SNP MP Stuart McDonald has urged the Home Secretary to make the asylum support system genuinely accessible and safe, and provide funding for accommodation and support for people with No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) during the COVID-19 crisis.
On Wednesday 25th March the UK government promised that groups including asylum seekers, those whose asylum claims have been refused, and those who are generally prohibited from having access to public funds “will certainly receive the Home Office funding that they need and deserve”.
The SNP’s Immigration spokesperson has said that since then there have been some welcome developments but that a number of other steps must be taken – which would see increased and more comprehensive support provided to those in the asylum system – including uprating asylum financial support in line with Income Support levels, and reinstitution of full support for all those in asylum accommodation but whose asylum support has been discontinued.
Mr McDonald has also called on the Home Office to urgently suspend the rules prohibiting recourse to public funds and to make direct financial provisions for local authorities to work specifically with those who have NRPF – saying this would be a faster and more comprehensive response rather than leaving local authorities to navigate complex questions about what support can be provided to whom, and what funding source to use.
In some parts of the UK, people are still being turned away from homelessness support services, either because they are expressly prohibited from recourse to public funds through NRPF conditions, or because they have had their asylum claims refused and are still being denied support by the Home Office despite the crisis.
In other areas, Local Authorities are accommodating people with NRPF but are not providing subsistence support due to NRPF rules, resulting in people being left in hotel rooms without access to food.
Commenting, Stuart McDonald MP said:
“If we are to support rather than undermine the public health approach to Covid-19, the UK government must make the asylum support system genuinely accessible and safe, and implement urgent and clear policy for funding to support those who are homeless with NRPF and suspension of rules on NRPF.
“Such a change could make an immediate and significant impact on the ground.
“While there have been some localised success stories where help is getting to where it is needed, these are the exceptions rather than the rule and it is public services that are picking up the pieces and paying for this much needed support.
“Without a clear policy that is directly funded by the UK government, a significant group of vulnerable people are unable to access mainstream homelessness services and continuing to be left to sleep rough and move between multiple locations.
“Local areas want to help but need help to do so.
“Exceptional times require exceptional measures, as Portugal has demonstrated.
“Saving lives must be the priority – it is as simple as that.”