Adult Social Care departments have a unique responsibility under the Care Act 2014 to mitigate the impact of the no recourse to public funds (NRPF) condition and other limitations on accessing means-tested benefits for the most vulnerable. The Care Act 2014 is the only formal ‘safety net’ available to prevent destitution for people excluded from mainstream services and many people need this protection.
The NRPF Network’s assessing and supporting adults with no recourse to public funds guidance provides the authoritative explanation of how to meet care and support needs to safeguard adults and alleviate destitution. The guidance develops the core principles of effective NRPF service provision, as established by our membership:
- Undertake the Care Act Assessment and consider all legal duties and powers that may enable accommodation to be provided
- Coordinate and monitor supported caseloads and expenditure across teams by using NRPF Connect
- Adopt a multi-disciplinary approach to resolving identified cases, which will mean finding a route back to recourse in 60% of supported cases.
Continuing austerity and the absence of government funding for accommodation-led ‘safety net’ responses can make implementing best practice challenging. The guidance provides local authorities with the tools to make best use of existing resources to deliver effective and efficient services in compliance with statutory duties.
What is new in the guidance?
Extensive updates have been made to capture best practice approaches relating to hospital discharge planning, joint NHS and adult social care delivery, and accommodation options when people are on ‘the edge of care’.
The guidance reflects changes implemented by the Health and Care Act 2022 and related Department of Health and Social Care guidance on hospital discharge. The expert analysis of relevant powers and duties will help inform the work of Health and Social Care departments when pooling resources and commissioning services to reduce health disparities and inequalities.
There has been no government explanation of what ‘exhausting all options within the law’ to end rough sleeping for non-UK-nationals means. We hope that a revised focus in the NRPF Network’s guidance on powers to meet non-eligible care and support needs, and a new chapter on wider local authority powers and duties to accommodate, can help authorities to explore these statutory limits until greater direction is given.
By exploring relevant powers and duties to provide accommodation with the Care Act 2014 duty at the centre of this approach, progress may then be made on recommendations made by the Kerslake Commission on Homelessness and Rough Sleeping for a better whole-system approach to meeting the needs of this group.
The guidance’s information on ‘pathways off support’, which focuses on resolving cases, now references the Supporting Migrants Lacking Mental Capacity in relation to immigration matters guidance published by Migrants Organise. Access to immigration advice is an important component of effective NRPF service delivery and a framework to support people who do not have mental capacity strengthens this approach.
What are the next steps?
We are greatly indebted to colleagues from the NHS, including those leading on Homeless and Inclusion Health and Out of Hospital Care programmes and the support of the Office of Health and Social Care for making significant revisions to the guidance and to the LGA and ADASS for their endorsement.
We know that this remains a niche and sometimes misunderstood area of practice and more needs to be done to help colleagues understand the guidance and implement best practice approaches.
The endorsement therefore marks the beginning of our work to explore best practice in this area. The NRPF Network is currently contributing to the Understanding Migrant Destitution in the UK research being led by COMPAS at the University of Oxford and, to boost engagement with this topic, we will be we will be officially launching the guidance with a virtual conference alongside our partners. Further details of the event will follow.