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Supporting Children Affected by NRPF

*This page was developed by a Sanctuary in Politics Course graduate whose own children’s educational experiences had been affected by her categorisation as a person with NRPF.

What is No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF)?

No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) is a categorisation that applies to non-UK nationals who are not entitled to welfare benefits, social housing or UK Government asylum support under UK law. This status can apply to many migrants and asylum seekers, including:

  • those granted leave to remain but without recourse to public funds;
  • those who originally arrived in the UK on a visa and have subsequently applied to remain in the UK;
  • those who are undocumented in the UK (including those with expired visas);
  • those on student visas;
  • refused asylum seekers whose appeal rights are exhausted;
  •  and some European Economic Area (EEA) migrants.

How does this affect children?

Children whose families are affected by NRPF can experience numerous challenges. Perhaps the most obvious impact is the risk of poverty and/or homelessness given the lack of financial support and access to social housing for these families. Inevitably, this can result in children going without adequate healthy food and living in unsecure and/or overcrowded and unsafe accommodation. These circumstances also have an impact on the mental health of parent/carers and subsequently children.

In school, children can often continue to feel the impact of their families’ NRPF status. Given their risk of experiencing poverty, they typically might struggle to have the same quality of food, uniform and school equipment as peers and be unable to afford school trips and extracurricular activities. The constant worry and insecurity families’ experience commonly impacts on children’s wellbeing and mental health, leaving them anxious for their parent/carers and what is happening at home. This can naturally have an impact on children’s behaviour and academic performance at school.

The government expanded access to Free School Meals to some children affected by NRPF during the Covid-19 pandemic, something to which they were previously not entitled. From the 19th April, however the government announced that they will be permanently extending access to Free School Meals to all children affected by No Recourse to Public Funds who are living in poverty.

For further information, we suggest reading:

The Children’s Society Report: ‘A Lifeline for All- Children and Family with No Recourse to Public Funds’

Project 17: Not Seen, Not Heard Video

How can schools support children and families affected by NRPF?

  • Practical and Material Support

Schools can offer practical support by providing uniforms, coats, school bags and schools equipment to children that need it. This may be made possible by organizing a good-quality second-hand uniform and school equipment bank.

Most importantly, with the new changes to Free School Meal eligibility, schools should make sure that all children affected by NRPF who are still eligible for FSM are able to claim for it. Use the resources from the Children’s Society to advertise this to parents and help you to collect the relevant information: A breakthrough for free school meals.

Schools should also make sure that no child is left behind if they are unable to afford school trips and that when planning trips, provision is available to ensure every child is able to access the trip if interested.

Schools can offer free after school clubs to both help children participate extracurricular activities but also provide extended childcare so that parent/carers can work or attend appointments.

Schools can help ensure that families’ have access to food at home. This might be by coordinating a local food bank, although you should consider whether this might single out some families, or by providing food vouchers to local supermarkets. This might be done through collaboration with local organisations that provide this support already.

Schools should also recognize that students might be living in adequate accommodation, such as lacking beds. In some parts of the UK, there are organisations that help families to overcome bed poverty.

Schools should also consider how all children can celebrate main festivals and holidays such as Christmas, Easter and Eid. If they are experiencing poverty, they are unlikely to receive the same gifts as their peers and if the school can make sure every child receives a small gift it can have a big impact on the most disadvantaged children who expect to go without.

  • Family Engagement

At the heart of all school support to children affected by NRPF and their families, is ensuring that the school has in place structures to ensure good school-family communication and engagement. Typically, this is enabled by having a clearly identifiable family liaison or support staff member whose responsibility it is to build relationships with families, and particularly the most disadvantaged. Only by building trust with families, will they feel comfortable enough to share when they are struggling and what they need help with.

Building a sense of trust and solidarity between families and school can be enabled by offering regular drop-ins or events where families can come together and be familiarized with the school setting and staff. Often, schools act as the first and main institution that vulnerable families engage with, and so can act as a powerful support structure if they can signpost to support organisations and service providers and help families to become aware of their rights and entitlements. Equally, by building spaces where families in similar circumstances can come together, families can exchange tips and suggestions of where to access certain resources or share details of the organisations that are supporting them.

As typical admission processes do not capture whether families are affected by NRPF, we suggest schools adopt a needs-orientated approach whereby schools seek to anticipate and have solutions to the challenges families might face. This might involve making sure families are proactively given information about support with uniform and food vouchers and/or signposting to immigration advice whether they need it or not. For in-year admissions, this might involve the member of staff managing the admission directly asking ‘Can we help with uniforms?’.

For children, knowing that school can step in to support their parent/carers, can ease some of the anxiety that they might be feeling.

  • School Transitions

If a primary school, it is important that the school makes sure the needs of families is shared with the secondary school into which the child is transitioning. This might be making sure the school is aware of the families’ need for support with uniform, lunches, travels costs, etc. It might also be making sure the family are introduced to the best person within the secondary school with whom they can liaise and contact regarding change in circumstances. These actions are also applicable if a family is forced to move schools given a change in housing, which might be common for families affected by NRPF.