On 3 April 2020, the High Court heard an application by a child of a single mother to suspend the Home Office 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.
Although the judges refused to make a decision about suspending the policy, they ordered for a full hearing on the legality of the policy to be heard urgently next month.
According to the child’s solicitors Deighton Pierce Glynn, just before the hearing, the Home Office
- accepted for the first time that the legal challenge to the NRPF policy raises ‘serious issues’, which should be looked at by the court urgently
- issued revised guidance to staff instructing them to ‘provide sympathetic and expeditious decision making’ during the pandemic when dealing with applicants seeking to have their NRPF condition lifted
The Home Office has also been given a deadline of 21 April 2020 to comply with its legal duty to produce a Policy Equality Statement on the impact of the policy on people with ‘protected characteristics’ (such as disability) under the Equality Act.
The NRPF dates back to 2012 when then Home Secretary Theresa May decided that people granted limited leave to remain on family/private life grounds should be denied access to most welfare benefits as part of the ‘hostile environment’.
The policy also prevents single parents on minimum-wage, zero-hour contracts or low-paid jobs from accessing tax credits and housing benefit.
There is evidence that the policy has disproportionately affected women, including pregnant and maternity stage women, disabled people, and BME British children, who are all more likely to experience destitution as a direct result of the policy.
Although Deighton Pierce Glynn has been legally challenging the policy for many years, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought the problems with the policy sharply into focus as many of those subject to NRPF cannot afford to self-isolate.
Anyone affected by ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ (NRPF) is encouraged to make an application to remove the restriction here.
The Home Office has stated that it will deal with such request expeditiously and sympathetically.
If you need assistance with the application or if there is not a quick enough response, you can contact the Unity Project which has been working closely with Deighton Peirce Glynn in these challenges.
Visadreams.com, Diary of an Immigration Lawyer, is a blog run by Fahad Ansari, the director and principal solicitor of Riverway Law, a niche UK immigration and nationality law practice based in London. If you would like any advice or assistance in relation to your immigration matter, please do not hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or submit your details here.