The coronavirus crisis has had a huge financial impact on millions of people across the country. We have also seen the biggest national response to rough sleeping in recent history with nearly 15,000 people housed in temporary accommodation.
The government has committed to making sure there is no return to rough sleeping, and this is a key priority in our coronavirus recovery plan. But now we need to make sure that those with no access to benefits or housing assistance don’t slip through the net. That’s why we are supporting a call to suspend the immigration condition that gives some people No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF).
We are supporting the Local Government Association’s (LGA) call for a suspension of the NRPF condition. We have written a joint letter with the Chartered Institute of Housing to the Minister for Rough Sleeping and Housing, Luke Hall MP in which we are asking the government to lift restrictions on access to public funds for a period, ideally at least for a year. This would enable interim help to be given to all those experiencing and at risk of homelessness. We are also asking the government to consider granting access to Universal Credit for those with NRPF. You can read the full letter here.
People who don’t have any recourse to public funds are not normally eligible for local authority homelessness assistance or welfare benefits and cannot claim help with housing costs.
The condition is attached to some residency statuses in the UK. If you have a residence permit that allows you to live in the UK, it may include the condition that you have NRPF. Currently, at least one-fifth (or up to half in London) of rough sleepers in temporary accommodation fall under this group.
Temporarily removing this condition from the residency status of many rough sleepers could help the government to reach their goal of no return to rough sleeping.
At the moment, local authorities have a “power to accommodate” people with NRPF, but not a duty to continue providing accommodation. Since the coronavirus outbreak, councils have been given emergency funding to meet cost pressures, including temporarily accommodating people with NRPF. However, this funding will not cover the costs of preventing those currently in temporary accommodation from returning to the streets, as local authorities can’t use public funds to help this group of people into permanent accommodation.
Another aspect of NRPF is that families could be at risk of homelessness because of the condition. Over the last few months we have seen an incredible response from the government to keep as many people in employment as possible through the furlough scheme, however those adults permitted to work but with NRPF are not eligible for furlough leave or pay. Therefore, they face either losing their jobs or remaining employed, but with no income and no access to help with housing costs. Some have been forced to go into work and risk their health because they cannot claim the benefits that would allow them to stay home.
High numbers of people with NRPF have been approaching councils for support during the coronavirus outbreak. Citizens' Advice have revealed that 1.4 million people are subject to the condition and the burden falls mainly on BAME communities.
We are also looking into existing ways housing associations can offer solutions for this group while restrictions remain, such as peppercorn rent schemes and legal advice, including for rough sleepers. We have been working with the LGA and NRPF Network on how best to extend this type of provision.
We are working with other organisations across the housing and other sectors to call for the restrictions to be lifted, with support from the NHF Homelessness National Group.
We will be speaking with the government about this issue in the coming weeks and we will update you once we have a response. If you have any questions, please contact Suzannah Young.