£100k emergency fund to support local migrants and refugees blocked from welfare system
Hackney Council has announced a £100k fund to support local residents financially impacted by the coronavirus crisis, but unable to access the welfare system due to their immigration status, as it calls on the Government to scrap the ‘no recourse to public funds’ condition.
The fund will support local residents with no recourse to public funds, filling a gap left by central government immigration policies.
‘No recourse to public funds’ is a condition placed on some people as part of their immigration status. It means they are unable to access support via the welfare system. During the coronavirus pandemic, with many people unable to work, this has left many people without access to money to pay for basic necessities.
Following bids from a number of local organisations, two grants of £30,000 will be awarded to charities Family Action and East End Citizens Advice Bureau who are working with a number of referral partners. The remaining money will top up existing subsistence funds for families with children - who are entitled to support - via the Council.
The money will be used to provide emergency help with food, reconnection of fuel supply and cost of utilities, help with travel, toiletries, basic or essential communication needs, rent arrears, basic clothing, child or baby essentials, prescriptions or rent deposits.
In a letter to the Home Secretary Priti Patel (see side bar), the Mayor of Hackney Philip Glanville and cabinet colleagues urged the Government to address its failure to provide support to migrants and refugees during the pandemic.
They said: “The role of local authorities should be to provide humanitarian assistance to anyone who needs it, no matter their immigration status or background. To be able to do this, we are urging you to scrap the ‘no recourse to public funds’ condition, or at the very least, suspend this condition during the coronavirus pandemic, to allow public services to support everyone that needs help.”
The letter outlines the Council’s support for the Children’s Society’s #ALifelineForAll campaign and goes on to say:
While the coronavirus does not discriminate in its infection of people, the impacts of the crisis, and the response from governments, do. The current crisis is highlighting the deep inequalities that the Government’s immigration policies create for migrants that councils like Hackney and migrant advocacy organisations have been raising since they were introduced.
At the same time, the Government has failed to provide clarity on how local authorities should provide support to migrants during this crisis while these policies are still in effect.
This is despite the Government also admitting that immigration enforcement or voluntary return schemes ─ which some migrants have to agree to before being eligible for support ─ are impossible at this time.
The ‘no recourse to public funds’ (NRPF) policy is plunging families and individuals into an unexpected financial crisis as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, with no safety net to prevent these families becoming destitute other than the support provided by councils like Hackney.
We are delighted that Hackney Council is getting behind The Children’s Society campaign to suspend NRPF restrictions. During this current crisis there are thousands of children in the UK who are facing extreme poverty because these strict immigration rules prevent their families from accessing vital support like Universal Credit, tax credits, child and housing benefits.
The Government must step in and provide an urgent lifeline for all, so that children and families from all backgrounds, regardless of immigration status, can access the help they desperately need at this time of national emergency.