The No Recourse to Public Funds (‘NRPF’) condition has subjected a lot of migrant families to unsafe, insecure housing and extreme poverty. The NRPF condition has become a very important issue, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic. This is because, many migrants have been rendered jobless due to the pandemic, yet, they are unable to access public funds.
The NRPF condition applies to almost all migrants subject to immigration control. These are migrants granted limited leave to remain in the UK such as those on student or spousal visas and those with limited leave granted under family and private life.
If a migrant is subject to immigration control, it means that they are not eligible to access certain public defined funds such as income support, housing benefit, council tax benefit among others. There are however some limited exceptions to the NRPF condition but these are mostly about limited leave granted under family life.
A migrant who was granted limited leave to remain based on their family and private life can apply to the Home Office to request removal of the NRPF condition. The migrant must show in their application that they have provided the decision-maker with:
• satisfactory evidence that he or she is destitute;
• satisfactory evidence that there are particularly compelling reasons relating to the welfare of a child on account of the child’s parents’ receipt of a very low income; or
• established exceptional circumstances in their case relating to their financial circumstances.
Irrespective of this provision, the decision on whether or not to vary an applicant’s leave and grant recourse to public funds, to enable the migrant access certain public defined funds is solely at the discretion of the decision-maker.
The legality of the NRPF policy has been challenged over the years since its introduction in 2012 by the then Home Secretary. The High Court has recently ruled over the NRPF condition and the ruling is a welcome relief particularly for migrants with limited leave to remain under family and private life rules.
The case concerns a British child, who for most parts of his life had to endure extreme poverty because his migrant mother’s wages as a carer was insufficient to keep both of them properly housed and fed. The migrant mother made an application providing evidence to the effect that if the NRPF condition was not varied, she would be destitute. The NRPF condition was not varied, as a result, the migrant mother issued judicial review proceedings against the Secretary of State challenging the imposition of the NRPF condition.
The Court on hearing the case ruled that the government must make it easier for migrants to gain access to the welfare system if they are about to become destitute. This means that migrants should be given the right to access public funds in instances where they are not yet destitute, but they would imminently suffer inhuman or degrading treatment without it.
The court also stated in its ruling that, the NRPF policy breaches Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (‘ECHR’) which prohibits inhuman and degrading treatment and as such was contrary to s.6 of the Human Rights Act 1998.
The court also noted that the current relevant immigration rules and instructions to the Home Office caseworkers fail to address cases where an applicant was not yet suffering, but would imminently suffer, inhuman or degrading treatment if the NRPF condition was not lifted. The court stated further that, when the rules and instructions are read together, it fails to take into consideration the human rights obligations when caseworkers are deciding on an application. As a result, it gives rise to a real risk of unlawful decisions in a significant number of cases.
In conclusion, the court is of the view that aspects of the NRPF policy must be amended to make it clear to the caseworkers, the circumstances in which they should impose or vary an NRPF condition, in the case of a migrant who is not currently destitute but will imminently become destitute if the condition is not lifted to enable him or her gain access to public funds.
In the current climate where many individuals have suffered income shortage due to the COVID -19 pandemic, this is a perfect opportunity for migrants with limited leave to remain in the UK to apply for their No recourse to public funds (NRPF) condition to be lifted from their status. We at Fortwell Solicitors have successfully assisted a good number of people in recent weeks to do exactly that and are posed to assist even more numbers.
–Mr. Daniel Koi, Solicitor at Fortwell Solicitors.
Fortwell Solicitors is one of the most respected immigration law firms in London. By making an appointment with one of our immigration solicitors, you can be assured of receiving some of the best legal advice available in the UK today. We will assist you with all aspects of business and personal immigration law. If you wish to discuss any of the points raised in this article, please phone our London office on +44203 325 7030 / +447944976161 and speak to Mr Daniel Koi.