Home Office agrees a rethink of ‘no recourse to public funds’ policy in light of coronavirus, following today’s high court legal challenge

Today’s high court case, supported by The Unity Project and brought by our client – the child of a single mother – had sought an urgent suspension of the ‘no recourse to public funds’ (NRPF) policy, to allow those who are now unable to work because of covid19 to have immediate access to welfare support.

The judges put off making a decision about suspending the policy, instead ordering that a full hearing on its legality should be heard urgently – setting a court date in just over four weeks’ time (6 & 7 May). The hearing will finally put an end to many months of delay by the Home Office, which has repeatedly sought to dismiss or postpone the case, leaving thousands of families living in poverty.

At and just before the hearing, the Home Office made a series of important concessions, including accepting for the first time that the legal challenge to the NRPF policy raises ‘serious issues’, which should be looked at by the court urgently. It has also issued revised guidance to staff instructing them to ‘provide sympathetic and expeditious decision making’ during the pandemic when dealing with applicants seeking to have their NRPF condition lifted.

Together with The Unity Project, we have been pressing the Home Office for over a year to comply with its legal duty to produce a Policy Equality Statement on the impact of NRPF. Following today’s hearing, the government has now been given a deadline of 21 April to comply, and if they do not the judges made it clear that the May hearing will go ahead without it.

DPG partner Adam Hundt says:

‘We know April will be a long and bleak month for families who have lost some or all of their income because of the outbreak, and who were already in desperate straits. However, we welcome the expedited hearing, which puts our client in a strong position to challenge the policy as a whole, and end the discrimination and damage it causes.’

The Unity Project coordinator Caz Hattam says:

‘We have had assurances from the Home Office before that they will deal with applications to lift the “no recourse to public funds” condition quickly and compassionately, but that has never been our experience. Quite the opposite. We have no reason to expect this time will be different. However, we urge anyone in this situation to apply for a change of conditions as soon as possible, and let us know how they get on. We will be amassing evidence to show the court that the whole scheme is inhumane and needs to be dismantled.’

The Unity Project exists to support people with ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ (NRPF): https://www.unity-project.org.uk/

If you are affected by ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ (NRPF), you can make an application to remove the restriction here – please contact The Unity Project if you need help with this or if you do not get a quick enough response, so that we can show the court the reality at the next hearing: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/application-for-change-of-conditions-of-leave-to-allow-access-to-public-funds-if-your-circumstances-change

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