No recourse to public funds (NRPF) refers to destitute people from abroad who are subject to immigration control and have no entitlement to welfare benefits, Home Office support for asylum seekers or public housing.
All local authorities in the UK have a duty to advise people who have NRPF on their personal circumstances and to assist them in finding a solution to their destitution. In limited circumstances, councils can provide care services including accommodation and financial support if the strict eligibility criteria is met.
In 2012 the Immigration Rules and Home Office policy on Article 8 cases (right to a private and family life) changed dramatically.
One of the major changes was that people given limited leave to remain under exceptions in Appendix FM (family life), Rule 276ADE (private life) or “outside the rules” on Article 8 grounds are normally granted leave subject to a condition of “no recourse to public funds.”
This means that person cannot access benefits like housing benefits or job seekers allowance.
The Home Office says it will grant access to public funds in “exceptional circumstances” where the applicant is “destitute” or where there are particularly compelling reasons relating to the welfare of a child of a parent in receipt of a low income.
Home Office policy (Chapter 8 of the Immigration Directorate Instructions, Annex FM 1.0: partners guidance) seems to suggest (see pp. 69 – 72) that where an individual is supported under section 95 or section 4 they may be granted recourse to public funds where it is clear there has been no change in their financial circumstances since the last assessment of destitution, although the Home Office will take into account any grant of a right to work that was not available before.
In reality, the Home Office is not granting access to public funds in many cases that would leave individuals or families, including families with children, in serious financial difficulties. This has resulted in numerous legal challenges, including many cases where the individuals were previously receiving section 4, section 95 or section 17 support.
The Home Office has introduced a new form which allows individuals to let them know about changes in the circumstances or whether they in fact were destitute all along. It is recommended however that information about destitution is included in applications for leave to remain from the outset.
For more information, please see the attached legal briefing on no recourse to public funds from Southwark Law Centre, who are spearheading a strategic litigation research project and welcome participation from organisations or practitioners with no recourse to public funds cases.