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No change to public-fund policy, says Home Secretary

09 June 2020


The Home Secretary, Priti Patel, speaking in the House of Commons last week

The Home Secretary, Priti Patel, speaking in the House of Commons last week

THE Home Secretary, Priti Patel, has said that the Government will not suspend its policy concerning no recourse to public funds (NRPF) for the duration of the pandemic, despite the Prime Minister’s apparent questioning of its fairness (News, 5 June).

NRPF prevents migrants who have not yet been granted permanent residency in the UK from receiving benefits such as Universal Credit, tax credits, and child and housing benefits. The Children’s Society is campaigning for NRPF to be suspended during the pandemic (News, 1 May).

At a virtual meeting of the Liaison Committee on 27 May, the chairman of the Work and Pensions Committee, the Labour MP Stephen Timms, asked Mr Johnson whether it was fair that “hard-working, law-abiding families” were “being forced by the current arrangements into destitution”.

Mr Johnson responded: “Clearly . . . people who’ve worked hard for this country, who live and work here, should have support of one kind or another. . . I will find out how many there are in that position, and we will see what we can do to help.”

In the House of Commons on Monday, Ms Patel was asked about NRPF by several MPs, including Sir Edward Davey, the acting co-leader of the Liberal Democrats. He said: “People who have worked here and paid taxes here for years are being denied support and falling into destitution. . . Given that the rule disproportionately impacts people in our black and minority-ethnic communities the hardest, will the Home Secretary suspend the ‘no recourse to public funds’ rule for the duration of the pandemic?”

Ms Patel said in response: “The answer is no. Local authorities have provided a basic safety net, and that is because of the significant financial provisions that the Government introduced and the range of measures to support those people who had been working. Because of coronavirus — because of the national health pandemic situation we find ourselves in — we will support people with ‘no recourse to public funds’, and that assistance is being given under the coronavirus retention scheme and also the self-employed income-support scheme; so funds are available. It is wrong to imply that safety nets are not in place.”

Speaking to Sky News on Monday evening, Mr Timms said: “Many hard-working families, with children born in Britain, have leave to remain, but no recourse to public funds, and are suffering severe hardship in this crisis. They cannot access the Universal Credit safety net which is available to everyone else.

“The Prime Minister told me at the Liaison Committee that people in this position ‘should have support of one kind or another’. He is right. So I deeply regret that the Home Secretary has announced today that the Government will make no changes at all.”

An online petition calling for the suspension of NRPF during the pandemic has attracted more than 50,000 signatures.

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