Councils call for suspension of ‘no recourse to public funds’ to prevent homelessness

Councils are calling for the Government to allow people whose immigration status is not finalised to receive public funds amid fears they will be forced into homelessness.

Increasing numbers of people with no recourse to public funds (NRPF) are approaching local authorities for support during the coronavirus pandemic, the Local Government Association (LGA) said.

NRPF is a condition the Government places on individuals who have not yet been granted indefinite leave to remain and means they cannot access welfare benefits.

But the LGA fears that, without this support and as people lose their jobs, they could become homeless.

Councils have been given £3.2 billion in emergency funding to help them respond to the pandemic, but no money has been ring-fenced for helping people with NRPF.

The LGA says the funding will not cover the costs of preventing people with NRPF who were sleeping rough from returning to the streets.

Almost 15,000 homeless people, including rough sleepers, have been moved to emergency accommodation such as hotels to keep them safe during the crisis.

The LGA said councils want to ensure they remain in safe accommodation when the “everyone in” policy comes to an end, but need greater clarity on what additional practical support will be available.

Temporarily suspending NRPF would allow councils to support this group directly into accommodation using the Government’s rough sleeping funding, which they cannot currently use for this purpose, the LGA said.

Councillor David Renard (pictured), the LGA’s housing spokesman, said: “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.”

London Councils, which represents local authorities in the capital, says that at least 900 of the almost 5,000 rough sleepers in London’s emergency accommodation are subject to NRPF restrictions.

Councillor Darren Rodwell, London Councils’ executive member for housing and planning, said: “We now have a golden opportunity to tackle homelessness and end rough sleeping altogether, if we sustain and build on the progress made in response to Covid-19.

“London faces the most severe homelessness crisis in the country and we’re hugely concerned about how the Government expects support to be provided to rough sleepers who have no recourse to public funds. Without ongoing measures to keep rough sleepers in accommodation and to fund this crucial frontline work, we risk seeing homelessness rates shoot back up again.”

Earlier this week, Home Secretary Priti Patel denied the policy was racially discriminate.

Speaking in the House of Commons, she also refused to suspend the policy for the remainder of the pandemic.

A Government spokeswoman said: “Families with leave under family and human rights routes can apply, free of charge, to have no recourse to public funds conditions lifted and we encourage anyone eligible to submit an application.

“Government measures such as rent protections also apply to those with these conditions, and we have allocated more than £3.2 billion to local authorities and £750 million to charities to reach out and support the most vulnerable.”

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