No recourse to public funds (NRPF) is a provision in the Immigration Rules, and Section 115 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 that applies to a range of different people, including undocumented migrants or those with temporary leave to enter or remain in the UK. The rule excludes them from a range of state benefits and makes them at high risk of destitution. This is a longstanding issue that has been highlighted by campaigners, academics and the migration sector. The COVID-19 pandemic has made life significantly more difficult and precarious for people with NRPF. Our paper presents the findings of a mixed methods study carried out in the UK in 2020 to find out the experiences of children and their families who are subject to the no recourse to public funds (NRPF) condition. Fieldwork took place during the first national COVID-19 ‘lockdown’ and involved a website audit, call for evidence and weekly ‘welfare diaries. We found that although the national UK government had mandated local authorities to provide housing for migrants who would not normally be eligible, in the absence of a formal legislative framework or clear policy guidelines, responses by local authorities varied widely and lacked consistency. Local authorities perceived this as a shifting of responsibility for a controversial issue from the centre, to the local. In this context, even where local authorities increased the support that they provided to migrants with NRPF, this was rarely publicly stated, instead decisions took place informally and were only shared within local authority networks or to trusted external partners.
Andy Jolly is a lecturer in Social Work at the University of Plymouth, and Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Wolverhampton. His research interests are in the intersection between immigration control and child welfare in the UK.
Bozena Sojka is a research associate at the University of Glasgow, and Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Wolverhampton. Her theoretical interests are in understanding the social and policy dynamics of migrants’ experiences of accessing social welfare benefits, working at the intersection of human geography, sociology, and social policy. Empirically, her work has explored immigrants’ experiences of inclusion and exclusion, and immigrants’ social security rights in policy and practice.
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