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As part of London Challenge Poverty Week 2022 we were delighted to speak at the London Child Poverty Summit on 20 October 2022. The in person event, organised by the Childhood Trust and London Child Poverty Alliance, brought together over 200 people who want to work together to tackle child poverty in London.  

Helen Flynn, our Head of Policy, Research and Campaigns took part in a panel discussion titled, “Children with No Recourse to Public Funds and What We Can Do About it”. Following powerful contributions from other panel members, many of whom had direct experience of the no recourse to public funds (NRPF) condition, Helen took a slightly different angle on the issue. 

Helen highlighted the UK Government’s international legal obligations under the seven United Nations human rights treaties it has signed, ratified and so agreed to be bound by. 

NRPF as a violation of human rights 

Helen discussed no recourse to public funds condition as a breach of the right to social security, which is laid out in Article 9 of the International Convent on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). Human rights are universal, so in signing up to this treaty the UK Government bound itself to protect these rights for every person in the UK – irrespective of immigration status or any other status or characteristic.  

As well is being universal, we talk about rights being ‘indivisible’. This means that you can’t simply pick a few rights to realise, they are all interconnected, you have to realise them all. For example, while NRPF impacts the rights to social security, we can also see that this right impacts on other rights, such as the right to adequate standard of living (including food and housing), health, equality, education, and work (including just and favourable conditions). All of these are protected by ICESCR. 

It’s not only Just Fair saying this – our National Human Rights Institution for England and Wales, the Equality and Human Rights Commission has expressed particular concerns about NRPF in relation to the right to an adequate standard of living (Article 11). 

NRPF has a particular impact on the rights of children and young people in the UK, for example parents with NRPF can’t access any of the core benefits designed to support the cost of bringing up children, including Child Benefit and the child element of Universal Credit. 

So, what can we do about this? 

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the UK takes place every five years. During the process the UK is examined by other countries across the world in terms of all the commitments the UK has made in relation to protecting, promoting and fulfilling human rights (more on the process here).  

The next review takes place on 10 November 2022. As part of the event, we launched a new briefing on NRPF, which was drawn from a larger report we submitted to the UN Human Rights Council in March, along with our friends at Project 17.  

We have now sent this briefing to countries across the world, asking them to recommend the UK Government ends the NRPF policy, and in the interim they declassify ‘Child Benefit’ as a public fund.  

This will shine an international spotlight on the UK, and that’s an important tool. But we will also use any recommendations made by States in our advocacy and campaigning, to keep the pressure on the UK Government, and during the summit, we asked other groups to do the same. We believe that framing this issue as a legal violation gives extra weight to our work to end NRPF.  

For more about the Universal periodic review and how to use it in your work, join our free online training on 7 November from 14:00-16:00.