Challenge to government punishing families hit hardest by the pandemic

The Unity Project has today issued its application in Court to take over as the claimant in a challenge of the Home Office’s NRPF policy, to urgently push this matter to trial to achieve systemic policy change.

Our clients, The Unity Project, are a small charity set up four years ago to support families facing destitution as a result of the ‘no recourse to public funds’ (NRPF) policy introduced in 2012 by then Home Secretary Theresa May.

The Unity Project started their Crowdfunding campaign on 21 January 2021, to raise the funds needed to bring an urgent legal challenge against a further unlawful aspect of the Home Office NRPF policy.

They have now raised the money needed to start their case! Today the Unity Project have issued an application in the High Court, their challenge hopes to bring to an end the punishment of those with the NRPF condition who are moved from the ‘5-year-route’ to settlement to the ‘10-year-route’ simply because they require access to public funds.

The Unity Project is stepping in for an individual claimant, whose case settled with the Home Office openly agreeing to exercise discretion in her favour. The Unity Project is taking over as the claimant in order to push this to trial to achieve systemic policy change.

Since 2012, anyone granted ‘limited leave to remain’ by the Home Office has been blocked from accessing the welfare safety net, by having the NRPF condition put on their immigration status. They can only claim essential support, like child or disability benefit, by showing serious financial hardship and making an application to the Home Office for their NRPF condition to be lifted.

Over 1.4 million people in the UK are subject to NRPF; most of them are black or from minority ethnic backgrounds; many have British-born children.

Since the pandemic, the number of people applying to the Home Office to remove the NRPF condition because they can no longer support themselves has increased six-fold.

The Unity Project, through their work, see its devastating impact daily – where parents doing low wage jobs or whose work has dried up because of Covid- 19, cannot make ends meet, however hard they try. The Unity Project has seen that children are going hungry and living in unsuitable, unsafe housing, as a result.

The Government has ignored calls to withdraw this policy and end the hardship and discrimination directly caused by this policy. Instead families who need support because of the pandemic are penalised: where applicants were previously on a five-year route to ‘settlement’ – being recognised as living in the UK permanently in the UK – the Home Office has doubled the amount of time they will have to wait, to 10 years, if they successfully apply to remove the NRPF condition having proven their poverty.

The Unity Project must now wait for a High Court judge to consider their application to replace the Claimant to continue this urgent challenge against the government’s unlawful policy. The Unity Project have requested that there application be considered within 7 days.

The Crowd Justice page is here. The Unity Project successfully raised the money needed to start their legal challenge! Caz Hattam, Co-ordinator of The Unity Project, said:

“We want to say a huge thank you to everyone who’s made this case possible by supporting our crowdfunding campaign – the strength of your support shows how urgently change is needed.”

This policy punishes parents for needing financial support during an unprecedented national crisis, by doubling their Home Office fees. These are the families who were already hardest hit by the pandemic. Almost none of the parents we work with can benefit from coronavirus support schemes, let alone other state support, and NRPF disproportionately affects people who are black, or from a minority ethnic background.

Since lockdown, the number of people applying for access to welfare support has increased six-fold.

Families that were previously getting by can no longer keep themselves afloat. We and others have repeatedly called on the government – both before and during the pandemic – to end this cruel policy. They haven’t listened, which is why we are bringing this legal challenge.

Adam Hundt, the solicitor representing our clients in this case, said:

“The pandemic has now heightened the hardship caused by the Home Office’s NRPF policy. The people affected badly needed help to keep themselves and others safe.

Unfortunately the government responded to these requests for help by maintaining its policy of penalising applicants on the ‘5-year-route’ to settlement, by moving them on to the ‘10-year-route’, simply because they required access to public funds. It is hoped that the Court will ensure that these families are no longer penalised for experiencing a loss of opportunity to work as a direct impact of COVID-19.”

The Unity Project has instructed Ben Amunwa of 36 Group, and Adam Hundt and Ugo Hayter of Deighton Pierce Glynn.

Please direct any queries to Bristol@dpglaw.co.uk.

Image Credit: The Unity Project.

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