​Social services support for people with NRPF

This page summ​arises when a person or family with NRPF may be able to get housing or financial support from social services. ​​

Assistance provided by social services is not a public fund, so a person with NRPF is not prevented from getting help from their local authority's social services department, and should not be refused support because they have NRPF

When can housing and financial support be provided?

There are provisions which require local authorities to provide some people with NRPF with housing and/or financial support in order to prevent homelessness or destitution. Such assistance can be provided to:

  • Families, where there is a child in need (for example, because the child is homeless or the parent cannot afford to meet the family's basic living needs)
  • Young people who were formerly looked after by a local authority, for example, because they were an unaccompanied asylum seeking child (UASC), or other separated migrant child
  • Adults requiring care and support due to a disability, illness or mental health condition

The legislation which sets out these responsibilities​ differs in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and is set out in the table below.

Legislation which sets out eligibility requirements for support




Northern Ireland

Families with a child in need

Section 17 Children Act 1989

Section 37 Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014

Section 22 Children (Scotland) Act 1995

Article 18 of the Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995 

Young person formerly looked after by the local authority

Sections 23C, 23CA, 24A, 24B Children Act 1989

Sections 103-118 Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014

Sections 29 & 30 Children (Scotland) Act 1995

Article 35 or 36 of the Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995.

Adults with need for care and support

Part 1 of the Care Act 2014

Section 35 Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014

Section 12 and 13A Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968


Article 7 and 15 The Health and Personal Social Services (Northern Ireland) Order 1972

To establish eligibility for assistance, the local authority will undertake the following assessments:

  • Families - a child in need assessment 
  • Adults with care needs - a needs assessment ​

People requesting help from social services should provide as much evidence as possible to confirm their circumstances, for example, an eviction notice or letter from the person who has been accommodating them explaining why they are no longer able to assist. It is very important that the person provides all information that they are asked for, and if they cannot do so, explain why this is not possible. Social services cannot legally refuse to provide support without making sufficient enquiries to be able to reach such a decision. If a person or family is in urgent need, then emergency assistance can be provided whilst this information is being gathered and assessments are being undertaken. 

Find what social services will consider when a family requests help by completing our web tool - support for migrant families.

Although people with NRPF are able to receive help from social services, some people can only receive support if this is necessary to prevent a breach of their human rights. This is because an exclusion applies to some people depending on their nationality and immigration status.​

To request help, a person should contact their local council's adult or children's social services department. People in Northern Ireland would need to contact their local Health and Social Services Trust​.

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Is the person in a group excluded from social services support?

When a person or parent is in a group excluded from social services support, this means that social services can only provide housing and financial support when this is necessary to prevent a breach of the person or family's human rights or rights under the European treaties. When the exclusion applies, social services will need to carry out a human rights assessment as well as a needs assessment to establish whether help can be given.

The five groups are:

  • European Economic Area (EEA) nationals (not British citizens)
  • People who are unlawfully present in the UK (including: visa overstayers; illegal entrants and refused asylum seekers who claimed asylum in-country, rather than at port of entry)
  • People with refugee status that has been granted by an EEA country
  • Refused asylum seekers who have failed to comply with removal directions
  • Refused asylum seeking families that the Home Office has issued with certification confirming that they have failed to take steps to leave the UK voluntarily
The exclusion only applies to help from social services which is provided under the legislation listed in the table above. Any other assistance from social services must be provided to people who are eligible, regardless of their nationality, immigration status or whether they have NRPF. ​​

The exclusion is set out in Schedule 3 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 and also applies to the dependants of the people above.

The exclusion does not apply to children, but  when a parent is in an excluded group, the whole family may be prevented from receiving housing and financial support.​​​

​​​The exclusion does not mean that a person or family can automatically be refused assistance, and in practice, there will be often be a reason why support can be provided.

Find out if the exclusion will apply to a family based on the parent's immigration status by completing our web tool - support for migrant families​.

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What does the exclusion mean in practice?

When people with NRPF approach social services for assistance, the council will check their immigration status with the Home Office in order to establish whether the exclusion applies. Local councils are required by law to inform the Home Office of anyone presenting who is unlawfully present, a refused asylum seeker who has failed to cooperate with removal directions, or a refused asylum seeking family certified by the Home Office as having not taken steps to leave the UK.  ​​

If a person requesting assistance is in an excluded group, social services will undertake a human rights assessment, and will firstly consider whether the person or family can freely return to their country of origin. Things that prevent this include:

  • A pending human rights application made to the Home Office or a subsequent appeal
  • Inability to travel due to illness or medical condition 
  • Lack of travel or identity documents 
If there is such a barrier in place preventing the person from returning to their country of origin, then it is likely that the local authority will be required to provide assistance when the person or family meets the relevant eligibility criteria i.e. to a family with a child in need or an adult who has eligible care needs. Social services will regularly review the status of the barrier. 

It will be unlawful for a local authority to refuse to assist a person who is in an excluded group without undertaking a human rights assessment.

If it appears that there is no legal or practical reason preventing the person from returning to their country of origin, then the local authority will need to fully consider the person's or family's circumstances in the UK and their country of origin.

Social services will need to establish what assistance is necessary to prevent a breach of human rights or European treaty rights. When the person or family is assessed as being able to freely return to their country of origin then the local authority may offer to provide assistance with travel to that country, and only provide housing and financial support whilst this is being arranged. ​

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What if the exclusion does not apply?

The exclusion only applies to people who are in one of the five excluded groups

People will not be excluded from social services' support when they have the following types of immigration status:

  • Leave to enter or remain with NRPF
  • European right to reside as the primary carer of a British or EEA national child, 
  • European right to reside as the primary carer of a child (in education) of a former EEA worker
  • Asylum seeker (a person who has claimed asylum and has a pending asylum application/appeal)
  • Refused asylum seeker who claimed asylum at port of entry rather than in-country (unless they have failed to cooperate with removal directions or are a family certified as not having taken steps to leave the UK voluntarily)

If the person presenting is not in an excluded group then social services would need to provide assistance if they meet the relevant eligibility criteria, i.e. to a family with a child in need or an adult who has eligible care needs. 

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What support will social services provide?

    Social services can provide housing and/ ​or financial​ support to a person or family that have been assessed as being eligible for support, or when emergency assistance is needed whilst assessments are being carried out.


    Types of temporary accommodation offered by the council could include a B&Bs, hostel or private rented accommodation. It is possible that social services will provide accommodation outside of the council's area, which could be in a different region of the country.

    Subsistence (financial support)

    There are no standard rates of financial support that a council is required to pay, so what is provided will be different in each area. For families, social services must determine how much to pay based on the needs of the chi​ld. They may decide what to pay on a case-by-case basis, or with reference to internal guidance or to other statutory support rates, for example, DWP benefits or Home Office asylum support, so long as the council is flexible and prepared to vary the rate depending on the child's assessed needs.

    Subsistence may be paid in cash, by vouchers or on pre-paid cards. Using a bank account enables people to have more control over their finances, however, it is no longer possible for a person with no valid immigration permission (for example, a visa overstayer), to open a bank account, so this method of paying subsistence will not always be appropriate.

    If a person believes they are not receiving sufficient financial support from social services, then they can speak to their social worker to request that the amount is reviewed. If the matter is not resolved to their satisfaction, they would need to seek legal advice​. 

    Emergency support

    Social services have the power to provide emergency support (housing and financial assistance) before an assessment is undertaken or completed. If an adult, or family with children under 18, presents as destitute and has no alternative accommodation or support available, then the provision of emergency support should be considered.​ 

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Web tool and practice guidance