Prime Minister must scrap no recourse to public funds policy, says Sheffield MP Paul Blomfield
Sheffield Central MP Paul Blomfield has written to the Prime Minister, calling on him to fulfil his pledge to a top committee of MPs by lifting the visa condition of no recourse to public funds imposed on some migrants legally working and living in the UK.
No recourse to public funds (NRPF) means that all those on a visa who have not been granted indefinite leave to remain are barred from accessing most forms of state support.
Boris Johnson was questioned about NRPF at the Liaison Committee on May 27, where he appeared never to have heard of the policy and said he would do what he could to help those suffering due to the restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic.
But when Mr Blomfield subsequently questioned Mr Johnson at Prime Minister’s Questions last week, asking for an update on his progress, the Prime Minister appeared to step back from his commitment.
Migrants with NRPF are entitled to access the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the equivalent for self-employed workers, but are barred from many other forms of state support including Universal Credit, child benefit, and housing benefit.
Mr Blomfield has now written to the PM asking for him to set out “the further action you will take to fulfil your commitment to the Liaison Committee”.
Mr Blomfield said: “Boris Johnson was understandably shocked to learn that people living and working legally in the UK cannot access support when they lose their jobs because of Covid.
“When I asked him about it again at PMQs last week, he still didn’t seem to grasp exactly what the ‘no recourse to public’ funds condition really means. He promised to do all he could to help, and I will make sure he doesn’t forget that commitment.”
It comes after Home Secretary Priti Patel denied that NRPF is a racially discriminate policy.
Facing calls for the policy to be suspended as a step towards tackling inequalities facing people from BAME communities, Ms Patel yesterday said “significant financial provisions” are available for all.
Whilst admitting that members of BAME communities face “many challenges” and that the findings of the recent Public Health England report were “shocking”, Ms Patel refused to suspend the no recourse to public funds policy for the remainder of the pandemic.
The SNP’s home affairs spokesperson Joanna Cherry said: “The Black Lives Matter movement and Public Health England’s Covid-19 outbreak review of disparities in risks and outcomes have highlighted the inequalities suffered by black and minority ethnic people in our society.
“Does the Home Secretary accept that the no recourse to public funds policy disproportionately affects people from BAME communities and if she does, why won’t she push for it to be suspended as a concrete step towards tackling the inequalities which so appal many of our constituents?”
Ms Patel agreed that with regards to the PHE report, “the findings are indeed shocking and it is right that the Government invests its time and resources through the equalities minister in particular to look at the measures that can be brought in place”.
Speaking in the Commons, she said: “Now this policy of no recourse to public funds is one of many policies and it is right as a Government that we look at all policies that affect all communities in the round without singling one particular policy out.”
Ms Cherry added that NRPF is “inherently more likely to affect BAME British children than white British children”.
“So given this evidence that no recourse to public funds is a policy with racially discriminatory impacts, why won’t she accept that it needs to go?”, Ms Cherry said.
Ms Patel replied: “If I may, I think it is wrong to characterise as a policy of racial discrimination.”
She added: “Now I think it is important to recognise that there are a number of issues, there are a plethora of issues that affect people from black, Asian, ethnic minority communities but we cannot assume that there is a one size fits all approach or a single policy solution to address those issues.”
But Lib Dem acting leader Sir Ed Davey said Ms Patel “doesn’t get it”.
“People who work here, paid taxes here for years are being denied support and are falling to destitution,” he said.
Sir Ed added: “So given that this rule disproportionately affects people in our black and minority ethnic communities the hardest, will the Home Secretary now suspend the no recourse to public funds rule for the duration of the pandemic?”
Ms Patel replied: “The answer is no.
“Local authorities have provided a basic safety net and that is through significant financial provisions introduced by the Government and a range of measures to support those people that have been working and because of coronavirus, because of this national health pandemic, the situation we find ourselves in, will support people with no recourse to public funds.
“And that assistance is being given under the Coronavirus Retention Scheme and also the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme. So these funds are available.”
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