Councils call for suspension of No Recourse to Public Funds during COVID-19 crisis

The No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) condition needs to be suspended by government so that all vulnerable individuals are entitled to receive support during the coronavirus crisis, councils urge today.

Homeless man sitting on the box on the street

The Local Government Association says that high numbers of people with NRPF – a condition government places on some individuals as a result of their immigration status, removing access to welfare benefits – have been approaching councils for support during the pandemic following, for example, loss of employment.

The LGA, which represents councils, wants to work with government and the current review led by Dame Louise Casey to provide greater clarity and funding for councils’ responsibilities for all those who are destitute and homeless because of their migration status.

It says a suspension of the NRPF condition would enable people to access welfare benefits, which could prevent them from becoming homeless.

Since the coronavirus outbreak, councils have been given emergency funding to meet a range of cost pressures arising, including supporting people with NRPF. However, this funding will not cover the costs of preventing people with NRPF who were sleeping rough from returning to the streets.

Councils also do not receive any specific funding from central government to support people with NRPF. Latest data for 2018/19 showed that 59 councils were spending £47.5 million a year on NRPF service provision, however this was before the coronavirus crisis.

Thanks to a monumental effort by councils, the overwhelming majority – nearly 15,000 – of rough sleepers and people in high-risk accommodation have been found emergency accommodation to protect them during the coronavirus outbreak.

Councils want to take this opportunity to change the lives of our most vulnerable residents and are working up plans to support people to move on from emergency accommodation.

For that to happen, the LGA said greater clarity is needed from government on what additional practical support will be available to councils to help them move rough sleepers out of hotels and temporary accommodation and into housing, when the current ‘Everyone In’ policy, where all people sleeping rough are placed in emergency accommodation, comes to an end.

It says suspending NRPF would also allow councils to support this group of people directly into accommodation using the rough sleeping funding recently allocated by government, which legally cannot be used to support people with NRPF, and to enable them to protect the public health of everyone in the community during future outbreaks.

Cllr David Renard, the LGA’s housing spokesman, said:

“Councils have been doing everything they can to support all groups facing homelessness and help protect them from coronavirus. Councils are now planning their next steps in supporting people to move on from emergency accommodation. This needs to include clarity and funding for those who are destitute and homeless because of their migration status.  

“As the economy recovers, local outbreaks may mean there still may be a need to be able to access safe and suitable accommodation and financial support to allow for self-isolation, particularly for single adults without care needs who are not usually eligible for social services’ support.

“This could be enabled by a temporary removal of the NRPF condition which would reduce public health risks and pressures on homelessness services by enabling vulnerable people to access welfare benefits.”

Notes to editors

  • Government places the no recourse to public funds (NRPF) condition as a result of immigration status which removes access to welfare benefits. Councils do have statutory duties to provide individuals with care needs or families with NRPF with housing and/or financial support in order to prevent homelessness or destitution.
  • Costs to councils are outlined in the annual report from the NRPF Network, alongside councils’ responsibilities for those with NRPF outside their ongoing statutory responsibilities during the current pandemic.