Homelessness charity St Mungo’s has criticised an Observer article, which accused the charity of helping the Home Office to deport rough sleepers.
The Observer piece, published on Sunday, with the headline: “Secret plan to use charities to help deport rough sleepers”.
It says that according to leaked emails, St Mungo’s met the Home Office to discuss allowing outreach workers to enter a homeless person’s data into the government’s Rough Sleeper Support Service (RSSS) programme without their consent.
Human rights charity Liberty is quoted in the article opposing charities’ involvement in the RSSS programme, which it says is the latest manifestation of the Home Office’s “hostile environment” policy and could result in the deportation of rough sleepers.
Dominic Williamson, executive director of strategy and policy at St Mungo’s, wrote a letter to the editor of the Observer, accusing it of publishing “a misleading impression of our role in relation to the Home Office’s proposed Rough Sleeping Support Service”.
Williamson rejects the suggestion that the charity would support allowing outreach workers to use homeless people’s data without their consent.
He said: “The minutes from the meetings clearly demonstrate that our position has always been that people cannot be referred to the service unless they have first received advice and have also given their consent.
“We are disappointed that the Observer has called this ‘secret’ and ‘clandestine’.
The RSSS was first discussed at a meeting of the government’s Rough Sleeping Advisory Panel in November last year, which includes a wide range of charities.
“Government departments, the GLA and representatives from a range of statutory bodies, including local authorities, have all been involved in these discussions. The RSSS is mentioned in the published Rough Sleeping Strategy Delivery Plan.”
Last year, an Information Commissioner's Office report said St Mungo's had shared homeless people's data with the Home Office without consent but that it had not breached data rules because it was in the public interest.
The Guardian has previously published articles accusing St Mungo's of collaborating with the government on deportations.