This project is an important new venture: the development of an online tool make it easier to assess the eligibility of a destitute migrant family for support under s17 Children Act. An exercise in ‘research-to-impact’, it was inspired by a major COMPAS study completed in July 2015, Safeguarding children from destitution: Local authority responses to families with ‘no recourse to public funds’. The study found that assessing eligibility under s17 is complex and challenging. . In 2012/13, 3,391 migrant families were supported under s17 including 5,900 children, a 19% rise on the previous year. The study found that applications were often rejected on grounds that were inconsistent with the requirements of case-law. However Local Authority staff cited lack of training and guidance as a significant challenge, while advocacy by voluntary sector agencies, despite having an important influence on the outcome of applications, was often limited, with major gaps in the availability of specialist support. COMPAS secured funding to develop an online tool to enable advisors in the voluntary sector and local authorities to assess eligibility and this was designed in 2016 with partners the NRPF Network and Soapbox and went on line in January 2017. The tool can be accessed here: http://migrantfamilies.nrpfnetwork.org.uk. Its use is being monitored, and it will be refined and updated over the life time of the project.
Catherine Houlcroft, NRPF Network
Legal Education Fund
No Recourse to Public Funds Network (NRPF), Islington Town Council
Soapbox: Creative Communications for Ideas that Matter
The tool will enable users to navigate a client’s journey to establish what legal exclusions apply to families seeking support from Local Authorities and direct users in a more tailored way to relevant information from the existing documentation of the No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) network.
It also aims to enable users to create a bespoke list of evidence needed based on a client’s circumstances to prepare them for facing a Child in Need Assessment. The tool will be accessed through the website of the NRPF Network and will be informed by the input of a specialist advisory board to ensure it meets potential users’ needs.
Impact will be monitored through data on usage (number of hits) and user feedback collated by COMPAS after 6 months, 18 months and 30 months of operation.