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No recourse to public funds

 

Read our joint statement (pdf, October 2009)

 
The ‘no recourse to public funds’ rule adversely affects women experiencing domestic violence who also have insecure immigration status due to entering the UK to join their settled partner. This is because women experiencing domestic violence who have insecure immigration status are unable to access protection, safety and support services because they have no recourse to public funds, ie. they are unable to access statutory help for housing or related public funds for housing costs (housing benefit to pay the rent) or living expenses (benefits such as income support).
 
This means that these women with ‘no recourse’ who are fleeing abuse are even unable to access refuges spaces as these are maintained through rental income mainly funded by housing benefit. As a result many women subject to immigration control are trapped with a violent partner. They face a stark choice: either stay within the relationship and risk their lives, and those of their children, or leave and face destitution or being deported.
 
Women who experience this unequal access to protection include women who are married or are partners of a British national or someone settled in this country; and women who are partners or dependants of students and workers, or are here temporarily in their own right. Many of these women have children who are British citizens.
 
The Domestic Violence Immigration Rule allows women who enter the UK as spouses or long-term partners of a British national or someone settled in this country, and who are subject to a two year probationary period, to apply for residency if they can ‘prove’ the relationship broke down due to domestic violence.
 
Yet in practice, the ‘no recourse’ rule means that many women subject to a probationary period are unable to make use of this Rule because they cannot access safety and protection for the length of time it takes to finalise an application (before making an application abused women need time to seek support and advice about their options in a safe environment, obtain legal representation, and gather evidence to support an application).
 
What’s the solution?
 
Abused women subject to immigration control need financial resources to enable them to access safety, support and advice, before making a Domestic Violence Rule application. We call for an exemption to the ‘no recourse to public funds rule’ for all abused women in crisis and subject to immigration control.  
 
Accessible information about domestic violence and the immigration rules should be available before entry into the UK, at the point of entry, and routinely in appropriate venues in local communities. Those who have ‘overstayed’ because of their experience of domestic violence should also be eligible to apply for residency under the Domestic Violence Immigration Rule. 
 
The Domestic Violence Immigration Rule should be extended to all abused women in crisis subject to immigration control. All abused women and children subject to immigration control need access to permanent safety and support in the UK.
 
In the meantime, mandatory guidance should be issued to all local authorities which requires them to use their existing powers to financially assist and support single women and women with children experiencing domestic and sexual violence with insecure immigration status without recourse to public funds. Any guidance produced should require local authorities to fund abused women from the point of leaving and until a final Border and Immigration Agency decision on the case.
 
What can you do?
  • Arrange to meet your MP to raise these concerns and to call for equal and full access to protection under the law, to safe housing, advocacy and support, including financial support, for all abused women and children with insecure immigration status.
  • Write to your local councillors and the chief executive of your local council urging them to use their existing powers to financially assist and support single women and women with children experiencing domestic violence in your area, who have insecure immigration status and therefore have no recourse to public funds.