Anti-migrant Tory welfare policy denies key workers access to vital benefits

According to a groundbreaking Citizens Advice investigation, people with ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ (NRPF) describe feeling “helpless” and “invisible” as they try to subsist without financial assistance.

No Recourse to Public Funds is a restriction connected to work, family, and study visas that refuses almost 1.4 million individuals, including around 175,000 children, access to a large portion of the welfare safety net.

This includes essential benefits such as Universal Credit and child benefit, as well as a range of additional services such as assistance with homelessness or access to refuges that rely on public funding to function.

Individuals with NRPF are denied assistance when they are in need, despite their contributions to the UK economy and society.

Over half (53 percent) of persons with NRPF are employed, and another 31% are enrolled in school. Many (40%) have been in the UK for over five years and are establishing a life here.

Nearly a quarter of a million of those employed are COVID-19 ‘key workers’ in fields such as healthcare, social work, social care, and transportation.

The first representative study of persons with No Recourse to Public Funds highlights some of the heartbreaking obstacles that people with NRPF confront in the absence of or with little assistance from the welfare system.

Many have been thrown into crisis as a result of the epidemic, while others suffer with poor wages or unstable employment.

The research also shows that people with NRPF are finding it hard to recover from the economic impacts of the pandemic. Rates of part-time and insecure work have both increased and a huge majority of people with NRPF (79%) are earning less now than before the pandemic.

Ada moved to the UK to study nursing as an international student and paid for her studies over two years. Her children joined her a few months later after she organised visas for them.

Last year, she landed a job in nursing. However, her relationship with her husband was abusive and she left the marriage despite her fears about lack of support. She struggled financially and was nearly left homeless.

Ada now lives in private accommodation with her children, working full time and taking on extra shifts to make enough money to get by.

She relates how she’s having to borrow money from friends as she’s often short.

Ada says she is exhausted, both physically and mentally, but says she doesn’t have a choice but to work as many hours as she can.

Ada says: “I live from paycheck to paycheck, I often get short, I go into my overdraft and have to borrow from friends.

“It makes me angry that I have no recourse to public funds. We’re not exempt from paying tax, but we are exempt from receiving public funds, that seems unfair.

“We do what every other individual in the UK does, we pay our tax. There are genuine cases where people are struggling.

“It took me a lot to walk away from my marriage but I had to think about my children. They were suffering. I knew it would be tough as I’d have no access to financial support. At one point I was nearly homeless as I was signed off work being unwell with my mental health.

“To feel there was no support out there, it was awful. I’m now just so exhausted. I have looked to see if there’s any support out there and there just isn’t anything for me.“

Citizens Advice is calling for the government to scrap the NRPF policy for those who are habitually resident in the UK.

Dame Clare Moriarty, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said: “The welfare safety net should be there to protect all of us when we fall on hard times.

“Yet every day, up and down the country, Citizens Advice advisors are trying to find help for people for whom this help is just not available.

“Many people who are subject to No Recourse to Public Funds have lived in this country for years.

“Many are the key workers who kept the country going during the pandemic. Yet despite all of the contributions they make, they are locked out from support when they need it most.

“With a cost of living crisis looming, people with NRPF face a precipice with no safety net. It is time for the government to look again at this unfair and deeply harmful policy.”

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