Written by:
Solomon Adegbulugbe and Pascale Robinson

Challenging No Recourse to Public Funds

Read time:
4 minutes

Challenging No Recourse to Public Funds

The government’s No Recourse to Public Funds policy – which prevents most people seeking asylum in the UK from accessing vital support – was one of the key topics under discussion at the Runnymede Trust’s recent We Move summit. Campaigners Solomon Adegbulugbe and Pascale Robinson explain why the policy – which the Runnymede Trust is urging Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to scrap – is so damaging and how it can be challenged.

We attended the We Move summit in September as campaigners fighting for everyone in the UK to have access to the public welfare safety net when they’re in need, regardless of their immigration status. 

A key part of our work is challenging No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF), a government policy that prevents the vast majority of people seeking asylum in the UK from accessing most forms of publicly funded support – including universal credit, jobseeker’s allowance and childcare support – even when they’re in crisis. The policy has devastating consequences: it traps individuals and entire families in cycles of poverty, pushes people into homelessness and leaves children hungry. 

We are representatives of two groups formed of people with lived experiences of the immigration system, the NRPF Action Group (facilitated by Praxis, a charity for migrants and refugees) and Together in Unity (facilitated by the Unity Project, an organisation that supports migrants affected by NRPF), which have teamed up to campaign against NRPF. Our aim is equality, justice and fairness for all.

Alongside us, there were representatives of a wide range of organisations at the summit, including Praxis, the Unity Project, Liberty, Right To Remain, Bridging Change and BFELG Affiliation. All were keen to address the issues affecting migrants and asylum seekers in the UK.

Lectures, workshops and shared meals gave us a great opportunity to learn from the other attendees, with space to socialise, exchange views and opinions, and ask questions and give answers. As well as recognising the obstacles we have encountered, we celebrated the successes our work and campaigning have achieved so far.

‘How can we better join-up the fights for migrant rights, refugee rights and racial justice?’

If we care about dismantling racist systems, we must end practices and policies that contribute to the marginalisation of people of colour, including NRPF. That’s why the NRPF Action Group teamed up with Together in Unity and the Children’s Society charity to deliver a workshop at the summit exploring the impact of the policy and how we can support the communities affected by it. In line with the summit’s focus on action, we concentrated on what we can do to resist and fight back against NRPF, both in the short and long term. 

It has been widely shown that NRPF disproportionately impacts people of colour, women, children and people living with disabilities. The Home Office has previously accepted that 80 per cent of migrants subjected to NRPF are Asian or African. Because of its discriminatory nature, NRPF has been taken to court, though sadly this has only led to changes to the wider policy rather than abolition. 

At our workshop, we wanted to discuss the big questions that have been on our minds as campaigners. How can we better join-up the fights for migrant rights, refugee rights and racial justice? How can we look after our mental health in the face of these structural problems? How can we protect our children? How can we build campaigns towards the abolition of NRPF? The questions may be big ones, but we know we can figure the answers out together. 

The workshop welcomed everyone – those who want to learn more about NRPF, those who have been campaigning on it for years and everyone in between. We concluded that with one voice, resilience, determination, commitment, publicity, sacrifice and a winning mentality, we can build a formidable army against this damaging policy. We also refused to be thrown off course by a ‘divide and rule’ campaign by the government and the media in which there are ‘good’ and ‘bad’ migrants. 

'We felt energised, we felt love and we felt hope.’

Another important thing we realised is that the more people we are able to help remove NRPF from their visas through complex though life-saving ‘change of conditions applications’ – whereby if we are able to show we’re on the edge of destitution the Home Office might grant us access to public support – the more people we have by our side able to take part in the fight. The feedback from the 70 people who attended the workshop was incredibly positive, with one group saying: ‘We felt energised, we felt love and we felt hope.’

Going forward, the take home for participants was that there is still a lot more work that needs to be done on NRPF. It will require everyone to come together to create more awareness and demand action on the policy and its impact. Above all, we must not be deterred and never give up. We hope you’ll join us. 

  • The NRPF Action Group and Praxis have launched a campaign calling for shorter, more affordable routes to settlement for those who have made the UK their home. Please show you support by signing this petition

Solomon Adegbulugbe is a member of Together in Unity. Pascale Robinson is Praxis' campaigns coordinator, working to end NRPF with the NRPF Action Group.

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