THE WAIT TO access the social security safety net for parents settling legally in the UK should be halved to five years to help the many children who currently grow up in deprivation with no UK Government support, MPs say in a new report.
The report from the Work and Pensions Committee highlights the difficult circumstances faced by children from some families living and working legally in the UK who have fallen on hard times, particularly during the pandemic, and who have no recourse to public funds (NRPF) because of their immigration status.
Throughout its inquiry and by speaking to parents, the Committee heard how many such children – some British citizens – experience food poverty, homelessness or live in overcrowded housing as a result of their parents being unable to access support.
The Committee is calling on the Government to cut the time families with children applying for indefinite leave to remain are subject to NRPF from ten to five years and recommends that parents receive Child Benefit where their children are British citizens.
Following feedback from the Committee, the Government announced last month that it would permanently extend free school meal eligibility to children from all families with NRPF. The report urges Ministers to extend the two-year free childcare entitlement to such families.
Stephen Timms MP, Chair of the Committee, said: “We have been moved by harrowing tales of parents and children being forced onto the streets and facing struggles to afford food and necessities, shut off from the help open to others who, like them, live and work legally in the UK. The devastating impacts of having no recourse to public funds hit home even harder during the pandemic.
“The Government must halve to five years the maximum wait for access to public funds for parents on a route to settlement in the UK. Otherwise, many more young people living permanently in the UK will spend most of their childhood denied support which others take for granted, with all the negative impacts on development into adulthood that result.
“We do not know exactly how many children are impacted by NRPF, as the Government’s data is inadequate. We do know however that local councils support thousands of families with NRPF each year. Ministers should reclassify discretionary welfare payments, such as the Household Support Fund, so local authorities can be confident in supporting needy families with NRPF.”
Main findings and recommendations
Families with NRPF
- The levels of deprivation children in poverty endure as a result of their parents having NRPF should not be allowed to dominate any childhood. Parents with children should be given access to public funds after a maximum of five years
- The DfE should complete its consultation on extending the two-year childcare entitlement to more groups of children from families with NRPF within six months. Future childcare policies should ensure that childcare is not a barrier to work for NRPF families.
- Extending Child Benefit to all British children, irrespective of their parents’ immigration status, is both affordable and appropriate and the Government should do so as soon as possible.
- The Committee found it ‘shocking’ that the Government is unable to provide Parliament with an estimate of how many people are subject to NRPF. The Home Office must collect and publish data on the number of people with NRPF attached to their limited leave to remain in the UK.
- Under Section 17 of the Children’s Act 1989, local authorities have a duty to safeguard the welfare of a child in need from an NRPF household. Thousands of families are supported each year, with costs running into the tens of millions. The Government should undertake research to investigate whether it would be more cost effective to give families with NRPF earlier access to the welfare system.
- The Government should reclassify discretionary welfare payments so families with NRPF can access support such as the recently renewed Household Support Fund
The Committee’s investigation into how NRPF affects children is the second part of its wider inquiry into what more the Government could do to reduce the number of young people growing up in poverty. In September, the Committee published Children in poverty: Measurement and targets. Read that report here.
* Read Children in poverty: No recourse to public funds here.
* Source: Work and Pensions Committee