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Published 24 Jan 2024

Cost to councils of supporting people with NRPF rises to £77.6 million

Social care services provide vital support to alleviate homelessness but immigration issues are taking too long to resolve

NRPF Connect data for the financial year 2022-23 shows that the costs to social care services of providing vital support to households with no recourse to public funds (NRPF) increased by 22% to £77.6 million at the year-end. Despite Home Office efforts to resolve long-standing immigration claims and the majority of people exiting support following a grant of leave to remain, households are still being supported on a long-term basis at significant cost to councils. Changes to residence rights of EU citizens and their family members continue to have an impact, making up a significant group of people requesting and receiving support. 

The data shows that councils must acknowledge the role of social care in alleviating homelessness within cross-cutting strategies and provide strategic oversight, particularly in adult social care, to ensure that support is delivered consistently and cost-effectively. However, there is a clear need for more action from central government to end homelessness and eradicate child poverty, reduce pressures on councils, and reduce health inequalities in communities.

Key trends - UK data

The 2022-23 data evidences the support provided by social care services in 82 councils in England and Scotland to adults with care and support needs, families, and unaccompanied children and care leavers who are excluded from mainstream benefits and housing support because of their immigration status.

Increasing costs to councils 

The cost of providing accommodation and financial support to no recourse to public funds households continued to rise as councils using NRPF Connect reported a combined £78 million in spend - a 22% increase from £64 million at the end of 2021-22, far above inflation. 

Rising expenditure was driven by the increase in per-household cost, a change most notable for adults with care and support needs for whom the average annual cost rose from £18.4K to £25.1K. Considerable financial pressures are being incurred in meeting the support needs of people with no recourse to public funds, a rise which in 2023-2024 far exceeded the 5% increase in the overall number of supported households.

Number of households on long-term support remains high despite immigration resolutions

The Home Office NRPF team has worked with councils and the NRPF Network to undertake a review of the immigration cases of households recorded on NRPF Connect as receiving support for 1,000 days or more. The 1,000-day case review has seen many successes and has come alongside the Home Office NRPF team’s continuing work with councils to resolve immigration issues through NRPF Connect.

However, despite the notable efforts of the Home Office NRPF team and a small reduction in the average number of days on support, the number of long-standing cases remained the same, as resolutions were balanced out by new cases crossing the 1,000-day threshold. 

Grants of leave to remain still the most common reason for case closure

64% of adults with care and support needs and 77% of families who exited NRPF support did so following a grant of leave to remain. As we saw in our 2021-22 report, these figures restate the fact that most adults and children supported by councils have a long-term future in the UK. In contrast, only 5% of adults and 3% of families exited support due to leaving the UK.

Even when the outcome is a grant of leave to remain, on average, 674 days of financial support will still need to be provided by a council, representing a spend of £35,000 to £45,000 per household before a resolution to their situation of destitution is achieved. 

EU-exit still impacting social care services

EU nationals and people with EU-related leave continue to make up a significant portion of households supported by councils: 24% of adults with care needs and 19% of families. Of those, the majority are households with pre-settled status and EEA family members without regular immigration status.

The requirement for support shows no sign of decreasing as councils received just under 1,000 new requests for support from EU nationals and people with EU-related leave in 2022-23.

Council under-reporting of support for adults with care and support needs

Adult social care reported a 61% rise in the cost of providing accommodation and financial support to adults with NRPF from £15.2m at the end of 2021-22, to £24.4m at the end of 2022-23. Such a significant increase in costs, far above inflation, may be driven by an increase in the number of people being supported in high-cost residential care placements. 

However, only 53 councils recorded financial data for adults with care and support needs, out of 82 councils subscribing to NRPF Connect. It is therefore highly likely that this group remains significantly under-reported and the social and financial impacts of the 'No Recourse to Public Funds' (NRPF) condition on councils and adults with care needs are not fully captured in the data. 

Recommendations for councils 

The data demonstrates that councils play a significant role in alleviating homelessness and destitution for families, adults with care needs, and care leavers who have no recourse to public funds.

Service managers and strategic leads may wish to consider implementing the following recommendations in their service/authority: 

  • The role of social care in providing long-term support to people with no recourse to public funds must form a key component of council-wide strategies, such as those relating to homelessness, violence against women and girls, and refugee and migrant inclusion.
  • Requests for support will remain high in the absence of wider national policy or funding changes, so consider ways of improving the coordination of no recourse to public funds services in your authority in order to to minimise cost-pressures on already over-stretched budgets.
  • Use NRPF Connect data to support ‘invest to save’ arguments and develop a specialist response, which may involve ensuring appropriate staffing capacity, equipping staff with knowledge to manage the response effectively, and enabling access to immigration advice. 
  • Maximise the use of NRPF Connect across the council, particularly within adult social care, and ensure staff record caseloads accurately to benefit from the support of the NRPF Network and Home Office in this complex area of practice.
  • Ensure that staff operating NRPF Connect refer to our user support information to get the most out of the system and to help the dedicated Home Office NRPF Team to do their work as effectively as possible.
  • Share practice and learning is across the council and with other councils, which can be done through attending a regional NRPF Network meeting

Recommendations for central government

The data that local authorities report through NRPF Connect continues inform the policy recommendations we have made for central government, which cover three themes:

  • Ending homelessness and eradicating child poverty  
  • Reducing pressures on local government 
  • Reducing health inequalities 

Meaningful change can only be achieved if the UK government ends the use of the NRPF condition. However, as that would represent a significant change in immigration policy, it is necessary to consider how existing policy impacts can be mitigated. Therefore, we have made a series of recommendations regarding changes to immigration policies and procedures, and access to services, that would support efforts to end homelessness and child poverty, and reduce health inequalities. 

We have also made a number of recommendations to reduce pressures on councils. With costs of supporting households with no recourse to public funds increasing, and households still receiving support on a long-term basis whilst they are resolving immigration issues, the UK government needs to take steps to ensure that such support is only required as a short-term intervention, including undertaking a one-off exercise to clear the backlog of long-standing cases. However, in the absence of full funding and a strategic approach, the government needs to consider providing grant funding to enable councils to invest in a specialist response and improve their support to households with no recourse to public funds.

We will work with local government partners to raise these recommendations with central government. 

Councils using NRPF Connect are requested to review and update their data and can refer to our user support information