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Institute for Public Policy Research finds ‘no recourse to public funds’ system is no longer fit for purpose and needs to be reformed


New report provides overview of how NRPF impacts everyday lives of people subject to immigration control

Date of Publication:
06 September 2021

Institute for Public Policy Research finds ‘no recourse to public funds’ system is no longer fit for purpose and needs to be reformed

06 September 2021

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) on Friday released a new report that makes the case for reforming the 'no recourse to public funds' (NRPF) policy.

IPPR logoThe 30-page report can be downloaded here. It provides an overview of the NRPF policy and how it impacts the everyday lives of people who are subject to immigration control.

As the report notes, many people in the UK are subject to the NRPF condition because of their immigration status, which means they are barred from accessing mainstream benefits.

IPPR summarises the benefits that are denied to migrants with NRPF: "People with NRPF are by definition unable to access public funds. These comprise a range of benefits and other forms of support, including (but not limited to) universal credit, attendance allowance, carer's allowance, child benefit, council tax benefit, council tax reduction, disability living allowance, local welfare funds, personal independence payment, severe disablement allowance, and state pension credit (Home Office 2021a). People with NRPF are also prohibited from accessing housing accommodation and homelessness assistance (ibid). The NRPF condition therefore largely excludes individuals from the UK's social safety net."

According to IPPR, there is no official figure of the number of people with NRPF. However, recent Home Office data on people with valid leave to remain other than settlement would indicate that approximately 1.3 million people in the UK have NRPF as a condition of their leave.

IPPR finds in its report that the current NRPF system is no longer fit for purpose and is in clear need of reform.

The report states: "[T]he current NRPF policy has put many individuals and families at a high risk of poverty and destitution. At the same time, it has shifted the cost of providing support from central to local government, which is often required to step in at the point of crisis to fulfil its statutory duties. The pandemic has exacerbated these challenges, placing greater pressures on local authorities and creating a surge in applications to lift the NRPF condition from people facing destitution or other severe financial difficulties."

The report makes three key recommendations for reforming the system.

First, it recommends that the Government should review the list of public funds and consult on how it could be amended. For example, IPPR says benefits which are intended to support children – including child benefit and child tax credit – should be excluded from the definition of public funds.

Secondly, the report calls for a relaxation of the rules under which the NRPF condition can be lifted for people in need of support. IPPR explained: "There are currently two main pathways for individuals to lift their NRPF condition: people on the '10-year' route may be able to apply for a change of conditions or people on a partner visa whose relationship has broken down due to domestic violence may be able to apply for the destitution domestic violence (DDV) concession … We therefore propose that the government should extend the change of conditions policy and DDV concession to all people with leave to remain with NRPF, regardless of their visa type. This would help to simplify the current rules and ensure that more people at risk of destitution are able to lift their NRPF condition."

Thirdly, the report proposes that central government should support local authorities with large NRPF populations through direct and targeted funding. In addition, IPPR calls on the Government to provide greater clarity on the legal powers and duties which councils in England have to support those with NRPF.

In an important further recommendation, IPPR also expresses its concern over the Nationality and Borders Bill's proposals to expand NRPF to refugees who enter the UK without permission.

IPPR said: "[W]e recommend against the government's plans – as set out in the nationality and borders bill and the new plan for immigration – to extend the NRPF condition to some refugees. This cohort is by definition highly vulnerable: people who originally came to the UK for asylum reasons are more likely to be on lower incomes than the UK born and are significantly more likely to report long-term health conditions … Subjecting a subset of refugees to the NRPF condition is likely to put many in this group at risk of destitution, placing further pressures on local authorities and emergency services. We therefore advise that rights to public funds are retained for all refugees, regardless of the route they have taken to come to the UK."

In response to the report, a Home Office spokesperson told the i newspaper: "The provision of No Recourse to Public Funds has been upheld by successive governments, and maintains that those coming to the UK should do so on a basis that prevents burdens on the taxpayer. People with leave under certain routes – including on the Hong Kong British National (Overseas) route – can already apply, free of charge, to have No Recourse to Public Funds conditions lifted if they are at risk of destitution. There are also safeguards in place to ensure vulnerable migrants who are destitute and have community care needs, including issues relating to human rights or the wellbeing of children, can receive support."

Incidentally, the Home Office on 26 August updated its guidance on migrants' access to public funds. The document, available here, provides guidance to Home Office caseworkers and immigration officers about restrictions on migrant access to public funds.