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When will a family be eligible?

A family with no recourse to public funds may be provided with accommodation and financial support by social services under section 17 of the Children Act 1989, when a child (under 18 years old) has been assessed by social services as being in need.

A child is highly likely to be found to be in need if they are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, or when their parents do not have sufficient resources to meet the family’s basic living needs.

When a family is referred to social services for support, a child in need assessment would need to be carried out in line with the statutory guidance. In England this is: Working together to safeguard children, published by the Department for Education. The child in need assessment will include an investigation into the family’s housing and financial circumstances, and must consider how these impact on the children in the household in order to reach a conclusion about whether the child is in need. Social services would also need to take into account any additional needs, such as a child's disability.

When a family is homeless and/or has no income available to meet their basic living needs, emergency support may be provided whilst assessments are being carried out.

An equivalent legal duty applies in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, under the following legislation

  • Section 37 of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014
  • Section 22 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995
  • Article 18 of the Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995

The Home Office is responsible for accommodating destitute families who are seeking asylum or who are appeal rights exhausted (ARE) and continue to qualify for section 95 asylum support. However, in some instances social services may provide accommodation and finance support whilst Home Office support is being applied for. Social services may also accommodate ARE asylum seeking families who only qualify for section 4 asylum support, as the Council can only refuse or withdraw support provided under section 17 of the Children Act when section 4 support is available and is sufficient to meet the child's needs. See our information about Home Office support

When a family requests support, social services will need to get information from the Home Office about the parent’s current immigration status in order to establish what support options are available to the family and whether an immigration-related exclusion to social services’ support applies. 

Immigration terms

Appeal rights exhausted (ARE)

The status of a person whose asylum or immigration claim has been refused when they have come to the end of the appeal process without success or have no further right of appeal. 

Asylum seeker

A person who has made a claim to the UK government for protection (asylum) under the United Nations Refugee Convention 1951 and is waiting for a decision from the Home Office or final decision from the appeal courts (following a refusal).