Online Tool to Improve the Assessment of Destitute Families’ Eligibility for Support May 2016 - May 2019


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 yea and the research 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. Since its launch in 2017, the tool has been used by over 25,000 unique users, 68% of whom described themselves as being at immediate risk of homelessness. In 2017 the tool won a Community Integration Award.

The tool can be accessed here:

Find out more about the project from the Community Integration Awards video

Principal Investigator

Sarah Spencer

Jacqui Broadhead


Catherine Houlcroft, NRPF Network


Legal Education Foundation

Professionals' Advisory Group

No Recourse to Public Funds Network (NRPF), Islington Town Council

Soapbox: Creative Communications for Ideas that Matter

Kathleen Cosgrove (specialist solicitor on s17), Platt Halpern Solicitor


News & Media

20 Sep 2017 | COMPAS received a 2017 Community Integration Award for the online tool


United Kingdom


Asylum and RefugeesFamilyRightsWelfare




The tool enables 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 enables 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 is accessed through the website of the NRPF Network and is informed by the input of a specialist advisory board to ensure it meets potential users’ needs.


Impact of the tool is monitored through data on usage analytics and user feedback through a survey instrument.

From 1 Jan 2017, to 3 Dec 2020 the site has had 266,455 page views, comprising of 47,278 sessions and 39,616 users. 66% of users are individuals requiring help, 17% (non Local Authority) advisors and 17% Local Authority advisors. 80% of individual users who responded stated that they were at immediate risk of homelessness. Data from 1 Nov 2019 to 30 Nov 2020 showed that 12,760 unique users accessed the tool, 77% of whom were individuals requiring help. 76% of those users described themselves as being at immediate risk of homelessness.