Dear Mr Timms,
Thank you for the opportunity to give evidence at the Work and Pensions Committee session on Children in Poverty: No recourse to Public Funds.
I can provide the following further written evidence:
1) Discretionary welfare payments made by councils are classed as public fund for immigration purposes. How does this affect the way in which your local authorities can support NRPF parents and their children?
Kent County Council provide support and assistance to parents and children with no recourse to public funds under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989, where this support is needed to prevent a breach of their human rights or EU treaty rights. Parents with no recourse to public funds who approach the local authority are therefore provided with money for housing and subsistence via Section 17. Discretionary welfare payments in Kent are used to fund food banks, free school meals during holiday periods, utility bills, furniture etc. The council would not specifically target those with NRPF to receive support through discretionary welfare payments but would allow this to provide a basic safety net if this were needed.
2) The Government has launched the Household Support fund which will provide
£500million of support to be distributed by Local Authorities. How are your local authorities planning to use this?
Kent County Council has been allocated £11.065 million. We have already allocated a portion of this money to fund free school meals over the October half term and plan to spend a further portion of the money on free school meals over Christmas 2021, February half term 2022 and Easter 2022. We plan to use a proportion of the money to fund the Kent Support and Assistance Service (KSAS) which helps Kent’s households most in need of food, emergency supplies, white goods and furniture and utilities. The remaining amount will be allocated for households who need specific support with energy and water, and essentials linked to energy and water, especially in the context of rising energy bills. Some of the latter is likely to be delivered through our District Councils. The overwhelming need this year seems to be financial hardship as opposed to food and emergency supplies as was seen last year.
a) Will the amount allocated to your Local Authority be enough to meet the needs of the households you are supporting?
The need we are seeing around financial hardship is unprecedented and only likely to grow over the winter months. The short-term funding to date is sufficient to help those currently approaching for support.
b) Over what period of time do you expect to spend the money?
The money will be spent as required in the grant conditions by 31st March 2022. The vouchers for free school meals for the Easter holidays will need to be issued in advance as the Easter Holidays commence on 1st April 2022.
c) Will local authorities be able to us this money to support families with NRPF?
Kent County Council would not target any of this money for use in supporting families with no recourse to public funds. However, those with NRPF may benefit through the use of food banks as an example provided via the fund. Subsistence, housing and utility bills are funded via Section 17 for NRPF families; however, it is recognised that this support is at a basic level.
North Kent Integrated Children’s Service