The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) today (Monday) called on the UK Government to suspend the rules that prevent some migrant families and individuals from accessing state support.
COSLA, which represents local authorities in Scotland, has also today published guidance for councils who are urgently providing emergency assistance to migrants with ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ during the Covid-19 pandemic. This guidance will help local authorities provide help to those migrants in severe need during the crisis.
But, COSLA says, without a change in immigration rules, some people are still at severe risk of falling into destitution, and communities’ ability to contain the spread of the virus may be hampered.
People who have ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ as a condition of their visa include many essential workers such as NHS staff, shop workers, and delivery drivers. The condition also applies to overseas students and short-term visitors, and asylum seekers who have been refused sanctuary in the UK.
Under immigration rules they are unable to access the benefit system or mainstream homelessness services. But, like the rest of the population, many now find themselves unable to work and there are fears that, with no alternative source of income, many simply will not be able to follow the advice to self-isolate.
Without being able to apply for benefits, these migrants have nowhere else to go, and are turning to councils to help.
COSLA, along with the UK’s other Local Government associations, have already written a joint letter to the UK Government calling on them to suspend the restrictions while we fight the pandemic. Numerous charities and support organisations have done likewise. The rules are undermining the response to Covid-19, adding to the complexity and pressure on services and leaving people highly vulnerable during the crisis.
COSLA Community Wellbeing Spokesperson, Councillor Kelly Parry said: “Councils are at the frontline of the humanitarian response to this unprecedented crisis. Yet this task is being made especially challenging because of immigration rules. While Government advice is, rightly, that everyone in our communities should practice social distancing and self-isolate if they show symptoms of the virus, many people subject to No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) restrictions simply cannot do this.
“The Government must listen to local communities, who are working flat-out to combat the spread of the virus and ensure people are safe and healthy. There is no capacity for the extra complexity the current immigration rules are causing. Local areas are working really hard to deliver services to those in need across our communities in very challenging circumstances. Lifting the NRPF restriction would mean that all vulnerable people can access the same lifeline services regardless of immigration status – and, crucially, help us to slow the spread of the disease.”