Citizens Advice has continued to see a surge in the number of people it is helping who have No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) during the pandemic.
In the nine months since the pandemic began, the charity has seen a 91% year-on-year increase in the levels of advice given on NRPF issues. During that period it has helped one person every 11 minutes with an NRPF-related issue.
Some of the key problems related to people’s lack of access to most welfare benefits that advisers are helping with include:
•The cost of self-isolating – people unable to afford to self-isolate or shield
•Debt – especially rent arrears
•Redundancy – people with NRPF are disproportionately likely to work in sectors worst affected by the economic crisis
•Change of condition applications – lockdowns have made gathering evidence for applications to have NRPF lifted extremely difficult
The overwhelming majority of people our advisers supported were from a Black, Asian or ethnic minority background – 33% were Asian, 31% were Black and 15% were from another minority group.
Rent arrears, homelessness and evictions could lead to deportations and people becoming undocumented.
Citizens Advice is concerned that the financial impacts of the pandemic, combined with a change to the Immigration Rules, could lead to many people with NRPF being deported.
An analysis of 50 case files of people seeking the charity’s help with NRPF issues since March 2020 showed that two thirds (29 people) needed advice about rent arrears, eviction or homelessness. An analysis of case files from 2019 showed just 3 in 50 people seeking support with these housing issues.
Changes to the Immigration Rules – which came into effect on December 1 – mean rough sleeping is now grounds for refusal or cancellation of permission to stay in the UK.
At least one-fifth of rough sleepers in temporary accommodation (and up to half in London) due to the ‘everyone in’ scheme are people with NRPF.
With the economic impacts of the pandemic hitting people with NRPF especially hard, the charity is concerned this number will increase. Migrant workers are disproportionately likely to be employed in sectors worst affected by the economic crisis, including hospitality, admin and support services, and transportation and storage.
While evictions have been paused during the pandemic, they will restart in the new year – and illegal evictions have been taking place throughout the pandemic. Citizens Advice has seen a 60% increase in people asking for help with illegal evictions in the period September to November 2020, compared with the same period in 2019.
Josh Jones, Advisor at Citizens Advice Southwark, said:
“Many of the people we’re helping who are subject to NRPF have lost work in the economic crisis resulting from the pandemic. They’re now facing the prospect of losing the roof over their heads and potentially their right to stay in the country.
“Advising people with NRPF is one of the hardest parts of my job, because people are facing desperate situations. I wish there was more I could do to get them financial assistance and support them.”
Alistair Cromwell, Acting Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:
“Many people with NRPF have been hit hard by the economic consequences of coronavirus. Despite working in sectors hardest hit by the pandemic, most people subject to these rules still have had no access to the benefits safety net.
“Despite measures put in place to support people affected by NRPF, we’re continuing to see significant increases in the numbers seeking our help. No one should be left without access to support and no one should be faced with the prospect of losing their leave to remain to be in this country because they lose their home.”
Notes to editors
1.Section 115 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 states that a person will have ‘no recourse to public funds’ if they are ‘subject to immigration control’. This means that they are not entitled to most welfare benefits, including Universal Credit, child benefit, housing benefit, and a range of allowances and tax credits. It applies to most non-EEA migrants without Indefinite Leave to Remain.
2.All figures, except the one fifth of rough sleepers statistic, are taken from the Citizens Advice report ‘No Recourse to Public Funds: data and developments’ (December 2020).
3.At least one fifth of rough sleepers in temporary accommodation (and up to half in London) have NRPF – National Housing Federation (July 2020)
4.Citizens Advice includes the national charity; the network of independent local Citizens Advice charities across England and Wales; the Citizens Advice consumer service; and the Witness Service.
5.Citizens Advice is the statutory consumer advocate for energy and post. We provide supplier performance information to consumers and policy analysis to decision makers.
6.The Citizens Advice Witness Service provides free, independent support for prosecution and defence witnesses in every criminal court in England and Wales.
7.Citizens Advice offers Pension Wise services at 500 locations in England and Wales.
8.Citizens Advice’s services are free, independent, confidential and impartial, and available to all regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality.
9.To get advice online or find your local Citizens Advice, visit citizensadvice.org.uk
10.For consumer advice, call the Citizens Advice consumer service on 0808 223 1133 or 0808 223 1144 to talk in Welsh.
11.We helped 2.6 million people face to face, by phone, email and webchat in 2017-18. For service statistics see our monthly publication Advice trends.
12.Citizens Advice staff are supported by over 23,000 trained volunteers, working at over 2,500 locations in England and Wales.