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It also pointed out that many parents in this situation are on zero-hours contracts and some have lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic but cannot access benefits such as Universal Credit or Child Benefit. On the same day, an eight-year old British-born boy took the Home Office to the High Court over the NRPF policy, which plunged his single mother, a carer, into debt and which eventually, drove both of them to street homelessness.
In addition, the NRPF policy was catapulted into greater public awareness and Parliamentary debates when it emerged that thousands of law-abiding migrant families are struggling amid COVID Now, hit with a double whammy of COVID income losses yet no financial safety net or support system to see them through the pandemic thanks to the NRPF policy, as many as , people in the UK are vulnerable to destitution. The rule applies to most people in the UK who are not considered habitually resident and these include those who are in full-time employment, spouses and partners of British citizens, UK-born children and undocumented migrants.
Despite this, the NRPF policy markedly and disproportionately affects women and their children. For example, migrants who hold a Spouse Visa who experience domestic abuse are sometimes forced to stay with their abusers for years - at least, until they get Indefinite Leave To Remain ILR - as many are turned away from refuges on the grounds that they have no funds to vacate the space. A separation or divorce that curtails the Spouse Visa will normally see migrant women deported unless they can prove that they have endured domestic abuse.
The NRPF policy attached to a Spouse Visa also makes leaving an abusive relationship more difficult, especially when children are involved, as the single parent does not have the legal right to access public funding such as free healthcare, benefits or social housing. In fact, mothers with NRPF are more likely to experience a worse financial impact in the event of a relationship breakdown.
And women with NRPF cannot access affordable childcare, child benefits and the childcare element of working tax credits. They are therefore often trapped in underemployment, low-paid work or unemployment and are more likely to fall into destitution. Pregnancy is an additional complication migrant women with NRPF faces. As a result, the Unity Project finds migrant women are unable to take sufficient maternity leave altogether, jeopardising the welfare of both mother and child.
Yet for undocumented pregnant women, barricaded from employment, renting or any financial help whatsoever, maternity is an eye-watering costly affair. NHS trusts and hospices have long lobbied against this unfair fee, arguing that undocumented pregnant women are refusing to attend vital scans and appointments out of fear of racking up debts. To add to this culture of fear, undocumented pregnant women further fear the NHS would report them to the Home Office and see them deported. The outcome is that these vulnerable women, often relying on local charities, friends and food vouchers to survive, become extremely vulnerable to exploitation.
So far, the financial burden has fallen on Scottish authorities with little support from the UK Government. Whilst local councils are rightly calling for the suspension of NRPF policy in light of the current pandemic, the country is better served if the policy is lifted permanently, allowing women to access welfare support in the same way Britons can ask for help.
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