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Published 30 Sep 2021

Number of households with no recourse to public funds accommodated by social services increases by 30%

NRPF Connect data evidences cost pressures for local government arising from the provision of essential ‘safety-net’ support to people who are excluded from benefits and mainstream housing assistance.

Collective data provided by 68 councils in England and Scotland using the NRPF Connect database demonstrates that there is significant need for essential ‘safety-net’ support provided by social services when duties are engaged to safeguard the welfare of children, adults with care needs, and care leavers.  

At the end of March 2021, 68 councils provided 3,200 households with no recourse to public funds with accommodation and financial support at a collective cost of £57 million. The number of households receiving support by the end of the financial year was 30% higher than reported in 2019-2020, despite only two new councils contributing data. Requests for assistance also increased by 10% when compared to the previous year of operation. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on people who cannot access benefits and mainstream housing assistance following a loss of income from employment or breakdown of support networks will be a contributing factor to increased demand for assistance.  

In order to help mitigate the impact of cost-pressures on local government, partnership working with the Home Office through NRPF Connect is crucial, with 99% of local authority respondents in a customer survey saying they would recommend using the database. Through NRPF Connect, councils obtain up-to-date immigration information to enact their statutory duties effectively and alert the Home Office of their involvement so that priority can be given to resolving the immigration claims made by people receiving support. The volume of enquiries through the database increased by 7% compared to the previous financial year which required Home Office teams to keep-pace with the rising demand. 

The data continues to demonstrate that the majority of families (79%) and adults (51%) will exit support due to a grant of leave to remain or change in immigration status granting recourse to public funds, with only a very small proportion of families and adults returning to their country of origin. Although Schedule 3 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 requires councils to withhold or withdraw support when a person who is without lawful status can return to their country of origin to avoid destitution in the UK, in practice there will often be a barrier to return and many people supported by councils will in fact successfully regularise their status. However, this takes time, with families receiving support for an average period of 1.5 years and adults with care needs for 2.5 years. These figures have reduced since last year but remain high. It is particularly concerning that the proportion of adult households who had been receiving support for longer than 1000 days has increased from 27% to 35%. 

The fact that a fifth of families requesting support had leave to remain subject to the ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ (NRPF) condition, serves as evidence of the financial hardship experienced by people living in the UK with this immigration status, who are often on routes to settlement. The rise in the proportion of adults with European Economic Area (EEA) nationality or European residence rights who requested or were provided with support from 17% in 2019-2020 to 20% in 2020-2021 could be a consequence of the changes to their residence rights following the end of free movement in the UK. Continued support for EEA nationals through the social services’ safety-net demonstrates significant gaps in benefit entitlement for those who have not obtained settled status. As social services will usually be approached for assistance once informal or charitable support in the community has been exhausted, NRPF Connect data only represents the 'tip of the iceberg' in terms of need arising due to immigration-based exclusions.   

Providing essential safety-net support, which is unfunded by central government, places significant pressures on staffing resources and diminishing local authority budgets. The overall costs to local government will no doubt be higher if these trends are replicated in councils that are not contributing data through NRPF Connect. Many councils will have incurred additional costs accommodating people with no recourse to public funds through ‘Everyone In’ to protect the lives of people who were sleeping rough during the Covid-19 pandemic. The recommendations for policy change that are made in the report therefore need to be urgently considered by government.  

Whilst people remain excluded from mainstream benefits due to their immigration status, the Government needs to ensure that steps are taken to mitigate the impacts such policies have on local government by providing financial reimbursement when statutory duties to support are engaged and implementing policy concessions, or more streamlined operational processes across departments, to avoid further ‘cost-shunts’ or excessive delays exiting support.  

However, with 33% of Home Office responses to information requests falling below the targets set out in the Service Level Agreement, this raises the question of how the Home Office will be able to meet an increase in demand for the service in the years ahead. The Home Office may need to consider increasing the current resources put into operating NRPF Connect and undertaking a more strategic approach to concluding the immigration claims of households receiving support for over 1000 days, particularly when people are unable to return to their country of origin but do not meet the requirements of the Immigration Rules.  

The data shows that by operating a coordinated response to presenting need, aided by NRPF Connect, councils can improve outcomes for residents whilst adhering to statutory duties as efficiently as possible. Other ‘invest to save’ models can also be used by councils to expedite case-resolution and reduce spend, with the resourcing of specialist staff or the commissioning of services such as immigration advice key to achieving these results. As case-resolution can only be achieved through effective partnership-working, we would like to thank the Home Office staff who operate the database and local authority users for their hard work and commitment during a challenging period.  

Local authorities supporting households with no recourse to public funds that are not currently subscribing to NRPF Connect may consider joining to support local service delivery and to contribute to collective regional and national data. Current users can contact us if they require further support with using the system.  

Read the full report for 2020-21 online

Read the 2020-21 data briefing note (PDF)