by Elspeth Macdonald
Last week MRN attended a workshop on No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) hosted by the Open University. The event was a chance to hear about the OU’s recent research on the topic. It was also an opportunity for different organisations and individuals to share ideas around campaigning for change on NRPF.
First introduced in the 1980s and embedded in the 1999 Immigration Act, NRPF is an immigration condition applied to a large number of migrants in the UK. In short, it denies people access to the social safety net of UK benefits. When things are going well, this tends not be a problem. But if life takes a turn for the worse – an accident that leaves a child needing 24 hr care and a parent unable to work, for example – migrant families can be left in dire situations, losing jobs, houses and sliding rapidly into destitution and ‘hyper-poverty’.
Migrant organisations have been campaigning on NRPF for many years. It was heartening to hear about the victories they have achieved – the introduction of a Destitution Domestic Violence (DDV) Concession being one clear example. It was also interesting to think about what spaces have opened up after the Windrush scandal to continue pushing for change.
As befits such a challenging topic, the workshop raised some difficult questions too. How to emphasise the trauma suffered by children under NRPF, and the risks this can entail for their development as young adults, without turning them into the ‘problem’? How to engage local authorities effectively in this work, whilst also acknowledging their role in ‘gatekeeping’ – preventing migrants accessing the few benefits they may be eligible for? Is it more effective to find one big campaign message on NRPF, or to pursue a range of smaller campaigns on different elements of it that are coordinated and reinforce one another?
One of the most powerful moments of the day came when a participant with lived experience of NRPF shared her own story and explained the difficulties she and her two daughters had gone through as a result of the restriction. It was a timely reminder of why involving affected individuals from the start in campaign planning is so necessary. It also underlined the urgency of finding answers to those difficult questions we discussed and the need to continue challenging the NRPF policy in innovative and successful ways.
On that note, MRN’s will shortly be launching a new monthly bulletin on NRPF. We hope it will be a good way to share expertise and actions on NRPF, and to stay up to date with latest policy developments. We will share more details soon but in the meantime you can sign up to receive the bulletin here.