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No Recourse to Public Funds: Newham weekly meal service ends as focus shifts to help with employment

PUBLISHED: 07:18 23 June 2020 | UPDATED: 07:18 23 June 2020

The volunteers who prepared the food given to residents who have been struggling during the coronavirus pandemic, many of whom have no recourse to public funds (NRPF). Picture: Lakmini Shah

The volunteers who prepared the food given to residents who have been struggling during the coronavirus pandemic, many of whom have no recourse to public funds (NRPF). Picture: Lakmini Shah

Archant

A weekly free meal service for vulnerable Newham residents is coming to an end, with those behind the initiative now focused on providing services to get people back into work.

Volunteers packing up the food to be given to local residents on Sunday afternoon, many of whom have relied on this service over the last six weeks. Picture: Lakmini ShahVolunteers packing up the food to be given to local residents on Sunday afternoon, many of whom have relied on this service over the last six weeks. Picture: Lakmini Shah

Over the past six weeks Cllr Lakmini Shah has been working with East Ham restaurant Chennai Dosa every Sunday to prepare meals for people really struggling during the coronavirus pandemic, the majority of whom have no recourse to public funds (NRPF).

Those with NRPF have been unable to apply for universal credit if they cannot work during lockdown, prompting Cllr Shah to organise the provision of a weekly free meal.

The councillor joined a group of volunteers and restaurant staff in giving up time for free, with the food for each week bought using a donation.

However, with lockdown continuing to ease, Sunday, June 21 marked the final weekly service, as the emphasis now shifts to getting people back into work.

A Chennai Dosa chef and Newham Councillor Lakmini Shah preparing a curry for Sunday lunchtime, to be given to local residents struggling during the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: Lakmini ShahA Chennai Dosa chef and Newham Councillor Lakmini Shah preparing a curry for Sunday lunchtime, to be given to local residents struggling during the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: Lakmini Shah

Cllr Shah said: “We have been providing this service over recent weeks as the government isn’t going to help these people. We’re now moving to the second stage, which aims to connect people with individuals and organisations who can help them back into work.

“We’re also reaching out to large companies to ask that they take on these people who have no safety net if they cannot work.”

Beyond the pressures of finding a new job, many of those with NRPF have ongoing immigration issues, which are often complicated and potentially decisive.

Back in January Cllr Shah launched The Law Clinic Conversation, designed to help those struggling with immigration difficulties.

Huge pots of food prepared at the Chennai Dosa restaurant in East Ham. Picture: Cash BoyleHuge pots of food prepared at the Chennai Dosa restaurant in East Ham. Picture: Cash Boyle

Lockdown prevented this initiative from taking off; however, the easing situation means that the scheme — backed by Duncan Lewis Solicitors and the University of East London (UEL) law faculty — can really start to help people.

Prior to coronavirus, those with NRPF primarily faced immigration problems. However, the virus has created huge unemployment, leaving many destitute.

This has driven Cllr Shah’s response; the last six weeks of providing meals has been about survival. Now the focus is on helping people thrive once again.


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