A NEW REPORT from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) reveals the number of people being blocked from vital social security support in the UK.
As the Nationality and Borders Bill threatens to expand the pool of people facing this ‘No recourse to public funds’ (NRPF) visa condition, the think tank calls for significant reform of the system and more support for local government services helping people in need.
Based on analysis of UK Home Office data, IPPR estimates that 1.31 million people have NRPF as a condition of their leave. Around three quarters are on study and work visas and around one fifth are on family visas.
The report highlights that some people have NRPF despite having been in the UK immigration system for a decade or more. Around 56,000 people who were issued an initial visa in 2010 at the latest still have NRPF as a condition of their leave – mostly on family and ‘other’ visas. No one in the UK should face losing everything just because of the conditions on their visa, according to the researchers.
The think tank warns that the pool of people with NRPF is soon expected to be expanded for a number of reasons:
- The new Nationality and Borders Bill will create a two-tier system for refugees, where asylum seekers who do not arrive in the UK ‘directly’ could be given a temporary status with the NRPF condition attached. This will potentially include Afghan refugees who were unable to escape on the evacuation flights, but are forced to reach the UK via unauthorised routes.
- EU citizens and family members who have not applied for the EU Settlement Scheme and have no other form of leave will have no legal permission to be in the UK.
- The new Hong Kong BN(O) (British National Overseasroute has the NRPF condition attached. The route has so far attracted nearly 65,000 applications in the first half of this year.
The report also reveals that at the start of the pandemic there was a more than six-fold increase in the number of people applying to have their visa conditions changed, suggesting many have been forced into difficult situations by the crisis. Those applying to lift their NRPF conditions were also significantly more likely to be women and young people.
During the pandemic, local authorities in England were asked to accommodate all residents, regardless of their immigration status, but this scheme is being wound down and the legal position is unclear. The report warns that local authorities are under severe financial pressure already and receive no additional funding for supporting people with NRPF, so will need further assistance.
The think tank maintains that NRPF should be suspended while coronavirus remains a major risk in the UK, but also calls for longer term practical reforms, including:
- Guaranteeing people with NRPF to access more forms of help, such as free school meals and local welfare assistance.
- Easing pathways for NRPF conditions to be lifted, in particular for those facing domestic violence and destitution. People should not be punished by having their path to settlement derailed if they apply to get their visa conditions changed.
- Increasing funding for local authorities with large populations of people with NRPF conditions and allowing local authorities to play a greater role in decision-making on change of conditions applications. Central government should also provide greater clarity on councils’ legal powers and duties to support those with NRPF.
Marley Morris, IPPR associate director for migration, trade and communities, said: “The pandemic has exposed how the current ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ system is broken. Many who lost their jobs in the first wave of the virus were left without any social safety net and faced destitution. The policy needs urgent reform.
“The government says that the NRPF condition is designed to save money and improve the integration of migrants. But as it stands the policy is doing neither. The current rules undermine integration by making lives more precarious and withhold national funds only to leave it to stretched and underfunded local authorities to pick up the pieces.
On the situation facing refugees from Afghanistan, he said: “With the British evacuation ending and the government urging those fleeing the Taliban to avoid Kabul airport and head to the border instead, their route to safety is clouded in serious uncertainty and confusion. The new Nationality and Borders Bill could potentially punish Afghans reaching the UK indirectly or through unauthorised routes. This would be utterly wrong and further highlights the injustice at the heart of the bill.”
Amreen Qureshi, IPPR researcher, said: “The government’s Nationality and Borders Bill will expand the No Recourse to Public Funds visa condition to even more potentially vulnerable people and put them at risk of destitution. Refugees fleeing persecution shouldn’t be abandoned when they need assistance, just because of how they may have arrived in the country.
“The government is failing to learn the lessons of Windrush and is ignoring the advice from previous Home Office reviews urging them to improve the inadequate monitoring of the racial impact of immigration policy. With minority ethnic communities and women already disproportionately affected by NRPF, this new bill risks further embedding racism and discrimination into Home Office decision making.”
* Read Locked out of a livelihood: The case for reforming ‘no recourse to public funds here.
* Source: IPPR