Our Work: No Recourse of Public Funds

Many women come to the UK, often legally, in the hope of improving their lives. They may come on temporary work permits, student visas or spousal visas. Some women come to the UK to marry. The ‘no recourse to public funds’ rule says that a woman in this position – even if she’s married to a British citizen – is not entitled to certain state benefits, including housing benefit and income support. But these are the benefits a woman must be able to claim to get a place in a refuge if she needs to escape violence. As a result, many newly-married women in the UK are trapped in violent marriages and even if they do muster the courage to seek help from the authorities, they are simply turned away.

Women’s refuges often have to turn such women away because they cannot afford to lose out on rental income and do not have the funds to provide for living costs. Instead they are forced to ‘maintain the integrity of the immigration system’ by denying essential protection and support. The result is a subversion of the very principles upon which refuges are based. No refuge or any other voluntary and charitable organisation should be put in a position in which they are made to discriminate between the ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ when women and children’s lives are at stake.

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 Ms A came to the UK from India on a spousal visa. Her husband subjected her to repeated physical and sexual violence. She was often beaten with a hockey stick and threatened with a gun. She was told that she would be killed if she dared report the violence to anyone. Eventually whilst pregnant, she managed to escape and report the abuse to the police. A statement was taken but as she had nowhere to stay, the police asked their interpreter to let her stay with him. Ms A tried to seek help from social services but they said there was nothing they could do for her. She eventually decided to terminate her pregnancy due to lack of support, homelessness and destitution. Example case study.