Local authorities prevent and alleviate destitution and homelessness by providing essential ‘safety-net’ support to people with no recourse to public funds. Despite a government target to end rough sleeping by 2024, immigration-based restrictions on access to benefits and homelessness assistance under Part VII of the Housing Act 1996 continue to apply and be extended to new groups.
However, when duties and powers are engaged under the Care Act 2014, accommodation and financial support can be provided to adults with care and support needs who have no recourse to public funds. Additionally, discretionary powers and government funding provided to housing authorities to reduce rough sleeping can be used to provide shelter to non-UK nationals who do not qualify for care and support.
When local authority duties and powers are engaged to alleviate destitution and/or homelessness arising from a person’s lack of access to benefits, providing an effective response comes with challenges and significant financial risk to local authorities. Government funding is generally targeted at ending rough sleeping with grants administered to housing authorities, whereas no reimbursement has been provided to social care for supporting households with no recourse to public funds, which collectively costs 72 local authorities £64 million per year.
When support is provided, it can take a long time to resolve the person’s situation of homelessness. Adults with care needs receive support for an average 2.7 years and 60% exit support following a grant of leave to remain, with the local authority often dependent on Home Office decision making. Even where funding has been provided to support people at risk of rough sleeping, the local authority will be taking on significant financial risk by providing shelter when the person’s lack of access to benefits and mainstream housing assistance cannot be quickly resolved.
Many adults with no recourse to public funds who are experiencing homelessness will be ‘on the edge of care’, having complex needs but not necessarily social care needs that would engage a duty to provide care and support. Therefore, when a person has an appearance of need, social care must establish whether duties and powers under the Care Act 2014 are engaged. When assistance under the Care Act cannot be provided, the local authority must ensure that all alternative options available to the individual are fully considered.
In order to end rough sleeping, promote an individual’s well-being, and reduce the financial impact on a local authority when support is provided, a holistic approach needs to be undertaken when a person with no recourse to public funds is experiencing homelessness. This will require partnership working across social care and housing, and, in some cases, public health and the NHS. Partnership working across social care, housing, public health, and the NHS will ensure better outcomes for people who are facing multiple disadvantages in their lives. It will also be necessary to enable access to immigration advice and draw on the support of voluntary and community sector organisations that can provide specialist services and advocate for individuals.
This guidance is intended to assist local authorities to establish which duties and powers will need to be considered when an adult who is ineligible for benefits is experiencing homelessness, who may need to be involved in delivering support, and what can be done to help establish a long-term solution to the person’s situation of homelessness or destitution
1.1 How to use this guidance
This guidance can be referred to by adult social care, housing, public health and NHS professionals who are responsible for making decisions about entitlement to support or who are advising adults with no recourse to public funds who are experiencing homelessness.
Part one (chapters 2 to 9) focuses on the provision of care and support, including accommodation, to adults with no recourse to public funds who are living in the community or being discharged from hospital.
Part two (chapters 10 to 13) provides information about other support for people with no recourse to public funds, including aftercare provided under section 117 of the Mental Health Act 1983, NHS continuing healthcare and Home Office support. The guidance also covers discretionary powers to provide shelter, which may need to be considered as part of measures a local authority (usually housing authority) is undertaking to end rough sleeping. Long-term solutions to the person’s situation of homelessness or destitution are also explored.
As social care and housing are devolved areas of law, this guidance refers to legislation that applies in England only. Local authorities in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland will need to refer to the relevant legislation when establishing whether statutory duties and powers apply. As immigration law is applicable across the UK, this guidance may still be informative from a practice perspective for local authorities in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.
For information about the legislation that applies in Scotland, councils in Scotland can refer to the COSLA guidance: migrants’ rights and entitlements.
1.2 Who has no recourse to public funds?
In order to identify the support options that are available to a non-UK national who is destitute or experiencing homelessness, it will be necessary to establish the person’s immigration status and whether they have access to public funds (benefits and local authority housing assistance). A person will have no recourse to public funds when they are ‘subject to immigration control’. Some European Economic Area (EEA) nationals will be described as having ‘no recourse to public funds’ if they do not satisfy benefit eligibility tests.
The immigration terminology used in this guidance is listed in the glossary. See the NRPF Network website for more information about who has no recourse to public funds.
1.3.1 Persons ‘subject to immigration control’
Section 115 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 specifies that a person will have no recourse to public funds (benefits and local authority housing assistance) when they are ‘subject to immigration control’.
A person will be subject to immigration control when they have one of the following types of immigration status:
Leave to enter or remain, which is subject to a ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ (NRPF) condition.
- Leave to remain that is subject to a maintenance undertaking:
- This only applies to a person who has indefinite leave to remain as the adult dependent relative of a person with settled status and the prohibition on claiming public funds lasts for five years after they enter the UK.
- Leave to enter or remain as a result of a pending immigration appeal:
- This would apply when a person has section 3C leave whilst an appeal against a refusal of leave to remain is pending.
- No leave to enter or remain when the person is required to obtain this, such as a:
- Visa overstayer
- Person seeking asylum
- Person who has become ‘appeal rights exhausted’ following an unsuccessful immigration or asylum claim
When a person is subject to immigration control, they will be excluded from:
- Most benefits, including means-tested benefits
- Homelessness assistance under part VII of the Housing Act 1996
- A local authority allocation of social housing made under part VI of the Housing Act 1996
Having no recourse to public funds does not prevent a person from accessing other publicly funded services, such as social care or NHS treatment. Such services must not be denied to a person solely for the reason that they have no recourse to public funds. However, a person’s immigration status (or lack of status) may be a factor that determines whether they can access some services, such as free secondary NHS care. See the NRPF Network website for the full list of benefits that are public funds and information about a person’s entitlement to other services.
A person who has lived in the UK for several decades may be lawfully present even if they do not have a document to confirm this. In such cases, the person may be able to evidence their status by applying to the Windrush Scheme. This should be taken into account before they are denied services on the basis of not having any lawful status. See the NRPF Network website for more information about the Windrush Scheme.
1.3.2 EEA nationals
A European Economic Area (EEA) national or family member of an EEA national is likely to have one of the following types of immigration status:
- Settled status (indefinite leave to remain)
- Pre-settled status (limited leave to remain)
- A pending EU Settlement Scheme application
- EU Settlement Scheme family permit
- Leave to enter granted on or after 1 January 2021 for a specific purpose, such as to visit, work, or study.
- Without lawful status
EEA nationals are currently issued with a digital status, which is accessible on gov.uk using the ‘view and prove’ system.
When a person is without lawful status, it will be necessary to identify whether they are entitled to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme, as they may be able to make a late application. A late applicant must be able to show that they have a reasonable excuse for missing the deadline.
A person can make an application to the EU Settlement Scheme if they are:
- An EEA national, family member of an EEA national, or person with a derivative right to reside who was living in the UK before 11pm on 31 December 2020
- A close family member of a person with settled or pre-settled status, who may have entered with an EU Settlement Scheme family permit or as a visitor, or who is not yet in the UK
An EEA national’s immigration status will determine whether they are able to access benefits and housing assistance. For example, a person with leave to enter as a visitor or who has no lawful status will be subject to immigration control and have no recourse to public funds.
A person with pre-settled status or a pending EU Settlement Scheme application is not subject to the NRPF condition but will need to meet a ‘right to reside’ test in order to qualify for benefits and homelessness assistance. They may be described as having no recourse to public funds if they are found to be ineligible for benefits or homelessness assistance.
See the NRPF Network website for more information about benefit entitlement for EEA nationals.
1.3.3. British citizens returning from abroad
British citizens returning to live in the UK after a period of residence abroad will have full access to benefits and housing assistance. However, if they have lived outside of the Common Travel Area (UK, Republic of Ireland, Channel Islands and Isle of Man) it may take up to three months to demonstrate that they are habitually resident for the purpose of qualifying for means-tested benefits and homelessness assistance.
Although British citizens are not prohibited from accessing public funds, those returning to live in the UK may face homelessness or destitution for a short period whilst their access to benefits and housing assistance is being established.