Sandra White MSP for Glasgow Kelvin

Concerns Raised on Westminster Immigration Regime Barriers to Support

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UK Government urged to provide support.

Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell has called on the UK Government to provide support for people classed as having No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) – including many who have lived and worked across the UK for many years.

It follows remarks from the Prime Minister this week that he would investigate the issue of how many people were affected by this immigration rule.

In a letter to the Immigration Minister, Ms Campbell urged the UK Government to change the current legislation which is preventing people from accessing the support they need, and during the COVID-19 pandemic is putting people at risk.

Ms Campbell said:

“People who have come to the UK to work, study, be with family, or who need a place of safety, must not be abandoned at this time of crisis. They must be included and appropriately supported as restrictions are lifted, if we are to ensure that our communities and economy can recover from this unprecedented situation and those people are not at risk, or risking others’ health.

“As we have seen both before and during the current pandemic, we are left in a position where the task of supporting people with No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) has been shifted to the Scottish Government and local authorities, using the limited powers we have to protect individuals and public health.

“There is a stark inequality in support available to people across our communities due to NRPF restrictions, and this is an issue that has been raised on countless occasions by the Scottish Ministers. Now that the PM has been made aware of the situation I hope we will see action.

“I have called on Home Office Ministers to work with us to ensure that the impacts of NRPF do not hinder our recovery post pandemic, and that people are not forced into destitution at the very time they should be able to get back to some kind of normality.”

Commenting, Sandra White MSP said:

“We must ensure that vital support during the coronavirus is not met with barriers in the form of the UK’s restrictive immigration policies. Those who make a vital contribution by settling in Scotland must be supported as the restrictions begin to ease, and cannot be left facing destitution. I welcome the Scottish Government’s intervention on this matter.”

The full text of the letter is below.

Dear Mr Philp

I want to welcome the commitment made by the Prime Minister on Wednesday 27 May, before the Commons Liaison Committee, to investigate how many people in the UK have No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) and to examine what the UK Government can do to assist. I ask that you ensure devolved governments and local authorities are involved in this work, to make sure that support can be delivered and that any data is shared with us.

As you will know this is an issue the Scottish Government has consistently raised with the Home Office. I hope now that the Prime Minister has also expressed shock at people not being able to access support, that you will now take action, particularly whilst we continue to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic and endeavour to keep people safe. I hope you will share your findings with the Scottish Government and local authorities – it would also be useful if you could share with me the timescale for this work.

People who have come to the UK to work, study, be with family, or who need a place of safety, must not be abandoned at this time of crisis. Furthermore, they must be included and appropriately supported as restrictions are lifted, if we are to ensure that our communities and economy can recover from this unprecedented situation. As the Prime Minister noted, “clearly they’re people who have worked hard for this country, to live and work here and should have support”.

I wrote to the Home Secretary to raise my concerns about people who are subject to NRPF during the Covid-19 crisis on 27 March as I know many are experiencing exceptional hardship. I also outlined the measures the Scottish Government and Scottish local authorities had been able to take to offer people support in light of Covid-19 and within the restrictions of reserved immigration legislation, which curtailed further action.

As you know, I have several concerns regarding asylum processes and support at this time, which I raised with you in a letter on 8 May, in particular the need for continued financial support for people accommodated in hotels and I await a reply to the issues highlighted.

NRPF affects the lives of many different people across our communities, and the associated issues fall across several Ministerial portfolios. Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Scottish Government has written six letters to UK Ministers focusing on different concerns around NRPF and asylum policy. Details of this correspondence is set out in the annex to this letter. Scottish Ministers have also raised NRPF issues on multiple occasions through the General Public Services Ministerial Implementation Group (GPSMIG) over the last couple of months.

To date, we have only received two replies. One of these noted that there has been no change to NRPF in light of Covid-19 and that the UK Government “recognises that these are unprecedented times and expects local authorities to support people who are sleeping rough, and also to minimise unnecessary risks to public health, acting within the law”.

As a result, we are left in a position where the task of supporting people with NRPF during Covid-19 is being shifted to local authorities and devolved governments, using the limited powers we have to try to reduce risks for individuals and public health. There is a stark inequality in support available to people across our communities, due to NRPF restrictions, and people are being forced into destitution because of their immigration status and the impact of Covid-19. This situation is likely to get worse before it gets better. As you will be aware, the impact of Covid-19 will persist well beyond the point at which the virus is suppressed and the immediate health emergency has reduced. It will be felt in our economy and our communities far into the future.

I therefore welcomed your comments in a letter to Stuart McDonald MP that confirmed that accommodation and support for those who have received an asylum decision is continuing to the end of June and will be reviewed, not ended, at that point. I also welcomed your commitment to hold discussions with devolved governments and local authorities regarding the implications of any re-start of terminations of support. Such discussions are overdue and much needed and my office will be in touch to arrange a suitable time for this to take place.

I hope that you will work with us to ensure that the impacts of NRPF do not hinder our recovery, and that people are not forced into destitution at the very time they should be able to get back to some kind of normality. I also look forward to urgent provision of the data and information promised by the Prime Minister to the Commons Liaison Committee on 27 May and the responses to the other correspondence I have sent. 

AILEEN CAMPBELL

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