Although the impact of migrant workers has many positives, large social changes can occur which can alter community cohesion," says Dr Robin.

"There is little evidence of the increase in the number of migrants generally leading to problems with community safety or cohesion but the perception of the indigenous community in some areas can be negative."

Among recommendations being put forward is better access for migrants to health services, more English language courses, more affordable housing, better data collection, and increased awareness of those migrants caught in the poverty trap. Employers, Dr Robin believes, should be targeted to promote healthy working conditions for migrants.

Her report has been compiled as part of a joint strategic needs assessment for both migrant workers and homeless people.

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