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Public Funds Part 1: Public Funds and Coronavirus

No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) is a condition imposed on an individual’s immigration status in the UK, which prevents them from accessing certain benefits and forms of support. This continues to cause concern and particularly more so now for those whose income has been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. This article will form part of a series of 3 articles on public funds and the recent developments in light of the Coronavirus outbreak. 

What are public funds?

Under section 115 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1995, individuals subject to immigration control are excluded from the entitlement to a number of public funds.

Public funds are defined at paragraph 6 of the Immigration Rules. The Home Office has also published guidance with further explanation as to what constitutes public funds. 

The following benefits and forms of support count as public funds: 

  • attendance allowance 
  • carers allowance
  • child benefit
  • child tax credit
  • council tax benefit 
  • council tax reduction
  • disability living allowance 
  • (from 6 April 2016) discretionary support payments by local authorities or devolved administrations in Scotland and Northern Ireland which replace the discretionary social fund. 
  • housing and homelessness assistance 
  • housing benefit 
  • income-based jobseeker’s allowance 
  • income related employment & support allowance – ESA (IR) 
  • income support 
  • personal independence payment 
  • severe disablement allowance 
  • social fund payment 
  • state pension credit 
  • universal credit 
  • working tax credit

Benefits not considered as public funds under the Immigration Rules include the following, however this is a non-exhaustive list: 

  • Contribution based Jobseeker’s Allowance 
  • Guardian’s allowance 
  • Incapacity Benefit 
  • Contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) 
  • Maternity allowance 
  • Retirement pension 
  • Statutory maternity pay 
  • Statutory sickness pay 
  • Widow’s benefit and bereavement benefit.

There are exceptions to the above, where people who are subject to immigration control can claim benefits without it being classed as breaching their conditions. These exceptions are set out in the public funds guidance on pages 13 and 27. 

NRPF Policy

The Home Office have published Policy Equality Statements setting out their policy in relation to NRPF and the exceptions to this condition. The previous Home Office Policy Equality Statement dated 6 April 2015, stated:

“From 6 April 2015, the NRPF policy states that applicants granted leave under the 10-year partner, parent or private life routes under the Immigration Rules, and those applicants granted leave outside the Rules under ECHR Article 8 on the basis of exceptional circumstances, will be granted leave with a NRPF condition (and this condition will not be lifted) unless they provide satisfactory evidence that:

  1. they are destitute, or
  2. there are particularly compelling reasons relating to the welfare of a child on account of their parent’s very low income.”

A person is considered destitute if:

“a) They do not have adequate accommodation or any means of obtaining it (whether or not their other essential living needs are met); or 

  1. b) They have adequate accommodation or the means of obtaining it, but cannot meet their other essential living needs”

The NRPF condition and policy was recently reviewed by the Home Office and a new version Policy Equality Statement was published on 21 April 2020. It upheld the imposition of the NRPF condition:

“The imposition of a NRPF condition on the grant of limited leave is a fair and practical way of ensuring that migrants are financially able to support themselves and their dependants without the country’s limited resources, provided by its ordinary residents, being overwhelmed or suffering deficit through incoming migration. It is lifted, at the latest, at the point where the migrant achieves settled status. 

Any negative impacts of the Policy are mitigated by appropriate measures. The position that it is for the applicant to supply all the necessary evidence still stands but, in recognition of the fact that some applicants may have the information but may not have supplied it, for whatever reason, we have since February 2019 been writing out to the customer requesting information missing from the application. And individuals whose applications for leave to remain have been granted with no recourse to public funds may subsequently apply for the condition to be lifted using a Change of Conditions application process which is free of charge”

Recent case-law

A High Court case heard on 3 April 2020 had sought an urgent suspension of the ‘no recourse to public funds’ (NRPF) policy, to allow those who are now unable to work because of Covid-19 to have immediate access to welfare support. The full case was heard on 7 May, where an oral judgment was given with full detailed reasons to follow. 

It was determined that the NRPF condition as it is currently assessed, is in breach of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. It was stated that aspects of imposing the NRPF condition needed to be amended: 

“It will, however, require aspects of the regime to be amended 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.”

However, the court made it clear that the condition of NRPF would still be imposed “in the normal run of cases”.

The court has not ordered any immediate change to the Home Office Policy. The exact terms of any order from the court are to be determined at a later stage.

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