“A million people with no recourse to public funds can’t access the universal credit safety net...will he suspend the no recourse to public funds restrictions for the duration of the crisis and do it before the school summer holidays so that destitute families can at least claim the free school meal vouchers which he announced yesterday.”
Stephen Timms MP, 17 June 2020
“Well of course they should be eligible for those.” Boris Johnson, 17 June 2020
At this week’s Prime Minister’s Questions, Labour MP Stephen Timms suggested that people who have “no recourse to public funds” are not yet able to access free school meals vouchers.
This needs context. During the Covid-19 pandemic free school meal eligibility has been extended to some, though not all, children in this group.
“No recourse to public funds” is a condition applied to people with temporary immigration status and migrants without leave to remain in the UK. This means they have no access to the majority of welfare benefits, including Universal Credit as Mr Timms said.
Ordinarily, this would mean that children in this category would not qualify for free school meals as it is usually just based on whether the child’s family is in receipt of certain benefits.
However the government has said: “During the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, we are temporarily extending free school meals eligibility to include some groups who have no recourse to public funds (NRPF).”
Those groups are children of “Zambrano carers” (where the child is a British citizen), children of families with a right to remain under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, and children of families receiving support under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989.
We’ve asked the Department for Education what proportion of children with no recourse to public funds this covers and will update this piece if we receive a reply.
For children not attending school due to the pandemic, and over the holidays, food vouchers are being substituted for meals in school.