Increasing concern about alleged misuse of Section 17 funding and families who have No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) has led BASW to call for greater funding from councils to support penniless refugee and asylum-seeking families.
Social Workers Without Borders (SWWB), together with their partners, raised the issue recently. They highlight how such families are often left with no state benefits and no legal route to work, with discretionary funding made available for children only, leaving parents in a destitute situation.
Under Government legislation, some families will have a residence permit for the UK which does not grant them claims on state help. Such families have no access to such benefits as tax credits or social housing, hence the term No Recourse to Public Funds.
The adults in such families cannot (legally) work. Those who do work are vulnerable to being exploited by criminal bosses and might not be being paid the minimum wage, let alone sick pay or holiday pay.
Section 17, of the Children Act 1989, allows local authorities to provide a form of emergency funding to families who are destitute.
However, there have been worrying reports that in practice officers may be encouraged to provide support only to the child or children of such families, rather than to the whole family, with the result that the child or children become ‘looked after’ (e.g. Section 20).
It is suspected that this practice is a direct result of the underfunding of local authorities.
BASW is calling for local authorities to be adequately funded to ensure that when families are left destitute by the affects of current immigration legislation, social workers and their managers are not put in the unenviable position of having to provide remedial services without the resources to do so.
BASW endorses the SWWB pledge, and you can visit their website to sign their petition here and access more information on families that have labelled as having no recourse to public funds here: http://www.nrpfnetwork.org.uk/information/Pages/Social-Services.aspx