I have lost my job and I have no recourse to public funds – what can I do?

5 May 2020 | Angela Marangone

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The impact of the current pandemic is being felt by many, but the prospect of losing your job or not being able to pay your rent will be particularly stressful for those with no recourse to public funds (“NRPF”). This is because if you have no access to public funds, you will not be able to claim mainstream benefits such as Universal Credit or be eligible for housing assistance from your local authority (you may, however, be eligible to claim Contributory-based Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) or Contributory-based Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) –visit the Jobcentre Plus website for more information.

However, as a result of the government’s guidance to limit the impact of the virus, many local authorities have put in place special measures to assist people with NRPF who are facing financial difficulty, or are at risk of becoming destitute. This may include existing support which is available under the Children Act 1989 and the Care Act 2014 as well as additional support on public health grounds.

If you have children under the age of 18

If you have children under the age of 18, you should approach your local authority and request that they carry out a needs assessment under s.17 Children Act 1989. This act requires local authorities to provide accommodation and/or financial support to families with children who are assessed as being a ‘child in need’. This may be the case where you are either homeless, at risk of homelessness or unable to afford basic living needs. Social services can provide the above support before the needs assessment has been completed.

If you have no children but have care needs

If you have no children, you should still approach your local authority, and ask them to complete an assessment under the Care Act 2014. If social services find that you have care needs, they may be required to provide you with accommodation and/or financial support.

If you have no children and no care needs

If you have no children and no care needs, you should still approach your local authority for help. This is because, since the pandemic, many local authorities have provided single individuals who were sleeping rough or in shelters, with accommodation on a public health basis, to limit the spread of the virus.

Asylum Seekers and Appeal Rights Exhausted (“ARE”) cases

If you are an Asylum Seeker or if you have exhausted all your appeal rights after making an asylum application, you may be eligible for support from the Home Office. If you have contacted the Home Office but they cannot immediately provide support, you should seek legal advice to challenge the Home Office. In addition, in this scenario you should also approach your local authority to see if they are able to offer support.

If the local authority refuses to help

If the local authority refuse to provide you with accommodation, a solicitor may, depending on the circumstances, be assist in arguing that the local authority’s decision amounts to a breach of human rights. Given the government’s restrictions on travel, it is not currently reasonable to expect foreign nationals to return to their home country as an alternative to requesting support in the UK. Additionally, those with symptoms of the virus or who are vulnerable are required to self-isolate. In those circumstances, travelling may well pose a risk to public health.

If a local authority are refusing to assist you, we might be able to assist you and fund your case through Legal Aid, subject to a financial means assessment.

This article has been prepared by Angela Marangone, a paralegal in the Housing and Social Care Team

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