LGC’s commentary on the cost to councils of supporting people with no recourse to public funds
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LGC research has shown many core city councils face significant financial pressures when supporting people with no recourse to public funds, with further costs hidden in the wider health, education, and social care system.
Some councils have said the budgetary strain, largely caused by a failure of the Home Office to process applications efficiently, is impacting on all areas of service delivery.
Central government say measures in the Immigration Act, which is due to be implemented in April next year, will streamline processes for councils and alleviate pressures on capacity.
But there is significant uncertainty over what impact the act will have in this legally complex area.
Under the act councils would retain responsibility to provide accommodation and financial support to destitute families who have no immigration permission when they have a pending human rights application or appeal.
But there would be very limited circumstances in which support can be provided when such a family exhausts the claims process and there is deemed to be no legal barrier for them to leave the country.
The act also removes the requirement on councils to conduct a human rights assessment before refusing or withdrawing support.
Pilots carried out in 2014 showed removing assistance in these circumstances did not have the desired government effect of encouraging people to leave the country with many simply choosing to stay, end contact with the authorities, and live on the margins of society.
This could have significant consequences for councils as they seek to maintain social cohesion and prevent suffering, as well as deal with an expected increase in vulnerable people coming to the attention of already stretched social services departments.
Some councils are already struggling in their attempts to balance efficiency, spending taxpayers’ money fairly and proportionately, while protecting the most vulnerable.
But without detailed published regulations to accompany the act, and the continued absence of a new burden assessment of the financial impact of the new legislative framework, the future remains uncertain.
And unless the Home Office invests in capacity and improve its own processes, the current problems are likely to continue.