Comprehensive new report released as High Court hearing on NRPF begins
Children’s Society finds ‘no recourse to public funds’ leaves thousands of children growing up in long-term poverty
06 May 2020
The Children's Society today published a comprehensive new report looking at the impact of 'no recourse to public funds' (NRPF) conditions on families with dependent children.
The Children's Society explains: "This report is focused on the experiences of families with dependent children who have NRPF conditions on their leave to remain in the UK under the Family and Private Life Migration Rules, who are on the ten-year route to settlement. Our aim was to look at the lived experiences of families within this cohort to better understand the daily and long-term struggles they face both in terms of financial challenges as well as how living with NRPF has affected their children's welfare and their own well-being, and the strategies they use to cope with their circumstances."
The report looks at the policy and legal context of NPRF conditions, what evidence is already available about which children are most likely to be negatively affected by NRPF and how. A separate chapter outlines the findings from the Children's Society's interviews with families affected by NRPF conditions.
The report notes: "even in times of crisis, such as becoming unemployed, fleeing domestic violence, becoming ill or following the death of a family member, children and families who have NRPF cannot apply to access the vital safety net of the benefits system to get them back on their feet. The benefits system itself is already highly restricted and is means-tested and limited to those who need help the most. But if you are an individual or family with 'no recourse to public funds' you are prevented from the social security safety net altogether, regardless of your low income or need. This means you cannot access housing benefit, Child Benefit, Universal Credit, Free School Meals, Disability Living Allowance, Tax Credits, Local Welfare Assistance Schemes, and many other vital support provisions for those facing a financial crisis, disadvantage or with additional needs."
As a result, the Children's Society finds that NRPF and other immigration policies are leaving thousands of children growing up in long-term poverty, trapped in cycles of homelessness, destitution and mounting debt and segregated from their communities and peers.
"Punitive Home Office restrictions hit families on low income most severely and are compounded by other disadvantages such as having a family member with a disability, being a single parent or being an ethnic minority," it adds.
In concluding, the report states:
"Having NRPF and being on the ten-year route means that many of these families will have been living hand-to-mouth for years; experiencing cycles of homelessness, sofa-surfing and sleeping on floors with other families, or in cramped accommodation; with spiralling debt and deep in poverty. Many of the families we interviewed were headed by single mothers working in low-paid but essential jobs such as care workers and NHS staff, supporting their families without top-up benefits, free school meals, childcare support or disability living allowance even though some were caring for children with disabilities or additional needs. Even for those who are supported by local authorities, the support was still extremely low: several families we spoke to were surviving on under £3 per person per day. Many of the families we spoke to were already in debt from living on such low income and forced to borrow from friends and family or take out loans to pay for the extortionate and ever-increasing Home Office fees and Immigration Health Surcharge, which is again set to increase in October 2020. For some families this means paying around £10,000 every two and a half years. Having to consequently borrow or deplete whatever savings they might have, means being unable to save for their children's university education or to buy a stable home to secure their children's well-being and future.
"The impact of these experiences on parents and children was immense. Though many parents tried to shield their children from their financial struggles, the frequent moves, constant worry and stress, and having no money to spend made this impossible. Parents felt powerless in being able to protect their children but also unable to give them the attention they needed to learn and develop, especially where they had additional needs like autism. In two cases parents told us that they feared for their child's life and safety because of the living situation that they had had to endure as a result of having no recourse to public funds. In a number of cases parents said they had had to receive hospital treatment as a result of stress, anxiety, worry and exhaustion related to their situation."
The report makes a series of recommendations, including that the Home Office should not apply NRPF conditions to parents with leave to remain in the UK where they have children under 18 years old.
While the report was largely written before the Covid-19 crisis, the report does consider the impact of the pandemic and the Children's Society calls on the Government to suspend NRPF policies without further delay.
The publication of the Children's Society report came on the same day that the High Court began hearing a legal challenge over the imposition of NRPF on migrants who are on the ten-year route to settlement. The case is being brought by Deighton Pierce Glynn solicitors on behalf of a family affected by the policy and is supported by The Unity Project. Project 17 is intervening in the case.
In an article for the Justice Gap, Eve Dickson of Project 17 explained: "The claimant in the case argues that the Home Office's policy of applying the NRPF condition is discriminatory, and that it is incompatible with Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) because it forces people into destitution. While individuals with leave to remain can apply to the Home Office to have the NRPF condition lifted (this is known as a 'Change of Conditions' application), the claimant argues that this is an inadequate protection."
Adam Hundt of Deighton Pierce Glynn said: "For too long the Home Office has avoided scrutiny of its policy by preventing cases from coming before the Court. We have shown the Home Office the grotesque suffering its policy causes, but it is now clear that they simply do not care about the lives they are destroying. We hope that the Court will now finally act to ensure no further families suffer in this way."
On Tuesday, the Home Office responded to recent reports on NRPF in a fact sheet here.
The Home Office said: "There has been some reporting in the media recently of the Government's policy on no recourse to public funds (NRPF) in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
"This Government is committed to doing whatever it takes to support everyone through this crisis. We have brought forward numerous measures in response, many of which can be accessed by those with no recourse to public funds.
"We are committed to protecting vulnerable people and are confident that we have measures in place to support those who have no recourse to public funds at this time."
The Home Office says that NRPF has long been established as being in the public interest and it protects public funds.
"These measures have been developed over many years, by successive Governments. They are consistent with legislative frameworks operated by comparable countries. This position has been approved by Parliament in primary legislation, most recently in the Immigration Act 2014," the fact sheet adds.