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4.2.2 Practice Guidance for Working with and Supporting Families who have No Recourse to Public Funds


  1. What is No Recourse to Public Funds?
  2. Screening Process
  3. Accompanied Asylum-Seeking Children
  4. Accommodation
  5. Legal Framework
  6. Completing the Assessments
  7. NRPF Connect
  8. Outcomes of the Strengthening Families Assessment & Human Rights Act Assessment

1. What is No Recourse to Public Funds?

No Recourse to Public Funds is a specific condition experienced by some families, and by extension their children, who due to their immigration status are not entitled to the full range of benefits enjoyed by other citizens.

This is a complex area of practice which experiences regular changes in law and guidance and it is not unusual for families to be referred to as having no recourse to public funds (NRPF) when in practice this is not actually the case. However, if this is so it does not mean that the many are necessarily without needs which may require support.

Additionally, there is a specific and exhaustive list of what is, and isn’t, a ‘public fund’ for the purposes of this client group. Legal aid, education and some healthcare are for example services that a family with NRPF remain entitled to. An up-to-date list can be found on the NRPF network website.

Therefore it is important to undertake an assessment of a family’s situation in order to establish whether they do have NRPF and if so whether they are entitled to Local Authority support. Unfortunately there is not currently any national Government guidance on working with NRPF families.

Examples of the types of families who may have No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) include:

  • People with refugee status from another European Economic Area (EEA) country other than the UK or are dependents of people in the UK who have refugee status from a EEA country other than the UK;
  • People who are citizens of an EEA country other than the UK or are the dependents of people who are citizens of an EEA country other than the UK;
  • Failed asylum seekers who have exhausted their appeal rights and who have failed to co-operate with removal directions;
  • Persons who are unlawfully present in the UK who are not asylum-seekers, for example, people who have overstayed their leave to remain, people who have been trafficked into the country, people who entered the country illegally;
  • People who have been granted limited leave to remain on the condition that they have no recourse to public funds, for example, people who are spouses/unmarried partners of persons with British citizenship or indefinite leave to remain, who have been granted a two year probationary period on condition of no recourse to public funds;
  • People who have been granted discretionary leave to remain, for example, 'separated' children or young people from non-suspensive appeal countries whom the Home Office does not grant either refugee status or humanitarian protection, and are given 12 months leave to remain or until their 18th birthday, whichever is shorter;
  • People on student visas who are unable to work and have no recourse to public funds.

This list is by no means exhaustive and provides examples of the categories of people who may present, or be referred, to Children's Social Care Services as having NRPF. This means that many of these families are likely to have been living in the UK for some time and are not necessarily newly arrived.

2. Screening Process

In order to establish whether a family referred to Children’s Services because they have NRPF are entitled to a service the case should first be screened by Front Door for Families in the same way as any other case.

However, if available, it is recommended that this process is undertaken by a worker with knowledge and experience in this area. If a family have NRPF then it is often the case that they do not have access to money in order to meet basic living expenses and/or they may not have access to any accommodation and are not entitled to it via the local council Housing department.

This creates the potential for the child/ren to be at risk of destitution, defined by s95 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 as:

  • (3) For the purposes of this section, a person is destitute if:
    1. He does not have adequate accommodation or any means of obtaining it (whether or not his other essential living needs are met); or
    2. He has adequate accommodation or the means of obtaining it, but cannot meet his other essential living needs.
  • (4) If a person has dependants, subsection (3) is to be read as if the references to him were references to him and his dependants taken together.

As part of the screening process a discussion should take place with the parent(s) to establish their circumstances and seek consent to undertake checks in the usual way. More detailed guidance on assessing risk of destitution during screening is available in the policy for s95 support. See Guidance in Relation to Asylum Seeking Families at Risk of Destitution.

If this process establishes that the child/ren are at risk of destitution then this creates the potential for the child/ren to become a Child in Need and an assessment should be undertaken under S17 of the Children Act 1989. Ideally this assessment should be allocated to a social worker with experience of working with families with NRPF.

Additionally, whilst the referral may have been made duNRPF, Practice Guidance for Local Authorities (England): Assessing and supporting children & families and care leavers with no recourse to public fundse to the risk of destitution, consideration should be given to any other safeguarding concerns which may exist. For example the children may be at risk of destitution due to the breakdown of a relationship due to Domestic Violence and Abuse, may have been trafficked or may have been a victim or Modern Slavery. In such instances consideration should be given to undertaking a Child Protection Investigation under S47 of the Children Act 1989.

In these situations a discussion should take place between the Practice Manager/Team Manager, Front Door for Families and the relevant Pod Manager to decide whether the case is best allocated to a Pod-based social worker or to the designated social worker for families with NRPF. If the case is allocated to a Pod-based social worker then the NRPF social worker will remain available to advise on NRPF matters during the duration of the assessment.  

It is important to consider other possible outcomes from the screening process. Firstly, a family may have recourse to public funds but they may be a risk of destitution because they have not, for example, made the necessary claims for benefits or understood how to do this. These families may be supported by a Social Work Resource Officer under an Intervention Record or may be referred to the Early Help Hub.  

Secondly, an Asylum-seeking family may be at risk of destitution as they are not receiving support from the Home Office and/or are still being assessed to see if they are entitled to this. See Guidance in Relation to Asylum Seeking Families at Risk of Destitution.

Unaccompanied Asylum-seeking children (UASC) should be referred to the designated UASC social worker for an assessment to be undertaken.

3. Accompanied Asylum-Seeking Children

(See also Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children Procedure).

‘Accompanied Asylum-seeking children’ refers to those children who have entered the UK illegally and have claimed Asylum but do not require foster care as they are staying with family or friends. In these cases a Strengthening Families Assessment should be undertaken.

This assessment should seek to confirm the identity of the child and carer, inspect the home and living conditions and seek to make contact with the parents to ensure there are aware of and consent to where and with whom the child is staying.

Support and services should be provided to ensure that the child has access to legal representation, has begun the process of applying for school, and that attention can be given to any physical health needs or emotional trauma which may have been encountered or not addressed during their journey to the UK.

Consideration should be given to the possibility that the child may have been trafficked into the country and/or is a victim of Modern Slavery. In this context any refusal to give permission to speak with the child or barriers to contacting the parents should be critically examined.  

4. Accommodation

It is possible that a family may be referred to Children’s Services who have an immediate need for accommodation and no means of obtaining it. In such circumstances initial information should be gathered and it may be necessary to seek consent from the Team Manager, Front Door for Families, for emergency accommodation to be provided whilst further checks are undertaken.

Due to limited availability, it is likely this accommodation will be outside the local authority area. If the child/ren are attending school, the family should be advised that the additional school transport costs incurred due to moving will be provided for a period of either 6 weeks or until the next school half-term, whichever is longer. The family should be supported in making an application for school places local to their emergency accommodation.  

The accommodation should be visited by the allocated worker within 5 working days of the family being housed there; consideration should be given to whether this accommodation is safe and appropriate for meeting the child/ren’s needs. 

5. Legal Framework

It is important to note that the Immigration Bill 2015, which is currently passing through Parliament, seeks to make substantive changes to this area of law. This guidance will be updated at the earliest opportunity but it is important that social workers are aware of these potential changes.

Currently however, Schedule 3, Section 54 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 prevents social services, by law, from providing support to the following four groups of people:

  1. A person granted refugee status by another EEA state and any dependents;
  2. An EEA national and any dependents;
  3. A refused asylum seeker who has failed to comply with removal directions;
  4. A person unlawfully present in the UK.

Unless it is established by Human Rights Act Assessment that assisted return to their county of origin would constitute a breach of their Human Rights or EU Community Treaty Rights. For the purposes of this document, “their country of origin” refers to the country of origin of the parent(s), regardless of the child’s place of birth.

It is therefore the Human Rights Act Assessment which ensures that the Local Authority remains compliant with the law and in response to which the family may wish to challenge the decision to end support, if they wish to do so. This means that in order to provide support to any of the above groups of people a Strengthening Families Assessment and a Human Rights Act Assessment must be completed concurrently.

As would be expected, the circumstances of each family are different and therefore the social worker should consult with legal before undertaking a Human Rights Act Assessment and during it if necessary. A completed Human Rights Assessment should always be seen and approved by legal before being shared with the family.

6. Completing the Assessments

  1. Human Rights Act Assessment

Information from the Strengthening Families Assessment can be used to inform the Human Rights Assessment; it is normal for there to be some duplication of information. However, it is the Human Rights Act Assessment which justifies the ongoing provision of support or, alternatively, the grounds upon which it has been decided that it should no longer be provided.

The three sections of the Human Rights Act which are most likely to be relevant to a social worker assessing a family with NRPF are:

  • Article 3 – ‘No one shall be subject to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment’;
  • Article 6 – ‘Right to a fair hearing’;
  • Article 8 – ‘The right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.’

Issues to consider under Article 3

  • Will the family have access to basic living supports in their country of origin? This includes housing and subsistence, and could be accessed through social welfare systems or family support.
  • Does any family member have a specific health or disability related need, and if so can that be met appropriately in their country of origin?
  • If the assessment has raised Child Protection concerns, can the child be adequately safeguarded in their country of origin?

Issues to consider under Article 6

  • Is a family member involved in any criminal or civil proceedings? Would they be able to continue to participate in these if they returned to their country of origin?
  • Does any family member have a pending immigration or immigration appeal decision?
  • Issues to consider under Article 8
  • How long have the family been in the UK?
  • How will the child’s education be effected by returning to their country of origin?
  • Will any family relationships or significant attachments be affected by returning to their country of origin? In what way?

These questions are not exhaustive and depending on the individual circumstances of the family other issues may need to be explored.

  1. Human Rights Assessment & EEA Citizens

In addition where EEA citizens are concerned the social worker must also consider within the Human Rights Act Assessment whether a person is exercising their Community Treaty Rights as support can only continue to be provided if you are found to be a ‘qualified person’. In order to be a ‘qualified person’ you must be either a:

  • Jobseeker;
  • Worker;
  • Self-employed person;
  • Self-sufficient person;
  • Student.

The process of deciding whether an individual is a qualified person can be complicated and is dependent on their individual circumstances with reference to the relevant EU regulations. Advice from Legal Services should always be sought and additional guidance is available on the NRPF network website.

All Human Rights Act Assessments, once complete, should be shared with a local authority legal advisor, to ensure accuracy and compliance with current legislation and case law.

It should also be reiterated that regardless of their immigration status responsibility for responding to any safeguarding concerns remains with the Local Authority in which the child resides.

  1. Completing the Strengthening Families Assessment

(See Strengthening Families Assessments).

Guidance and policy in relation to conducting Strengthening Families Assessment remain applicable when assessing NRPF families. In addition, when completing a Strengthening Families Assessment on a family identified as NRPF:

  • A home visit should take place within 5 working days of opening the assessment, at which time the family should be advised to seek legal advice about their situation;
  • If the family have been placed in emergency accommodation, the home visit must also include checks on the suitability of this accommodation;
  • Consent should be obtained to contact the Home Office and any legal advisors the family are working with;
  • It should be explained that the family’s details will be entered onto NRPF Connect (see Section 7, NRPF Connect) and the purpose and associated processes of this should be made clear;
  • Any documentation confirming immigration status or evidence of destitution (i.e. bank statements, Home Office correspondence, etc) which were not obtaining during screening must be viewed, copied and added to IDOX;
  • Where necessary, interpreters should be used and a translated version of the information pack for families should be provided, especially the complaints procedure and consent form. See Complaints and Representations;
  • It remains necessary to consider if there is evidence to suggest Child in Need or Child Protection concerns. The Local Authority has a duty to assess the circumstances and needs of a child regardless of immigration status where there are concerns about welfare and/or safety under the Children Act 1989.

7. NRPF Connect

Brighton and Hove is a member of the NRPF Network and as such has access to the NRPF Connect database. Access to the database is currently restricted to those employees working directly with NRPF families in both Adults and Children’s Services; however enquiries can be made on behalf of other Social Workers upon request.

Whenever an assessment is undertaken, full details should be entered into NRPF Connect at the earliest opportunity. The database allows direct communication with Home Office who will provide confirmation of an individual’s immigration status within 5 working days. If the information is not consistent with that given by the family then this could mean that they are not entitled to support and it is possible that any accommodation and subsistence paid could be ended at this point.

NRPF connect includes a helpful query function which allows the exchange of messages with the Home Office to attempt to clarify any matters relating to an individuals immigration status. In addition any costs incurred in supporting a family should be recorded on NRPF connect as the Home Office have agreed to prioritise those cases which are the greatest financial burden upon Local Authorities.

For further information please see the written guidance provided by the NRPF Network regarding the use of NRPF Connect.

8. Outcomes of the Strengthening Families Assessment & Human Rights Act Assessment

  1. Continuing Support

In cases where the Human Rights Act Assessment finds it is lawful for the local authority to provide ongoing support, this should be reflected in the analysis of the Strengthening Families Assessment. Brighton & Hove Children’s Services Threshold Document should be primarily used as guidance for the outcome of the Strengthening Families Assessment. Any decisions regarding safeguarding concerns should be made with reference to the Brighton & Hove Children’s Services Threshold Document.

Where the family’s NRPF status is the only significant presenting need, it should be considered whether families can be adequately supported by the Early Help Hub or a Social Work Resource Officer.

If a family remains allocated to a social worker due to the complexity of their immigration circumstances and/or any additional safeguarding concerns, they must have a Child in Need Plan even if they would otherwise not meet this threshold.

If the family were placed in emergency accommodation during the assessment period, consideration should be given to obtaining accommodation in the private rental sector. If it appears that the family’s NRPF status will not be resolved within 6 months, it is likely that private rental accommodation would be significantly more cost-effective than emergency accommodation for Children’s Services, and better able to meet the family’s needs.

  1. Ending Support

If the outcome of the Human Rights Act Assessment is that the family can be assisted to return to their country of origin without breaching their human rights, support to the family can be ended. The process to end support is as follows:

  • A copy of the Human Rights Act Assessment should be shared with the family along with a 14 day notification stating that support will be ending and the local authority will be providing an assisted return to the country of origin;
  • The Human Rights Act Assessment should be shared in person wherever possible, and must always be translated into the reader’s first language;
  • When the Human Rights Act Assessment is shared, information on how to obtain independent advice and legal counsel should always be provided;
  • An assisted return should be arranged as soon as possible, but no sooner than the end of the 14 day notification period;
  • The social worker should make a decision with their manager as to the most practicable and cost-effective method of return;
  • In rare cases, it will not be possible for a return to be arranged at the end of this 14 day period for practical reasons. In such cases, the local authority will continue to provide support until an assisted return takes place;
  • In cases where the Home Office is responsible for the assisted return of the family, the local authority will continue to provide support until this takes place.

  1. Changes in NRPF Status while supporting the family

When a family’s immigration claim is resolved in such a way which results in their NRPF status being lifted, the social worker should support the family to access mainstream benefits and housing provision. The needs of the family should then be reviewed with reference to the Brighton and Hove Children’s Services Threshold Document and re-allocated to the appropriate team or service as necessary.