January 25, 2021

Coronavirus: Government won't suspend rules to allow migrants access to public funds

June 08, 2020

A senior MP has expressed his "deep regret" the government will not act to alleviate the "severe hardship" of some migrants during the coronavirus crisis - less than two weeks after Boris Johnson vowed he would "see what we can do to help".

Labour's Stephen Timms, the chair of the House of Commons work and pensions committee, told Sky News the prime minister was "right" to have promised to look into the issue of those whose immigration status means they are not eligible for state support.

But he spoke of his disappointment after Home Secretary Priti Patel on Monday confirmed the government would not be suspending rules that mean some migrants have no recourse to public funds during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mr Timms recently challenged Mr Johnson about those who have permission to remain in the UK but are not able to access state support.

The prime minister appeared surprised that some migrants could not access welfare payments, with Mr Timms having to explain they have no recourse to public funds as a condition attached to their right to stay in the UK.

"I will find out how many are in that position and we will see what we can do to help," Mr Johnson told Mr Timms on 27 May.

However, Ms Patel has now refused to suspend the no recourse to public funds rule for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic, as she argued support had been made available.

She told MPs on Monday: "Local authorities have provided a basic safety net and that is through significant financial provisions introduced by the government and a range of measures to support those people that have been working and because of coronavirus, because of this national health pandemic, the situation we find ourselves in, will support people with no recourse to public funds.

"And that assistance is being given under the coronavirus retention scheme and also the self-employed income support scheme.

"So these funds are available."

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Following Ms Patel's remarks, Mr Timms told Sky News: "Many hard-working families, with children born in Britain, have leave to remain, but no recourse to public funds, and are suffering severe hardship in this crisis.

"They cannot access the Universal Credit safety net which is available to everyone else.

"The prime minister told me at the liaison committee that people in this position 'should have support of one kind or another'. He is right.

"So I deeply regret that the home secretary has announced today that the government will make no changes at all."

Ms Patel addressed the issue in the House of Commons after being urged to suspend the immigration rules by acting Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey.

He told the home secretary she "doesn't get it", adding: "People who work here, paid taxes here for years are being denied support and are falling to destitution."

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