Government must acknowledge the impact of No Recourse to Public Funds on Black migrants

Government must acknowledge the impact of No Recourse to Public Funds on Black migrants

The Conservatives have spent much of the last few years attempting to gaslight Black communities into thinking that institutional racism no longer exists. 

The widely discredited government commissioned report by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, claimed back in March that “we no longer see a Britain where the system is deliberately rigged against ethnic minorities”. 

If the government were truly struggling to find examples of institutional racism in this country, they needed only look at the No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) regime. NRPF is an incredibly cruel policy that excludes people from claiming most welfare benefits, child benefits, council tax reductions, and many other vital benefits due to their immigration status.  

Institutional racism is the term we use for racism that has embedded itself in the laws and regulations of our society. The laws may not have been created for overly racist  reasons, but the outcomes are discriminatory, nonetheless. NRPF is the perfect example of this.  

Towards the end of last year, the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) released an insightful report that highlighted the way in which NRPF targets Black, Asian and ethnic minority communities disproportionately. Despite four in five people who approach the CAB being white, four in five of those who approach the CAB for advice about NRPF were from an ethnic minority, with 32 per cent being Black. A recent report by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants also stated that NRPF "disproportionately impacts Black and minority ethnic communities and contributes to higher rates of poverty, destitution, and insecure employment."  

As a policy, NRPF cannot ever be justified and attempts to do so are rarely made by the government. In fact, when questioned by MPs last year, the Prime Minister appeared unaware that it existed. Yet, thousands of residents in the UK are pushed into Victorian levels of destitution as a result of his government’s implementation of this policy.

The fact that the Prime Minister, an incredibly privileged Etonian, didn't understand how his government’s policies discriminate against ethnic minorities is exactly the point. In a country that continues to be marred by institutional racism, the fact that NRPF disproportionality impacts Black people and other ethnic minorities, means it is less likely to be an Establishment cause for concern.

“As a policy, NRPF cannot ever be justified”

The policy outcomes of frequent Conservative attacks on “immigrants” force people who are not white into utter poverty and destitution through the use of the hostile environment and the NRPF regimes. After all, “immigrants” can't take “our” jobs if they have been pushed into absolute poverty.

It is what makes NRPF such a clear example of institutional racism. It is a policy that the government could not politically pursue if it did not disproportionately impact those people the government has been scapegoating since they came to power 11 years ago.

The sad truth is that this government has taken us backward. To solve a problem, you must first recognise it. Government policy is now to deny the existence of institutional racism in this country for what they believe will be political gain. 

But this is more than a theoretical argument over definitions. Tackling institutional racism requires a proactive effort to examine the ways in which ethnic minority communities in the UK face challenges because of the structures that we as a society have put in place. NRPF is just one example but, as the pandemic showed, there are many others. The playing field is anything but level and until the government acknowledges that - it never will be.