Rising living costs have affected households globally, pushing many more families into poverty. This is no less true in the UK context, which saw a steep rise in inflation during 2021 and 2022. To ameliorate some of the pressures on households, the UK government introduced various measures, including helping households with energy costs and targeted support for those considered most ‘in need’. While many scholars point to the growing inadequacies of the social security regime, it nevertheless provides an infrastructure which, during the inflationary period, has been used to target discrete payments at low-income households and those with additional needs like pensioners and disability benefit recipients. But most migrant households who do not have a settled status in the UK are excluded from the social security system outright by the so-called ‘no recourse to public funds’ (NRPF) policy. These households have been bypassed mainly by support measures, which are directed at benefit recipients or passported from benefit eligibility, leading to more significant income disparities between migrant and non-migrant families. This working paper brings together policy analysis, utilising administrative, documentary, and qualitative data, and examines how the exclusionary infrastructure set up and maintained by successive governments in the UK continues to restrict financial support to migrant households, even in times of crisis, leading to increased poverty and material deprivation risk. As net migration grows, new immigration reforms are implemented, and while access to social protection continues to be restricted, inequalities are likely to grow further.
Ilona is a researcher and policy analyst who has worked on immigration, asylum, poverty and inequality issues over the last 15 years, previously at The Children’s Society and more recently through her doctoral research at the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion, LSE. Her doctoral research examines the needs, experiences, and outcomes of children and families receiving Asylum Support and restricted from the labour market. More generally, her research focuses on poverty and inequality among children and young people who are affected by immigration control, looking particularly at the role of immigration policies and political institutions. She chairs a knowledge exchange group – the Migrant Poverty Data and Evidence Group – bringing together academics and cross-sector professionals working collaboratively on research related to policies like the ‘no recourse to public funds’ restrictions. She has also been involved in other research on the effects of poverty and family debt on children, access to legal aid, and support for separated young people. Publications