Points of View 20th February 2019

Open Government National Action Plan – What’s missing? A Commitment on Children’s Rights

by Guest

This commitment idea has been produced by Project 17. This action was part of the Open Government Pioneers Project. Check out more commitment ideas here.

Thousands of destitute families in the UK are unable to access mainstream welfare support due to immigration status (families with ‘no recourse to public funds’ or ‘NRPF’). Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 enables local authorities to provide support to children who are ‘in need’—this could be due to a disability or for other reasons, such as not having somewhere to live. This support has become an essential safety net for families who are unable to access mainstream welfare support due to immigration status. Yet our research shows that section 17 support is increasingly difficult to access, with many children being left street homeless or without enough money to eat.

Grave concerns about the lack of transparency and accountability in the way local authorities are refusing families with NRPF are compounded by poor data recording practices and failures to respond to FOIA requests.

The commitment is two-fold. Firstly, central government should commit to recording and publishing information on:

  • how many families have been granted leave to remain with a ‘no recourse to public funds’ condition,
  • how many such families subsequently apply for access to public funds due to destitution, and
  • the numbers of applications that are refused/successful.

Secondly, local authorities should ensure they have adequate and accurate systems and processes for recording publicly-accessible data about:

  • the number of families with NRPF requesting section 17 support,
  • the number of ‘Child in Need’ assessments that are carried out for families with NRPF,
  • how many such requests for section 17 support are successful or unsuccessful, and
  • the reasons why applications are unsuccessful.

This commitment would help to build transparency and accountability in a key area of concern at both central and local government levels. With publicly-accessible information about the numbers of families affected by NRPF and the number of families who are able to access section 17 support, we would be better able to understand the scale of these issues. Local authorities would have to account for refusals of requests for section 17 support from families with NRPF, which would improve access to essential support.

The key departments involved would be the Home Office and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.