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What is the issue?

Local government plays an essential role by providing accommodation and financial support to people with no recourse to public funds, who are at risk of homelessness and are unable to access mainstream benefits due to their immigration status. This support is provided when social services’ duties are engaged to safeguard the welfare of children and adults with care needs.

Central government does not fund councils for providing social services’ support to people with no recourse to public funds, which costs local government at least £44 million/ year. In the majority of cases (77%), support remains ongoing until people obtain leave to remain with recourse to public funds to enable a household transfer to mainstream benefits and housing services. For families, this will be the exit pathway for 82% of households. Across all households, the average time support is provided for is 773 days and 27% of households with unresolved immigration matters have been supported for over 1000 days. Although overall costs to councils have reduced during the financial year 2019-20, from £47.5 million at the end of 2018-19, in the absence of financial reimbursement from central government, more could be done to ensure that social services’ intervention is only ever required as a short term safety-net.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, councils have also accommodated people with no recourse to public funds who were rough sleeping as part of the public health response to implement the Government’s ‘everyone in’ policy. Although funding has been provided to councils to address Covid-19 related service pressures, this has been widely reported by councils to be insufficient to cover all costs incurred in meeting the needs of their communities during the pandemic. Longer-term support is likely to be needed for many of those accommodated under ‘everyone in’ as ‘step-down’ pathways for people with no recourse to public funds cannot be achieved quickly. It is also expected that there will be a rise in need for social services’ support throughout the forthcoming months as the economic impacts of the pandemic continue to be felt.

In 2019, the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee inquiry into children’s services funding recommended that the Government should provide funding to councils proportionate to the number of children within families that they support who have no recourse to public funds, and review its relevant immigration policies and processes by December 2019 to consider where delays in the resolution of local authority-supported cases can be reduced. However, the Government response confirmed that councils would not be financially reimbursed.

Our calls, along with those made by others in the local government sector, for immigration policy change, such as the suspension of the 'no recourse to public funds' (NRPF) condition and specific funding for providing support to people with no recourse to public funds during the Covid-19 pandemic, have not resulted in the required policy changes. 

What needs to change

Recommendations for the Government:

  • To undertake a one-off case resolution exercise to grant leave to remain with recourse to public funds to individuals and families receiving social services’ support.
  • Provide financial reimbursement to councils for supporting households with no recourse to public funds.
  • To review all immigration policies that give rise to homelessness and child poverty, or that impede the resolution of immigration claims made by households supported by social services, with a view to making the following changes:
    • Reinstating legal aid for immigration matters
    • Suspension of the NRPF condition
    • Reducing fees for immigration and citizenship applications
    • Processing asylum support applications expediently
    • Extending eligibility for benefits to all European Economic Area (EEA) nationals with pre-settled status

What we have done

As well as working with local government partners to advocate for policy change, we also support councils practically by producing information and best practice guidance. We also operate the NRPF Connect database to assist the local government and Home Office partnership that must exist if cases are to be resolved expediently.

Using the database offers a council a means to record the households it is financially supporting and to progress cases with the Home Office, whilst also contributing to the only national evidence-base for accommodation and financial support costs incurred as a result of residents being subject to the NRPF condition.

By ensuring their caseloads and costs are accurately recorded on NRPF Connect, councils can benefit from effective partnership working with the Home Office and support the advocacy for financial reimbursement that we undertake on behalf of local government using this collective data.

Submissions

Documents relating to the Public Accounts Committee inquiry into immigration enforcement:

Documents relating to the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee (HCLG) inquiry into children’s services funding:

NRPF Network submissions made to other government consultations and inquiries: