The piece, published in Holyrood Magazine, explores how No Recourse to Public Funds is trapping migrant women in abusive relationships.
NRPF is a condition attached to someone’s immigration status, prohibiting access to the mainstream welfare system. Part of ‘hostile environment’ immigration policy, it would also apply if a woman was a dependent of a visa holder, and the relationship ended. For example, someone could come to the UK as the partner of a student, and if the partner became abusive and they left them, they would be considered to be in the UK unlawfully and would also have no entitlement to benefits. It makes no difference to the Home Office if the termination of that relationship was because of domestic violence.
And because having NRPF means someone is unable to access the mainstream welfare system, a woman in that circumstance would be unable to receive housing support, and would not have the right to apply for social housing or present as homeless. The vast majority of places at women’s aid shelters are funded using housing benefit. If a woman cannot access welfare support, the refuge cannot take her in.
The piece explores the reality facing women living in the UK today, using first hand testimonies from those with real life experience of the injustice (some names were changed), as well as expert contribution from human rights lawyer Jen Ang, Anila Mirza from Shakti Women’s Aid, and Janaya Walker from Southall Black Sisters. Campaigners called for action in the recent Domestic Abuse Bill to help NRPF women experiencing abuse, but were unsuccessful.
The piece was one of the most read articles on the Holyrood magazine website and was widely praised by MPs and MSPs, as well as by campaigners. It won the Write to End Violence Against Women award, run by Zero Tolerance, in December 2020 and has been used as educational material for local authority workers. Sadly though, the policy causing the injustice – no recourse to public funds – remains in place.