Weekly saving of £100k insufficient without policy change

5 July 2019​

Councils spend millions supporting destitute migrants with rights to settle in the UK ​

Local authorities have legal duties to safeguard the welfare of children, young people leaving care and vulnerable adults. This includes providing accommodation and financial support when a person is excluded from mainstream benefits by their immigration status has no recourse to public funds (NRPF​). 

We have published data from 59 local authorities​ using the NRPF Connect database, which provides information about the households that requested, and were provided with, social services' support in the financial year 2018-19. Although the data shows an overall reduction in costs, it demonstrates that more could be done by central government to reduce this financial pressure on local government and to promote the wellbeing and integration of people who will clearly have a future in the UK. This article highlights the key findings and recommendations for local authorities and the Government. 

Headline data

  • 59 local authorities supported 2658 households at an annual cost of £47.5 million (at year end)
  • Local authorities saw an overall reduction of £100,000/ week (10% over the year) due to a decrease in the number of households receiving support by the year end
  • Requests for support increased by 17% compared to 2017-18 
  • The Home Office responded to 14603 requests for immigration status information 
  • 80% of households exited the service due to a grant of leave to remain with recourse, enabling them to access mainstream benefits, resulting in a cost to local authorities of £62,000 (based the average cost and length of time a household is supported) 
  • Households were provided with support for an average of ​820 days
  • The number of households supported for 1000 days or longer reduced by 20% across the year but make up 22% of the overall caseload
Key findings

When families and vulnerable adults are excluded from employment and mainstream benefits by their immigration status, local authorities play a key role in safeguarding their welfare by providing 2658 households with accommodation and financial support at cost of £47.5 million/ year

For local authorities using the database, this cost has reduced by 10% over the year. Support from the Home Office in providing immigration status information and prioritising local authority supported cases clearly saves the UK tax-payer money.

However, local authorities are facing an increasing number of requests for support. Although this may be expected with more local authorities using the system, it demonstrates that there continues to be a significant number of people unable to access mainstream services due to their immigration status and who need to navigate complex rules regarding their entitlement to services. 

The average time that households were provided with support increased to 820 days throughout the year. With 80% of households leaving the service following a grant to leave to remain with recourse to public funds, any barriers that delay achieving this outcome lead to increasing costs for local government. Additionally, being excluded from employment and mainstream benefits for lengthy periods of time negatively impacts on the wellbeing and integration of children and adults who have a future in the UK.

The reduction in the number of households that have received support for 1000 days or longer can be attributed to targeted work by local authority staff and the Home Office team operating the database. However, such efforts alone are not sufficient, as these households make up one fifth of the overall caseload

Recommendations for local authorities 

Using NRPF Connect is of clear benefit to local authorities, providing a combined weekly cost-saving of £100,000, so those that are not currently using the system are encouraged to join. As most households will exit the service due to grants of leave to remain, it is also essential to consider how to make legal advice provision available in the absence of legal aid funding. 

It will be essential to take steps to reduce the risk of EEA residents, particularly vulnerable groups, failing to secure status under the EU Settlement Scheme

Recommendations for the Government

In order to limit the need for local government to spend scarce resources supporting people who are clearly going to be accepted as having a future in the UK through grants of leave of remain on settlement routes, a one-off case resolution exercise is urgently required. The Government must also review all immigration policies that give rise to homelessness and child poverty and which impede the resolution of local authority supported cases. Similar recommendations have also been made by the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee.

The Home Office must ensure it resources its response in order to continue to fulfil the service level agreement and meet increasing demand as more local authorities use NRPF Connect. This will enable local authorities to correctly fulfil their statutory duties and operate services cost-effectively at a time of significant budgetary pressures.

In order to reduce the time that social services' support is provided once leave to remain has been granted, the DWP needs to provide clarification to local authorities about the correct processes to follow when people are granted recourse and are claiming benefits for the first time. 

We will continue to work with sector partners to present these recommendations to central government. Please contact us if you require further information or are working in a local authority and want to find out more about signing up to NRPF Connect.  

Documents 

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