No recourse to public funds

Published: 05/05/2022

Author: Catherine Houlcroft

Since 2006, the No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) Network has assisted councils to understand their legal duties and operate cost-efficient services for non-UK nationals, as well as working collaboratively across the sector to evidence the need for central government funding and policy change.

Immigration-based exclusions preventing people from being able to claim support and access mainstream housing assistance leave some groups of non-UK nationals at risk of homelessness and destitution when they cannot meet their basic living needs through employment or the help of communities, family and friends. However, families, care-experienced young people, and adults with care and support needs can be provided with accommodation and financial support when social care duties are engaged.

This vital safety-net prevents homelessness, alleviates child poverty, and safeguards people from exploitation and abuse, but is not funded by central government. At the end of March 2021, 68 councils were collectively spending £57 million per year on accommodation and financial support for households with no recourse to public funds.

Although there are opportunities at a local level to prevent homelessness and assist people to achieve sustainable outcomes, and the use of the No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) condition combined with households facing greater cost-of-living pressures, mean that providing essential safety-net support will remain challenging and costly for councils.

Developing a local response

Service managers will need to ensure that statutory duties are correctly applied. As well as establishing eligibility for support through a needs assessment, a human rights assessment will also be required when an adult or parent is without lawful status in the UK.

When support is provided, it is essential that a pathway out of destitution is identified, and the household is assisted to achieve this. The NRPF Network’s collective data shows that 79% of families and 51% of adults with care needs exit support following grants of leave to remain. However, families are supported for an average of 18 months and adults with care needs for two and half years.

Households receiving support will be diverse in terms of their immigration status and therefore the options that are available to them will vary. For example, a person without lawful status will usually need to undertake a lengthy application (and possibly appeal) process to obtain leave to remain, whereas a person with pre-settled status granted under the EU Settlement Scheme may need assistance accessing employment in order to establish eligibility for means-tested benefits. For those that become ‘appeal rights exhausted (ARE)’ following an unsuccessful immigration claim, return to country of origin may need to be considered.

A specialist response is therefore required to achieve better outcomes for individuals and reduce direct support costs. This could involve resourcing specialist workers or establishing protocols that clearly set out responsibility for case management and strategic oversight. Working with the UK Home Office through NRPF Connect will also help social workers to identify appropriate support routes and expedite case resolution when financial support is provided. Improving access to immigration advice (which for families and adults is not funded through legal aid) may also need to be considered on an ‘invest to save’ basis.

However, some challenges cannot be resolved at a local level, such as achieving outcomes for people who don’t meet requirements of the Immigration Rules but who can’t be expected to return to their country of origin due to their health or social care needs; or establishing access to benefits for people with pre-settled status who cannot work. The NRPF Network uses collective data from NRPF Connect and draws on its wider engagement with councils to identify such issues and works in partnership with local government organisations to make evidence-based recommendations for policy change.

Find out more

The NRPF Network publishes resources for councils, including a human rights assessment template and detailed practice guidance, to help navigate this complex area of social work practice.

Social workers can:

The NRPF Network’s contribution to a new publication supported by Research in Practice, Adult Safeguarding and Homelessness, expands on some of the practice points raised in this blog and contains more information about supporting adults who do not have social care needs.


Catherine Houlcroft

Catherine Houlcroft is the Principal Project Officer for the No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) Network.