Free school meals for more families
During the pandemic we launched a campaign that successfully led to a short-term commitment to provide free school meals to migrant families with No Recourse to Public funds (NRPF). Now, more than two years later it has finally been made permanent.
What does having NRPF mean?
Before we can talk about the significance of the campaign win we need to shed some light on who it applies to. Starting with the basics, NRPF stands for No Recourse to Public Funds. It is a condition that applies to most migrants in the UK.
Simply put, if someone has NRPF they are not entitled to the majority of welfare benefits, including jobseekers’ allowance, housing benefit and social housing. The only way they can gain access to is by obtaining a permanent settled status, or if they are able to become a citizen.
The reality is this puts many families, already struggling to make ends meet, in an even worse situation.
Who is subject to NRPF?
The Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 says a person will have NRPF when they are 'subject to immigration control'. However, it can apply to others too. Generally, student or work visas do not allow access to public funds. And the same is true of people that have overstayed their visas.
Sadly, it is often these immigrant families that need public funds the most. That is why we are fighting for them.
What are families with NRPF entitled to?
There are still some services that NRPF families can access. NHS treatment is not classed as a public fund. Therefore it can still be used regardless of immigration status. Compulsory education is still available to these families too. And last but not least, thanks to our campaign and all those that took part, Free School Meals are now available.
Free School Meals
We spoke to our Policy and Practice Advisor Mohammed about how important the campaign win could be for families living on the edge.
The dire poverty families find themselves in will live long in my memory
One of the many consequences of the NRPF policy has been that children were until recently not allowed Free School Meals. This is because free school meals are based on what benefits a family has access to. This is not a new problem. I’ve been involved in many cases but there are some you never forget.
No Recourse to Public Funds
Hand to mouth
I remember a child was taken into care as his mother was unable to provide him school meals – she had NRPF and was destitute. The school had warned her that if her child was left hungry at lunchtime then they would refer the family on to social care. The family weren’t receiving any financial support and couldn’t access any benefits as they had NRPF. They were living hand to mouth.
Out of desperation, the mum sent her child to school with mouldy bread as this was the only food she had available. Unfortunately, this meant the child was taken into temporary care. I still remember receiving the harrowing phone call from mum when her child was taken from her. She was distraught and in shock at what had happened.
The position she found herself in was no fault of her own. She had always tried to do what was best for her child. Some experiences never leave you and that call from mum was one of them.
This goes to show the desperate situation people can find themselves in when they have nowhere to turn. The short- and long-term consequences for families are broad and unnecessary.
This should never take place, especially in school where children should be kept safe.
Making things permanent
Making things permanent
When the pandemic hit, many parents with NRPF were badly affected – losing work, with no access to sickness or unemployment benefits. So, we launched a campaign for these families with our partner organisations. We were blown away by the response to this campaign as over 20,000 people wrote to their MPs and to ministers, demanding that these families get the help they need.
This led to a short-term commitment to provide Free School Meals to NRPF families living on low incomes. Now, more than two years later, this policy has finally been made permanent.
resources for NRPF migrants
I would personally like to thank everyone who has participated, either directly or indirectly, within this long journey.
Families with NRPF now have one less thing to worry about.
We hope no parents ever face horrific consequence, like the one above, following this policy change. We have long been involved at all levels to ensure that a child should not go hungry simply because of their parents’ immigration status. This latest announcement should reduce the burden on many parents – we now urge schools to ensure all those who are eligible get the support they need.
We’ve created resources to help schools reach NRPF families. You can download them below: