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Published 23 Sep 2020

Councils achieve cost savings despite rising referrals and challenges obtaining immigration outcomes

Partnership working with the Home Office achieves a reduction in spend of £118,000 per week but a quarter of NRPF households require support for more than 3 years.

We have published data on the number of households with no recourse to public funds that requested support from 66 councils in England and Scotland during the financial year April 2019 to March 2020, and the collective costs to those councils of providing accommodation and financial support when social services’ duties are engaged, in the NRPF Connect annual data report for 2019-2020 (PDF).

At the end of March 2020, 2450 households were supported at an annual cost of £44 million, with accommodation and financial support costing on average £17,887 per year for a household.

Although councils saw an overall reduction in spend of £118,000 per week (12% over the year) due to fewer households receiving support than at the start of the year, the number of requests for support increased by 11% from the previous year and the average number of days a household received support remains high, at just over 2 years. The high average for days on support per-household can partly be attributed to a significant proportion (27%) of non-European Economic Area (EEA) national households being supported for over 1000 days due to longstanding unresolved immigration matters. It is a concern that the average time these households have been supported for is 5 years and 4 months. 

With 77% of households exiting support due to a grant of leave to remain, enabling them to access mainstream benefits and/or employment, case resolution will usually be achieved through people making successful immigration claims, rather than due to other outcomes, such as return to country of origin. The proportion of family households leaving social services support due to a grant of leave to remain is 82% and the overall reduction in caseloads is primarily driven by successes in resolving cases involving families.  

There are some marked differences between households involving adults with care needs and family households, with the average time on support at 1055 days for adults and 629 days for families, and the average annual cost of providing accommodation and financial support at £18,596 for adults and £15,592 for families. This reflects the challenges councils face in assisting adults with additional needs to achieve an expedient pathway out of their situation of destitution and the higher costs involved of delivering support that also meets a person's care needs. 

The main group of people supported by councils continues to be those without any current immigration permission. Last year saw a small increase in the proportion of households being supported where the main applicant has EEA nationality, or is exercising a European residence right,  from 9% at year-end in 2018-2019 to 13% in 2019-20. 

The positive outcomes for households that are receiving support and the reduction in overall costs demonstrates that by working in partnership with the Home Office, councils can help people to obtain sustainable outcomes whist reducing expenditure and manage cases efficiently. Providing evidence to the Home Office of the council’s intervention through NRPF Connect, can, for example, help ensure that the correct condition code (i.e. recourse or no recourse to public funds) is applied when leave to remain is granted or that the Council will benefit from the efforts of Home Office casework teams to resolve longstanding cases. It is important for councils to be able to confirm a person’s current immigration status, which can change, in order to be able to assist a person to access immigration advice when this is required.

However, despite the efficiencies and cost-reductions being achieved, councils must still invest in considerable staff time to manage ‘safety net’ services. Councils without specialist teams will need to ensure that staff supporting no recourse to public funds households have the necessary expertise to undertake needs assessments and identify appropriate exit pathways. These efforts will inevitably need to continue going forwards whilst people remain subject to the no recourse to public funds condition or are otherwise excluded from mainstream benefits, and whilst immigration and appeal processes continue to be complex and, at times, lengthy. 

An increase in requests for support, including from people with EEA nationality, indicate that this will remain a challenging area of work for local government, at a time when councils have also accommodated rough sleepers with no recourse to public funds through ‘everyone in’ and continue to work hard to protect the public health of all residents and respond to the economic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

We will continue to use the data to inform our policy work, raising the need for financial reimbursement for local government and evidencing the policy changes that are required to reduce homelessness, destitution, and cost-shunts to councils. Maintaining the quality and accuracy of information provided over NRPF Connect and looking for new ways to progress supported cases will be central to Home Office and local authority efforts to reduce the £44 million being spent on accommodation and subsistence support, which has only been achieved through the hard work and commitment of the staff already using the system. By joining NRPF Connect, councils can be part of this effort to reduce spend and deliver quality services for residents with no recourse to public funds. For more information, please get in touch