No recourse to public funds must be suspended, says East Ham MP, amidst rocketing requests for support in Newham

East Ham MP Stephen Timms asked Prime Minister Boris Johnson about the no recourse to public funds s

East Ham MP Stephen Timms asked Prime Minister Boris Johnson about the no recourse to public funds scheme in a parliamentary session on Wednesday, May 27. Picture: Ken Mears - Credit: Archant

East Ham MP Stephen Timms has called for the no recourse to public funds (NRPF) scheme to be suspended, following a recent court ruling which declared the practice unlawful.

Mr Timms — who has campaigned on this issue — made the request at a House of Commons debate earlier this week.

Critics have long since been vocal on NRPF, as it prevents many legally-residing residents from being able to access benefits before the 10 year point at which they can apply for indefinite leave to remain.

During the coronavirus crisis those affected have neither been able to work nor apply for state assistance, as reflected by a 300 per cent increase in support requests made to Newham Council during this period.

In his speech, Mr Timms said: “Representing, as I do, the borough with the highest age-adjusted Covid-19 mortality rate in the country, I will focus on just one point, which is families with leave to remain in the UK but no recourse to public funds.

“They are law-abiding, hard-working families. They have permission to work and are complying with the rules, but for many of them, as for others, their work stopped when the crisis began.”

The East Ham representative highlighted that although NRPF may be “manageable when work is available”, affected persons currently cannot apply for universal credit or other such benefits, and are often also ineligible for the job retention or self-employment schemes.

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The impact is difficult to quantify, said the MP, as the home office “inexplicably” will not say how many people have NRPF.

A recent report by the Children’s Society, drawing from the University of Oxford’s Migration Observatory, estimates the number to be over one millon people, including 100,000 children.

Mr Timms concluded: “It cannot be right to deny any possibility of an income to people who have broken no rules and whose contribution we have all benefited from for years.”

Last week’s court ruling found that the NRPF practice breaches article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits inhumane or degrading treatment.

A full judgment, which will detail the implications moving forward, is expected soon.