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Is no recourse to public funds (NRPF) amended?

A high court has ruled on the legality of a long standing immigration policy, known as NRPF.

Background

No recourse to public funds (NRPF) is a condition imposed on persons due to their immigration status by virtue of Section 115 Immigration and Asylum Act 1999. It restricts such persons from accessing public funds when they may ‘generally’ be entitled to. This policy only affected migrants on non-settlement route (temporary residence) including students, workers, and visitors. The home office reserves the power to widen or narrow the categories of migrants they impose the NRPF.

The 2012 “Hostile Environment” policy introduced by Theresa May’s administration, extended the NRPF condition to include migrant’s on a settlement (permanent resident) route. Now Spousal visa and limited leave granted under family or private life rules are all prohibited by the home office from accessing the over 22 public allowances and benefits even where they will normally qualify. It is this new development that has received a lot of public backlash in recent times.

A Research conducted by The Unity Project formed part of the case. It found that, the NRPF extension has the disproportionate impact on women, low-income families, disabled people, and black and minority ethnic (BAME) children who are settling in the United Kingdom by reason of their family or private life. This disproportionality has the tendency of creating a vicious cycle of poverty and inequality, with migrant children suffering the most. It stated further that, the duty placed on local authorities under section 17 of the Children Act 1989 to safeguard and promote the welfare of children ‘in need’ in their area did not really affect these families. It indicated that some migrant children are wrongly refused this option due to poor interpretation of NRPF. In some cases the local authorities threatens to take custody of these children due to poor care. Thus the particular impact of Corona Virus on destitute NRPF families is a public treat.

Court Case R (W, A CHILD BY HIS LITIGATION FRIEND J) v SSHD

On 7th May Lord Justice Bean delivered a landmark judgement in deciding whether or not the NRPF policy is in fact a breach of the Article 3 rights, and if so what remedies were necessary.

In this case, the applicant, an 8 year old British (W) with his immigrant mother had been denied access to majority of the essential welfare support system and even extends to the child’s access to free school meals. He was living in extreme poverty, as his single mother’s wages as a career has not been enough to cater of both of them and their living necessities without the required support from the state.  Under the Home office (HO) guidelines, the NRPF restriction applies until one is considered destitute or offer Compelling or Exceptional reasons based on the welfare of a child or financial needs before they could make a ‘Change of Conditions’ application for the HO to lift this burden.  The applicant argued argued 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.

The court heard that, the young Brit have been living his entire life in poverty; he moved schools 5 times due to lack of a stable accommodation, his mother was in severe debts and both had been homeless because it had been illegal under the NRPF policy for them to receive the same state support that helps other low-earning parents to survive, including child and housing benefits, or tax credits. The court further heard that W’s mother’s application for ‘Change of Condition’ had been rejected by the Home Office despite the genuine evidence of destitution presented. It was argued that the NRPF policy is causing immeasurable, irreversible damage to so many people, but particularly children like the boy who brought this legal challenge.

The court heard that, the young Brit have been living his entire life in poverty; he moved schools 5 times due to lack of a stable accommodation, his mother was in severe debts and both had been homeless because it had been illegal under the NRPF policy for them to receive the same state support that helps other low-earning parents to survive, including child and housing benefits, or tax credits. The court further heard that W’s mother’s application for ‘Change of Condition’ had been rejected by the Home Office despite the genuine evidence of destitution presented. It was argued that the NRPF policy is causing immeasurable, irreversible damage to so many people, but particularly children like the boy who brought this legal challenge.

Decision

In passing Judgement, the judge held that, the policy 'as presently formulated' breached Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits inhuman and degrading treatment. It was indicated that the HO was required to amend its policies, to make clear to caseworkers the circumstances in which they are obliged not to impose a condition of “no recourse to public funds”, or to lift such a condition if it has already been imposed, in the case of a person who is not currently destitute but will imminently become so without access to public funds. Judge Bean recognised that families such as W’s must be given access to the welfare safety net to prevent them from falling into destitution.

Impact

This decision has been widely welcomed by various organisations, immigration advocates and human rights activists. It is expected to provide a lifeline to people unable to work during the Covid-19 pandemic who are blocked from accessing essential state support. This decision will however not affect the ability of the Secretary of State to continue to make grants of leave to remain in the United Kingdom subject to a condition of "no recourse to public funds" in the normal run of cases.

At the meantime, the judgement implies that, there is no need wait to be in destitution or provide evidence of destitution to get NRPF sanctions lifted, the requirement is to prove that without recourse to public funds, one may be destitute. The Home office have now amended NRPF to include people at risk of becoming destitute. e Office needs to take to comply with the judges’ ruling. At the meantime, the judgement implies that, there is no need wait to be in destitution or provide evidence of destitution to get NRPF sanctions lifted, the requirement is to prove that without recourse to public funds, one may be destitute. You can Apply online if you already have leave granted on the basis of your family or private life and your financial circumstances change.

Disclaimer: No material or information provided on this website should be construed as legal advice. Readers should always seek appropriate professional advice to resolve their Legal Matters.
About the Author
Clement Mensah

  Clement Mensah

Clement is an Associate handling Immigration, Wills and Estate Planning matters with a strong legal academic background having completed BSc in Land Economy and pursuing Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) from Nottingham Law School.

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