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25 May, 2021 Open access

Government rejects Select Committee call to issue guidance to local authorities on supporting people with no recourse to public funds

MHCLG says it is up to councils to make an assessment based on individual circumstances, and not for it to advise on how they should use their wider social welfare powers

The government has rejected a call from the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee to issue guidance to local authorities on supporting people with no recourse to public funds.

In the Committee's second report as part of its inquiry into the impact of Covid-19 on homelessness and the private rented sector, it made recommendations that included for the government to publish data on the number of people affected by the no recourse to public funds (NRPF) policy, and for reform of the policy if the government is truly serious about meeting its 2019 manifesto commitment to end rough sleeping by 2024.

However, in its response published today, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) says -

'... it is not possible to provide an accurate figure of the number of people in the UK who are subject to NRPF at any given time. Information captured by the Home Office for the purposes of NRPF does not account for people who have left the country, or all those in the UK without lawful status … Therefore, this information cannot be used to measure accurately all those subject to NRPF at any one time.’

In addition, MHCLG says that it does not agree with the Committee’s specific recommendation to provide guidance to local authorities on how they can use existing legal powers - under the Local Government Act 1972 and NHS Act 2006 - to provide accommodation to people otherwise ineligible for support due to public funds restrictions during a public health emergency -

‘The Department’s position remains that local authorities must continue to use their judgement in assessing what support they may lawfully give to each person on an individual basis, considering that person’s specific circumstances and support needs.

This position aligns with the recent Ncube v Brighton and Hove City Council case [2021] EWHC 578 (Admin) where it was highlighted that in the context of the pandemic, there are discretionary powers local authorities could use ... to support some individuals otherwise ineligible for statutory support.’

MHCLG goes on to explicitly reject responsibility in such cases, stating that -

‘It is not for the Department to advise local authorities on how they should use their wider social welfare powers, as it is for them to make an assessment of the applicable law based on individual circumstances.’

Elsewhere in its response, while MHCLG restates its commitment to end rough sleeping, it does not commit to appointing a successor to the former head of the Rough Sleeping Taskforce Baroness Casey within the coming months to lead a review of rough-sleeping policy, to review its decision to freeze local housing allowance rates in cash terms in 2021/2022, or to deliver a specific financial package to support tenants to repay rent arrears caused by Covid-19.

MHCLG’s full response, Protecting the homeless and the private rented sector: government response to the Select Committee report, is available from gov.uk