No Recourse to Public Funds – Help is at hand
Jude Hawes, Specialist Services & Equalities Team Manager
Staffordshire North & Stoke on Trent Citizens Advice Bureau
During the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020 and the “Everyone In” Initiative, local homelessness services ‘discovered’ a significant number of homeless migrants who were described as having ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ (NRPF)
So, what is NRPF?
Where a migrant’s immigration status includes the NRPF bar, it means that they cannot access many resources usually provided by the state. They are prevented from accessing Public Funds such as welfare benefits, local authority housing, and free school meals for example. If they lose their job or the support of their sponsor/spouse/family they are often at risk of destitution and homelessness.
The cases most frequently seen at Citizens Advice Staffordshire North and Stoke (CASNS) are women in the UK on ‘spouse’ visas who experience domestic abuse; people who entered the UK to work but then lost their job; or migrants with leave to remain in the UK on human rights grounds, for example as the parent of a British child. In almost all these cases their permission to remain in the UK carries a condition of having ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ (NRPF).
Often these migrants are forced to remain in abusive relationships, or find work/accommodation that involves financial or sexual exploitation. They risk being trafficked or forced into domestic or other forms of slavery. Some are more fortunate and are supported by the kindness of friends or strangers. However this is a fragile and insecure existence, especially for those who have children.
The Impact of the Pandemic has been to increase the vulnerability of these migrants. Many have lost their jobs and the housing that accompanied that work, or can no longer pay their rent. Others were made homeless by people who had initially allowed them to sofa-surf, or by the need to flee their family home due to unbearable domestic abuse. Many became destitute and street homeless.
For the homelessness agencies and frontline staff coming across these people during the ‘Everyone In’ initiative, helping them was extremely difficult as they didn’t have entitlement to the usual sources of support. Further, the navigation of often complex immigration law is mostly outside their knowledge and skills
Help is at Hand: CASNS has a specialist Immigration Team based in our Hanley office who have helped people with NRPF for many years and, since 2018, we have secured some small grants to enable us to develop our No Recourse Project.
Initially we were funded to work solely with women. Between July 2018 and December 2019 that project, ‘Keeping Women Safe’, assisted around 45 women (65% of whom had children) to make applications to the Home Office to remove the NRPF restriction and regularise their immigration status. We are very proud to have had a 100% success rate on lifting the NRPF condition.
CASNS has secured funding for this work during the pandemic and we are currently able to advise and assist both men and women who have the NRPF restriction. It is our aim to secure longer-term funding to ensure that continued specialist legal support is available to them in the city.
What help can we provide?
- Legal advice on the options available to migrants with the NRPF restriction;
- Immigration legal advice and assistance to lift the NRPF bar;
- Immigration legal advice and assistance to access the Destitution Domestic Violence Concession (DDVC);
- Immigration legal advice and assistance to make applications for, or extend, leave to remain in the UK;
- Assistance to apply for fee waivers for applications for further leave – which can save a single destitute applicant over £2500 in fees;
- Assistance to make asylum applications and access asylum support (financial and housing);
- Assistance to access interim support/housing – from Social Services, refuges, hardship funds etc;
- Assistance to obtain NINOs, make benefit claims or challenge refusals of benefits.
This advice is very specialist and the giving of immigration advice and assistance is regulated by the Office of Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC).
Unlike most other areas of advice, it is a criminal offence for anyone not registered with and accredited by the OISC to provide immigration advice to any individual.
CASNS is the only OISC registered agency in North Staffordshire. Our advisers are accredited and our work is audited not only by the OISC, but also under the Specialist Quality Mark.
So, please do use our service. You can contact CASNS No Recourse project by contacting Heidi Latala on 01782 201234 or [email protected]