Home Office rules denying migrants access to most benefits are forcing families with British children into abject poverty, a report has found.
The Unity Project and law firm Deighton Pierce Glynn (DPG) have today (June 13) released a report revealing the disproportionate impact of the government’s “no recourse to public funds” (NRPF) policy on groups “vulnerable to discrimination” including British children of minority ethnic backgrounds.
The study, based on 276 cases sourced from seven organisations, found that 90 percent of families had at least one British child while 95 percent came from ethnic minority backgrounds.
Three quarters of respondents found that there was at least one day when they could not afford to give their child a hot or nutritious meal, while more than half were forced to sleep on the floor or on a chair.
“This policy affects people who have been here for years, and who will be here for years, whose kids have been born here and grown up here, many of whom are British,” the Unity Project’s Caz Hattam said.
“They work as much as they can but cannot make ends meet without ‘in-work benefits’ like Tax Credits or Housing Benefit, because the cost of living has increased so much and because they do chronically under-valued jobs like care work or cleaning.
“What this has led to is thousands of children, most of whom are of BME heritage, growing up in abject poverty and destitution, treated as second-class citizens. The only sensible conclusion to the review is to scrap the policy to prevent further harm.”
Image Credit: Claudia/Unsplash
The report describes how single mother Sarah – who has NRPF – was forced to leave her home with her two teenager daughters, one of whom is British.
Despite working as a full-time carer, doing four night shifts each week and on taking on extra work, she was unable to earn enough to cover her rent and buy the essentials.
She ended up having to move to a single room in an unlicensed House of Multiple Occupation (where at least three tenants live, forming more than one household), where she and her children shared a single mattress.
Sharing communal facilities with other residents, they often had to relieve themselves in the garden because they could not access the bathroom in time.
Had Sarah had recourse to public funds, [she and her children] would not have been forced to move and the children’s wellbeing and education would not have been put at risk.
Access Denied: The Cost of the ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ Policy Report
The Home Office initially refused Sarah’s application to have recourse to public funds, citing a lack of ‘documentary evidence’ despite her providing 139 pages of paperwork. Her application was later granted following a judicial review.
“Had Sarah had recourse to public funds, a combination of housing benefit and tax credits would have supplemented her income to a level at which the family could subsist in their accommodation and meet their basic living needs,” the report reads.
“They would not have been forced to move and the children’s wellbeing and education would not have been put at risk.”
What About Human Rights?
Image credit: Pierre-Louis Ferrer/Flickr
DPG solicitors mounted a legal challenge against the Home Office, calling on it to remove NRPF conditions on the basis of Article 3 of the Human Rights Convention, incorporated into UK law through the Human Rights Act.
This condition places a positive obligation on states to safeguard people from destitution before a state of “inhuman or degrading treatment” is reached.
Public sector bodies, such as the Home Office, also have a “public sector duty” under the Equality Act 2010 to eliminate discrimination, harassment and other proscribed conduct towards people on the basis of “protected characteristics” – such as their age, ethnicity, race sex and ability.
The report argues that the disproportionate impact of NRPF on disabled people, children and pregnant women, among other groups, amounts to “indirect discrimination“.
In March, shortly before a High Court hearing was due to go ahead, the Home Office agreed to instead conduct its own review of the policy’s compliance with the public sector duty.
DPG solicitor Adam Hundt said: “The Home Office’s agreement to review the policy is welcome, but it remains to be seen whether it is a genuine review that addresses the discriminatory impact of the policy, or just another tick-box exercise that will see us end up back in court.
What Does The Home Office Say?
Image Credit: Republic of Korea/Flickr
A Home Office spokesperson said: “The welfare of children is one of our top priorities and our immigration system will always protect families with children from becoming destitute.
“Support will never be withheld if the welfare of a child is at risk due to a family’s financial circumstances.
“We also work closely with local authorities to assist them with applications for support from migrants, helping to reduce the financial burden placed on local authorities and ensuring applications for Leave to Remain are assessed promptly.”