Essex Law Clinic & The Red Cross: lifting the No Recourse to Public Funds restriction

Essex Law Clinic Guest post by Zoé Monty & Priscillia Odia.

NRPF (No Recourse to Public Funds) is a condition imposed on someone who is ‘subject to immigration control’. A person with no recourse to public funds is prohibited from accessing public funds such as certain welfare benefits and social housing.

During last term, we had the instructive opportunity to work with the British Red Cross on a project to help clients write their application letter, asking for a removal of the NRPF restriction from their leave to remain immigration status. The British Red Cross Refugee Support Service works with asylum seekers, vulnerable migrants and refugees that are encountering crisis situations.

Before being able to undertake our one to one interview with a client, we had to shadow lawyers during their meetings with clients at Refugee Action in Colchester in order to get a better understanding of how the interview stage works and how to approach certain delicate situations that may occur with vulnerable clients.

After this session, we attended our first interview at the Chelmsford Red Cross office. We were lucky to have the opportunity to get acquainted with the client before beginning the session. This made the process much more comfortable for us as we felt that at the time we began the interview, a relationship of trust already existed between us and the client.

The interview was quite long, and we were mostly taking notes while the Red Cross caseworker asked the relevant questions, as it was our first experience. In order to make an application form for the removal of a NRPF status, we needed to know every detail of their client’s financial situation as well as her family situation, her and her children’s medical situation and any other information that could possibly weigh in her favour in the final decision.

Because of this, the questions that had to be asked were sometimes very personal and difficult for the client to answer. She told us that the refusal for her and her children to access government funds made her unable to provide them with basic necessities and that they were suffering from this condition on every aspect of their life.

For example, she told us that her children weren’t allowed to have friends over because they didn’t have anything to provide, and that this resulted in them also not going to friends’ houses when invited because they couldn’t return the invitation.

It was extremely touching to hear her story, and when leaving the interview room, we were determined to help this woman with her application letter to enable her to finally live a normal life without being forced to wake up every morning not knowing if she would be able to feed and dress her children or send them to school and if they would still have a roof over their heads next morning.

We drafted a letter outlining her issues and supporting her application the week after the interview, trying to make it as convincing as possible, ensuring that we didn’t leave out any information. The letter was amended and finalised by the Red Cross Supervisor. A few weeks later, we received the good news that the client’s NRPF status was lifted and that she was now going to be able to have access to public funds.

It was really rewarding to receive such news because we felt like we had done something useful that would have a positive impact on the client’s life. We are looking forward to help more people in future through cases in the Clinic by supporting the work of the Red Cross. We are very thankful to them for trusting us to help with such important and delicate cases.

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