The Local Government Association has called for the suspension of the No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) “so that all vulnerable individuals are entitled to receive support during the coronavirus crisis”.
The LGA said that high numbers of people with NRPF – a condition government places on some individuals as a result of their immigration status, removing access to welfare benefits – had been approaching councils for support during the pandemic following, for example, loss of employment.
It added that it wanted to work with government and the current review led by Dame Louise Casey to provide greater clarity and funding for councils’ responsibilities for all those who are destitute and homeless because of their migration status.
The LGA noted that, since the coronavirus outbreak, councils had been given emergency funding to meet a range of cost pressures arising, including supporting people with NRPF.
But it warned that this funding would not cover the costs of preventing people with NRPF who were sleeping rough from returning to the streets.
The LGA said suspending NRPF would also allow councils to support this group of people directly into accommodation using the rough sleeping funding recently allocated by government, which legally cannot be used to support people with NRPF.
Cllr David Renard, the LGA’s housing spokesman, said: “Councils have been doing everything they can to support all groups facing homelessness and help protect them from coronavirus. Councils are now planning their next steps in supporting people to move on from emergency accommodation. This needs to include clarity and funding for those who are destitute and homeless because of their migration status.
“As the economy recovers, local outbreaks may mean there still may be a need to be able to access safe and suitable accommodation and financial support to allow for self-isolation, particularly for single adults without care needs who are not usually eligible for social services’ support.
“This could be enabled by a temporary removal of the NRPF condition which would reduce public health risks and pressures on homelessness services by enabling vulnerable people to access welfare benefits.”