On 15 February 2023, the Home Office’s No Recourse to Public Funds policy was found to be unlawful again. This is the 5th time that the policy has been found to be unlawful by the courts. See the media coverage of the case here.
What is No Recourse to Public Funds?
No Recourse to Public Funds (often shortened to NRPF) is an immigration condition which stops people from accessing benefits (also called ‘public funds’), such as homelessness assistance, and universal credit. The NRPF condition causes hardship to the people it affects. If you have children and are struggling with not being able to support your family because of an NRPF condition, have a look at Project 17’s resources, here.
It is estimated around 1.31 million people are affected by the NRPF condition. People who have limited leave to remain (this is a type of immigration status) on the basis of family or private life, such as the 10 year route to settlement, will have an NRPF condition placed on their visa, unless they can show that they are destitute, or at risk of becoming destitute. You can apply to have the NRPF condition removed if you are on certain routes to settlement, via the ‘Change of Conditions’ process. However, to do so, you must pass the ‘Destitution Test’. This is a complicated process, which requires 6 months of detailed financial and other evidence of how you have been living. You can learn more about how to do this here.
What were these cases about?
The cases were brought by two separate claimants against the Home Office. The individuals were represented by Deighton Pierce Glynn Solicitors, and was supported by RAMFEL, The Unity Project, and Impact: Law for Social Justice.
These two cases were unrelated, but both were destitute clients living with disabilities. Both individuals needed to access benefits because they could not earn enough money to support themselves and their families.
Instead of allowing the applicants access to benefits, the Home Office made them prove they were destitute. As outlined above, this process is very complicated and requires detailed evidence.
Before the hearing took place, the Home Office accepted that disabled people face difficulties providing the exceptionally high level of evidence needed, and that asking for it is in breach of the Equality Act. This comes as no surprise. Three years ago, in 2020, the government admitted in a Policy Equality Statement that the NRPF policy might discriminate against people with disabilities. In its report it said it would monitor the impact of NRPF on disabled people, but it failed to do this.
What happens next?
Until that point, if anyone with a disability (or anyone who cares for a disabled family member) needs benefits and cannot access them, any refusal of an application to lift their NRPF condition is likely to be unlawful.
People who are applying to have the NRPF condition lifted due to disability should also not have to show they are destitute.
This decision could affect many people who can now apply to have their NRPF condition removed. You may be eligible to have your NRPF condition lifted. For information about how to apply to do this, see information from the Unity Project here.
On the 28th and 29th of March, there is a photo exhibition on the effects of NRPF happening at the SPACE Ilford in London. The exhibition is about the negative effects of the NRPF policy. The exhibition is designed to create a space for reflection and dialogue about NRPF, to raise awareness and create change. See more details and sign up to the event here.
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