Number of children in Northern Ireland at risk of destitution from NRPF ‘unknown’
Northern Ireland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People said children are suffering due to their parent’s or carer’s immigration status and as a result are plunged into extreme poverty, facing homelessness and destitution.
Koulla Yiasouma, NI Commissioner for Children and Young People, has warned that not enough is known about the number of children affected by their parent or carer’s immigration status.
Publishing a report exploring the impact of immigration rules on children and young people in Northern Ireland, the Commissioner said having no recourse to public funds (NRPF) can have harmful consequences for children and families.
No recourse to public funds (NRPF) is a condition applied to people and their families with a temporary immigration status which prevents them from accessing many social security benefits and housing support.
“This can have devastating effects for children and families and Government know very little about the numbers or the realities of the lives of these children and indeed how much they rely on voluntary and community sector services to keep safe. These groups are ultimately trying to fill the gap that the UK government has deliberately created.”
The report, “A Hostile Environment”, finds that there is no accurate data available on NRPF in Northern Ireland, which the Commissioner says is a fundamental problem making it almost impossible for the NI Executive to understand and provide support for some of our poorest children and families.
“Failure to provide a coherent and accessible pathway for support is creating the need for informal avenues of support and charitable efforts which, whilst an invaluable lifeline to those left destitute, does not take away from the duties placed on government and statutory agencies to safeguard and promote the welfare of children,” Yiasouma said.
The report also finds that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the problems experienced by asylum-seeking families and those subject to NRPF in NI, further widening the inequality gap for children and their parents.
The Commissioner for Children and Young People added that the destitution inflicted on children by the practice is in direct conflict with Government obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) to provide sufficient support to migrant, refugee, and asylum-seeking children to access basic services.
“It is unimaginable that in 2021 there are children living in Northern Ireland who are left without recourse to public funds for the most basic of needs,” Yiasouma said.
As a result of the report, the office of the Commissioner is demanding that the UK and NI Government must urgently identify how many children in NI are living in a family with no recourse to public funds and publish this data. The report also recommends developing clear pathways across and between agencies like the Home Office and health and social care partners to ensure that children and families are referred and that the needs and best interests of children are assessed as a matter of urgency.
Read the full report 'A Hostile Environment – children and families affected by immigration status and No Recourse to Public Funds' here: https://www.niccy.org/about-us/our-current-work/high-level-corporate-objectives/respecting-the-rights-of-vulnerable-groups-of-children/no-recourse-to-public-funds-nrpf/
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