Ending destitution together: strategy

A strategy to improve support for people with No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) living in Scotland.

Action Areas

This strategy sets out three action areas where work will be taken forward to strengthen the support that is available to people and enable people to find pathways out of destitution, wherever they are in Scotland. The action areas are:

  • Essential Needs – the practical things people need, particularly at a point of crisis (including access to food, shelter and healthcare);
  • Advice and Advocacy – access to specialist advice and supporting advocacy needed to navigate asylum and immigration systems and secure rights (including specialist legal advice); and
  • Inclusion – promoting fair access and participation for everyone (including people with lived experience informing service design; involvement in communities; and employment).

Each action area includes three sections:

  • What people have told us – setting out the main challenges and concerns for people with NRPF living in Scotland;
  • What is already happening – setting out existing support and work which is already underway to improve this, including to increase access; and
  • What we will do – setting out the specific actions this strategy will deliver.

Guided by the strategy principles, work across the action areas will enable a person-centred approach designed to support people at any point of need. The diagram below illustrates some of the key outcomes people told us are important to them across the three action areas:


  • Essential Needs
    • Safe accommodation
    • Financial support
    • Healthy food
    • Health and social care
  • Advice & Advocacy
    • Legal advice
    • Support to navigate the system
    • Information on rights and entitlements
  • Inclusion
    • Zero-tolerance to racism
    • Education and skills
    • Meaningful employment
    • Community services and support
    • Participation in service design
    • Meeting people and being involved in the community

Essential Needs

People can access essential services to meet their needs.

We will seek to mitigate and prevent destitution by making sure that people with NRPF can safely access essentials, including accommodation, and dignified support. Delivery of the strategy will help to improve people’s living standards, as well as reduce barriers to public services including universal health care; support for women experiencing domestic abuse; and mental health support.

What people have told us

People with NRPF and organisations that support them, have told us that when someone is experiencing destitution, their priority is accessing essentials for their day to day survival. They are clear that it can be impossible for people to think beyond the need to obtain food, shelter and healthcare.

Many people with NRPF who are facing destitution have insecure access to accommodation. They can struggle to meet housing costs and in many cases rely on casual arrangements with friends or support from charities to have somewhere to stay. As a result they can face extended periods of rough sleeping and homelessness. This is a particular issue for single adult men, who are not eligible for support from local authority homelessness services. People’s access to accommodation can also be reliant on their employment or relationships. For example, some people told us about informal letting arrangements from which they were immediately evicted when they lost their income. Some people face pressure to enter or remain in abusive or exploitative relationships in order to have somewhere to live. There are also cases of workers being provided with sub-standard, often shared, accommodation as part of employment.

People with NRPF can struggle to cope with a sudden loss of income or unexpected cost and often experience food insecurity or hunger as a result. In many cases, they rely on support from community and third sector organisations for emergency support, such as crisis grants or food parcels.

UK says that they respect people’s human rights. There are three things everyone in Scotland needs: shelter, something to eat and access to health. That’s a great thing in Scotland.”

People with experience of the asylum system highlighted hunger and food insecurity and told us that, where food is accessible, it does not always meet people’s dietary needs. Access to fresh fruit and vegetables was raised as a particular challenge. This can be due to a combination of the low level of financial support people receive, the cost of food and the cost of transport to reach supermarkets or other food provision.

People’s living situations can also dictate their food options, for example if they do not have access to cooking facilities and rely on pre-prepared foods which may be less healthy.

Workers with NRPF who are in part-time or low-paid roles, including those on zero-hours contracts, told us that they often face financial hardship. They can struggle to cope with a loss of income or unexpected cost and can become reliant on support from third sector and community organisations for day to day survival. People in these situations can also be at risk of exploitation and abuse within the labour market. People told us they can feel pressured to work illegally or agree to unfair and exploitative working arrangements.

Without access to benefits, including child benefit, in-work poverty remains a significant risk for people with NRPF. Single parents and people with other caring responsibilities can be particularly at risk, as they can often only work part-time. Women and children in particular can be vulnerable to domestic abuse. Commercial and sexual exploitation can also be a risk when people are dependent on someone else for their immigration status or income.

Destitution directly impacts people’s health and wellbeing. People who have experience of destitution told us that the resulting stress and anxiety can create a high risk of mental health issues, including in some cases suicide ideation.[27] People’s mental health can be further affected by uncertainty about their immigration status, distance from family and support networks, and restrictions which prevent people from feeling able to make progress or positive decisions about their future.

People with NRPF often struggle to access support or find that what is available, whether from the public sector or charities, is insufficient to meet all of their needs. Without a route out of destitution, their need for support can be long-term, while much of the support which they can access is designed for short-term crisis intervention.

What is already happening

Work is already underway to try to address some of the issues raised and tackle destitution. There are also services which are available for people with NRPF, although it is recognised that access can continue to be a challenge for a number of reasons.

Dignity: Ending Hunger Together in Scotland

In 2016, the Independent Working Group on Food Poverty published its report, Dignity: Ending Hunger Together.[28] The report made recommendations to tackle food insecurity in line with Scotland’s commitment to implement Sustainable Development Goal 2.1: ‘By 2030, end hunger and ensure access by all people, in particular the poor and people in vulnerable situations, including infants, to safe, nutritious and sufficient food all year round.’[29]

The report sets out that a truly dignified system would be one where everyone is food secure, with access to adequate, nutritious and culturally appropriate food, without the need to emergency food aid. Work to achieve this is guided by dignity principles, focusing on the involvement of people with direct experience in decision making; recognising the social value of food; providing opportunities to contribute; and the power of choice.

Ending Homelessness

The Ending Homelessness Together Action Plan, which aligns with the principles of this strategy, explores how people can be better supported and move toward Scotland’s ambition that everybody has access to suitable accommodation. An updated action plan[30] was published in October 2020 to take forward new recommendations made by the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes new actions in relation to people with NRPF and destitute asylum seekers, including around providing support for accommodation, advice and advocacy. The updated action plan places an even greater emphasis on prevention. Actions include the creation of new legislation to ensure all public bodies contribute to preventing homelessness, taking forward recommendations published in February 2021 by the Prevention Review Group.[31]

The Everyone Home Collective, a group of homelessness sector organisations, developed Scotland’s Ambition to End Destitution and Protect Human Rights Route Map.[32] This builds on the range of support, advice and accommodation that is already provided for people with NRPF and aims to develop a human rights-based pathway to safe accommodation across Scotland. Three task groups have been established to turn the ambition for change in the route map into a five year delivery plan, which is expected to commence in 2021-22.

Domestic Abuse

The updated Ending Homelessness Together Action Plan commits to develop and implement human rights-based accommodation pathways for women and children with NRPF who are experiencing domestic abuse. A joint COSLA and Scottish Government working group has been set up to make recommendations as to how this commitment can be delivered.

The Domestic Abuse (Protection) (Scotland) Bill when it comes into effect, will provide the police and courts with powers to make emergency notices and orders to protect people at risk of domestic abuse. These will provide powers to remove a suspected perpetrator from a home they share with a person at risk and prohibit them from contacting or approaching them. This should reduce the risk that a victim of domestic abuse has to make themselves homeless to escape the perpetrator. Unlike existing civil measures, the person at risk does not have to make the application to the court themselves. The Bill also provides powers for social landlords to end or transfer the tenancy of a perpetrator of domestic abuse to the victim.

The Equally Safe Strategy[33] sets out our commitment to prevent and eradicate violence against women and girls and work towards a Scotland that is Equally Safe. In November 2017 an accompanying delivery plan was published with 118 actions across four priority areas to achieve this ambition.

Within the delivery plan, there is a commitment to continue to press the UK Government to extend the scope of the Destitution Domestic Violence (DDV) concession. As set out in the final chapter of this strategy, the DDV concession should be accessible for anyone who needs it to be safe when leaving an abusive relationship.

The Scottish Government also maintains the Equally Safe Fund which supports organisations carrying out projects that are in line with the Equally Safe Strategy’s objectives. Funds running from 2017 to 2020 were extended to September 2021 in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The new Delivering Equally Safe Fund opened for applications in spring 2021, providing up to £13 million per annum to projects over three years. Engagement to inform the next iteration of Equally Safe and its delivery plan will take place in 2021.

Human trafficking and exploitation

Support for adult survivors is provided through Scottish Government grant agreements with the Trafficking Awareness Raising Alliance (TARA) and Migrant Help. TARA supports adult female survivors of trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation and Migrant Help supports all other adult trafficking victims. Support can be provided for up to 90 days, or longer in some circumstances, and may include accommodation, assistance with day to day living, medical advice and treatment, language translation and interpretation, counselling, legal advice and help accessing services.

The Scottish Government also funds national psychological trauma support for trafficking victims through NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Psychological Trauma Service.

Child victims of trafficking are supported within mainstream children’s services led by local authorities. Scotland provides additional support for those children who have been trafficked, and for whom no one in the UK holds parental responsibilities, through the Scottish Guardianship Service. The service provides these young people with a guardian to help them feel supported and empowered through the complex legal and asylum processes. The service has been funded by Scottish Government since 2010 and delivered in partnership by the Scottish Refugee Council and Aberlour Child Care Trust.

Currently, work on human trafficking is structured by the Scottish Government’s Human Trafficking and Exploitation Strategy.[34] The Trafficking and Exploitation Third Annual Progress Report and Strategy review was published in May 2020[35] in line with statutory obligations set out in the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015.[36] The Progress Report and Strategy review followed an intensive period of engagement between October 2019 and May 2020. The Strategy review concluded that while some enhancements could be made to certain parts, the Strategy remained fit for purpose and provides an effective basis for work in the short term. The Cabinet Secretary for Justice made a commitment upon publication that to work with all partners and other interests to develop and publish a revised and updated Strategy when it was possible to do so effectively.

In 2019 COSLA published guidance for local authorities[37] on how to structure services and respond to potential victims of trafficking, and how to spot the signs. Similar advice was published for NHS staff.[38]

Access to Health

The Scottish Government is clear that everyone who is resident in Scotland is entitled to access health care. The Charter of Patient Rights and Responsibilities summarises what people are entitled to when using NHS services and receiving NHS care in Scotland.[39]

People are entitled to register with a GP, to access emergency health services, to register with a dentist and to have eye tests. They can access specialist healthcare, as any other patient can, through a GP referral, including maternity care, mental health services and any other services for specific conditions. This includes people in the UK on a visa[40] and people seeking asylum.[41]

Health Access Cards were launched in 2019, following engagement with refugees, people seeking asylum, Gypsy/Travellers and people experiencing homelessness. The cards are designed to support people to register with a GP, understand their rights to healthcare in Scotland and make people aware of key health information including NHS Inform, Health Literacy Place websites and the NHS Scotland Patient Charter. The cards have been distributed to GP practices and are also available to request or download on the NHS Inform website.[42]

A Health Inequalities Working Group has been established to determine how General Practice and wider primary care can play a pivotal role in mitigating the effects of health inequalities at a number of levels, by virtue of being embedded within communities. There is an existing commitment through the primary care policy framework to review evidence on specific barriers to access in primary care which are likely to widen health inequality and which groups are most impacted by these, including for migrants and people seeking asylum. Recommendations for actions that could significantly reduce inequalities in relation to access to health care will then be agreed.

Mental Health

The Mental Health Strategy 2017-2027[43] sets out a vision of a Scotland where people can get the right help at the right time, expect recovery and fully enjoy their rights, free from discrimination and stigma.

Over the ten years of the strategy, there are commitments to fund improved provision of services to treat child and adolescent mental health problems, to fund work to improve provision of psychological therapy services and to help meet set treatment targets.

Steps which have already been taken as part of the Mental Health Strategy include: development of more accessible psychological self-help resources; and the national rollout of computerised cognitive behavioural therapies (CBT) with NHS 24.

“What people need most is a strong mind and good mental health. Access to counselling would help but the wait is too long. Anything which supports good mental health is helpful.”

Every Life Matters[44] sets out the Scottish Government’s vision of a Scotland where suicide is preventable, and where help and support is available to anyone contemplating suicide and to those who have lost a loved one to suicide.

A Trauma Informed Workforce and Services

The Scottish Government, COSLA and partners share an ambition to develop a trauma-informed and trauma-responsive workforce across Scotland. The purpose is to transform how we understand and respond to trauma and adversity, where people experience empathy rather than shame or stigma, and are empowered to access the services they need to support their recovery, without being re-traumatised or subject to further harm while doing so.

£1.5 million has been invested in our National Trauma Training Programme (NTTP), led by NHS Education for Scotland. This provides freely available, evidence-based training resources[45] that can help raise awareness, knowledge and confidence across all sectors of the workforce. This in turn equips people to embed trauma-informed practice throughout our services based on the key principles of safety, trust, choice, empowerment and collaboration. It also provides a model for trauma-informed organisations, systems, policies and environments that are able to recognise and adapt to the ways that the impact of trauma can affect people.

Local Authority Support

Local authorities have duties to safeguard the welfare of children, young people leaving care and vulnerable adults. Adult social care and children’s services are not a public fund for immigration purposes and some limited forms of financial assistance and housing can be provided to prevent a breach of human rights and to safeguard vulnerable groups.

The Scottish Government and COSLA co-produced guidance for local authorities on Migrants’ Rights and Entitlements,[46] which helps local authorities to make support decisions in line with their statutory duties. The Guidance is referenced in the National Guidance for Child Protection (draft 2021)[47] to ensure the high risk of poverty and destitution is considered when local authority safeguarding duties for children require consideration of support for migrant families.

Supporting Children and Young People

Children and young people’s rights and wellbeing are at the centre of our thinking as we develop and deliver policy with our partners. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is an international human rights treaty that covers all aspects of children’s lives. It includes civil, political, economic and cultural rights. The GIRFEC[48] approach is at the heart of policies and services to support and safeguard the wellbeing of all children, young people and families. Based on the rights of the child, and alongside work to incorporate UNCRC[49] into domestic law, GIRFEC provides the platform for work on developing family support and ensuring that all children grow up loved, safe and respected so that they can realise their full potential.

Families should not be refused assistance solely based on their immigration status. The requirement to undertake a wellbeing assessment and provide support is based on the appearance of need and is not dependent on a parent’s immigration status. Practitioners are encouraged to consider the wider impact of NRPF status on a family’s circumstances. Local authorities have developed their own best practice guidance in relation to the use of the GIRFEC values and principles and the National Practice Model in conducting assessments.

Under Part 3 of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014,[50] the local authority and health board have a co-statutory duty to plan and deliver services, in consultation and collaboration with other local service providers, that safeguard, support or promote the wellbeing of all children (which includes young people up to the age of 18 and beyond in certain circumstances) and children with particular types of need (which would include children at risk of destitution or homelessness). Children’s Services Planning partners will work together to support individual children and families using the national GIRFEC approach, through universal services, and where this is needed, through targeted specialist support agreed in a child’s plan. By assessing individual children’s wellbeing and needs, and by planning across organisations, public services may have a duty arising under child welfare obligations to provide accommodation and support to NRPF families in their area who are at risk of destitution and homelessness.

Unaccompanied asylum seeking children (UASC) are treated as ‘looked after’ children. Their rights must be upheld and they must have access to all that would be expected for any other child or young person, including health care and education. The Promise[51] sets out the ambition for Scotland’s children and young people, including UASC.

What we will do

We will work to increase safe and dignified access to essentials, including accommodation, food, healthcare and finance. We will aim to establish a basic safety net which meets the most urgent needs of people experiencing destitution, including identifying opportunities to deliver support in partnership with the third sector.

Our initial actions

1. We arepiloting a Hardship Fund to support people with NRPF across Scotland who are facing crisis situations. Crisis funds will be accessed via a cash distribution network of local organisations, providing people subject to NRPF with wider advice and support and offering critical help for people facing destitution. The project also involves bringing together a community of practice, with a view to improving coordination of support and developing a model of case work provision alongside hardship grants, to help support people out of destitution in the longer term. The pilot is being delivered by the British Red Cross as part of the winter package of support responding to COVID-19, receiving £180,000 until 31 March 2021 and anticipated to reach 400 people across Scotland. Discussions on how we can build on learning from the pilot and extend the project into 2021-22 are underway. Importantly, the project will capture data to inform the potential development of a longer term model of provision.

2. We will improve dignified access to culturally appropriate food, in line with the dignity principles outlined in Dignity: Ending Hunger Together.[52] We will work to increase access to cash as the most dignified response to food insecurity, as well as to improve the quality, coordination and awareness of food provision for people impacted by NRPF. Through this, we will be taking forward recommendations from Govan Community Project’s Food Insecurity Participatory Action Research project, including their call for improved links between community food projects and specialist retailers.

3. We will contribute to the ambition of ending homelessness and specifically support actions relating to people with NRPF and destitute asylum seekers, as set out in the Ending Homelessness Together action plan. This includes work to support the development of a five year delivery plan by the Everyone Home Collective on the ‘route-map’ to end destitution. This work, which is led by a partnership of third sector and academic organisations across Scotland, will seek to scale-up community-based accommodation provision and holistic support to meet the needs of an estimated 300-500 people with NRPF who are not entitled to local authority housing or homelessness services.

4. We will strengthen provision of financial assistance and wider local authority support to destitute families with children and vulnerable adults. There are two parts to this action: a. COSLA will convene a working group and establish an evidence base on NRPF support needs and the costs to local authorities of providing assistance under their statutory safeguarding duties; and

b. The Scottish Government will work with COSLA to develop and agree future funding and delivery models in line with the vision and principles of this strategy.

5. We will update guidance and training to support local authority provision of services to people with NRPF. We will deliver further training to officers working in local authorities and launch a new online learning module. We will also provide training to third sector organisations to support understanding of local authority duties and responsibilities and encourage partnership working.

6. We will improve access to primary health services, including by working with Public Health Scotland and other partners to address health inequalities experienced by people subject to NRPF, translating Health Access Cards and promoting to NHS staff the right to access healthcare for migrants and people seeking asylum.

7. We will improve access to mental health services for adults and children with NRPF by working to better understand the barriers and to collectively agree the practical actions that can be taken by local authorities, the Scottish Government and the NHS. We will also work to inform forthcoming work on mental health service renewal.

Advice and Advocacy

People are aware and able to access appropriate support and advice for their circumstances, including trusted legal advice to help them navigate UK immigration and asylum systems.

We will aim to prevent destitution and, when that is not possible, reduce the time people experience it by improving access to high quality immigration and welfare advice, which enables people to resolve issues and make empowered decisions about their future.

What people have told us

The complexity of immigration rules and processes is difficult to understand and navigate. People reported a constant uncertainty about what the outcome of a Home Office decision would be, when it would be made and what it would mean, including whether they may be returned to their country of origin, detained or made homeless.

People with experience of the asylum system felt that they were constantly challenged by the asylum process, with a number of people telling us that it is re-traumatising. They felt that it was not always clear what the next steps of the process would be, and their awareness of UK services combined with the restrictions placed on welfare eligibility meant that many people were not aware of their rights or how to access them. They could also be fearful of approaching services or reporting issues due to concerns that this would impact their case.

Even where people do understand the support they can legally ask for, the processes to secure access to support can be slow and co-ordination between services can be limited. People can also find it difficult to evidence their entitlement to support or status in the UK for a number of reasons, including loss of physical documents (or where no physical document was issued to them) and living arrangements where their name is not on tenancies or household bills.

Status issues can take a long time to resolve and, for some people, they can be unexpected. This includes children who have been born in the UK and people who arrived in the UK as children. Some young people may be unaware that they do not have status, or that they will be subject to NRPF when they become an adult because of their visa status.

“It is demeaning to have to beg for the support [from services], when a solicitor is able to make sure you get [the support] because it’s an entitlement.”

People with experience of destitution and supporting organisations have highlighted particular gaps in access to high quality immigration, asylum and related legal advice across Scotland. Those working in local authorities who provide assistance to some of the most vulnerable people have also shared challenges in accessing the advice they need to provide an effective service response and to successfully assist someone in need. The majority of available legal services are located in the central belt, with fewer services available in remote, rural and island communities. There are also challenges in ensuring that people can access qualified advisors with the right level of expertise or training for their particular immigration or asylum situation. Where services are provided, these can be over-subscribed and unable to offer the level of support that people experiencing destitution and the stress of an insecure immigration status need.

When people can access advice and advocacy, destitution can be resolved more quickly, including supporting people to have NRPF conditions lifted, to regularise an insecure status or make a successful settlement application. Good quality, early advice can prevent destitution. Advice and advocacy are necessary to resolve the underlying causes of destitution and support routes out. Without this, people can remain in destitution and on the support of local authorities or charities to survive.

For some people, voluntary return to their country of origin may be the best option. However, people told us that the way voluntary return works is not genuinely voluntary, as people feel pressured at times when they are vulnerable and experiencing destitution. They told us that they need to be aware of return as a genuine option sooner in the process. People believe that if taken it will prejudice all future travel to the UK, creating a strong disincentive to people seriously considering this as an option. Appropriate safeguards need to be in place, so there is confidence that people are not returning to a dangerous situation, and that they have appropriate nationality or status in the destination country (or will be personally supported to obtain it).

What is already happening

There are services already in place which help support people to access advice and advocacy, which contributes to a preventative approach to destitution, as well as helping to resolve issues which cause destitution.

Legal Aid

People with NRPF, along with all Scottish residents, looking for advice and representation have the full range of publicly funded legal assistance in Scotland open to them.

People applying for legal aid funding through the Scottish legal aid system are not subject to a residency test, and there are no plans to introduce one.

The legal aid system in Scotland is also flexible in the way that it operates. If an individual does not have a bank account or financial records, this would not necessarily mean that legal aid would be denied. The Scottish Legal Aid Board (SLAB) would only look for evidence that could reasonably be provided.

Stay in Scotland

Under the Stay in Scotland campaign, the Scottish Government has committed more than £1 million to help people apply to the EU settlement scheme. This includes funding Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) to run the EU Citizens Support Service helpline and a network of Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC) qualified advisors around Scotland. The Scottish Government funds the Citizens’ Rights Project to coordinate a network of around fifty volunteers (many of whom are OISC qualified) to help raise awareness of the EUSS, as well as supporting local authorities through COSLA.

Third Sector Advocacy Services

Scotland has a strong third sector, which delivers a wide range of specialist support services, community development and advocacy casework. Many of these organisations offer independent advocacy and support for people to navigate support systems and understand their rights. This can be an invaluable source of trusted support, particularly for people who may be fearful or unwilling to engage with public service providers and people who may need additional help to understand and access services.

Citizens Advice Scotland is a charity which supports a network of Citizen Advice Bureaux which are managed and used by people within communities to deliver services that meet the needs of local people. This includes provision of the Money Talk Team service, which provides free advice and practical help to maximise their incomes and understand their rights.

Third sector organisations also play an important role in raising awareness of issues which are impacting people in our communities and exploring ways to improve support.

What we will do

We will support work which addresses gaps in provision of legal advice, working in partnership with the legal and advice sector to raise awareness of rights and entitlements. We recognise the role of third sector advocacy in supporting people to access their rights and entitlements and will seek opportunities for partnership.

Our initial actions

8. We will invest in the provision of diagnostic legal advice delivered in partnership with advocacy support for people subject to NRPF, including expanding the geographical reach outside Glasgow.

9. We will increase access to specialist immigration advice to support local authorities assisting people with NRPF. This will help support especially vulnerable groups and complex cases, as well as building local capacity and strengthening local service design. It will also collect data to strengthen the national evidence base on immigration advice needs.


People are able to participate in society and access support, wherever services can be made available.

We will foster opportunities for people to participate fully and equally in Scotland’s diverse communities and to protect their human rights. This includes working to understand the impact of immigration status on people’s rights and inclusion in society, as well as how to design inclusive services that meet people’s needs.

What people have told us

People who are waiting for a decision on an asylum or immigration application have told us about feeling lost, in limbo and as though their life is on hold. People who have been granted limited leave to remain in the UK, including on routes to settlement, can similarly feel unable to make long term plans as they know that they will have to make further applications and their future in the UK is not secure.

Negative attitudes toward and treatment of people who have migrated to the UK can lead to people experiencing discrimination and social exclusion. People with NRPF have told us that they feel they are treated differently because of their immigration status. People have also experienced racism and link this to perceptions about immigration status and negative rhetoric.

“All around, people change and progress with their lives but I’m stuck.”

People who have moved to the UK are often distanced from their family and social networks, and they can feel isolated and lonely within our communities. Differences in culture and language barriers can also make it hard for people to participate in society on an equal basis and feel included. When people experience destitution, they lack the financial resources often needed to take up opportunities to socialise, learn or otherwise participate and connect with people in the community. In these circumstances, the cost of phones or devices and data to access the internet and make calls can be difficult to maintain. This further reduces access to crucial services and information, as well as social contact.

The majority of people subject to NRPF are not restricted from studying as part of their leave conditions and can enrol for further or higher education courses, providing they meet the course requirements and are accepted by the university or college. However, they will need to be able to pay any course costs or fees, at international student rates, which can be prohibitively expensive for people on low incomes or with no income. There are some scholarships and bursaries available, but these may be limited to certain subjects. People have also told us they are often not guaranteed for the full course of study, so may enable someone to begin their course, but not complete it.

People have also experienced difficulty accessing college courses, with ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) courses over-subscribed in some areas, and other courses requiring evidence of minimum ESOL qualifications to apply. Some people told us that studying a course other than ESOL would benefit their English more, because of the immersion in the language and because they would learn terminology which is more applicable to what they want to do. Similarly, enabling people to participate in communities and in employment can also support development and maintenance of skills, including language.

Lack of understanding of NRPF rules can lead to further exclusion from services and even sources of community and charity support because of assumptions about limited rights to access them.

Opportunities like volunteering locally through community and third sector organisations and local support projects can be invaluable. The ability to make friends, connect with others for support or otherwise contribute to the wider community can all help to reduce risks of destitution, by increasing people’s access to services as well as reducing stress and boosting wellbeing. Although people value the opportunity to contribute to communities as volunteers, some people felt that there was an unfair expectation that they should volunteer, rather than have the opportunity to use their skills and qualifications in employment.

“It feels like an open prison. It is like being detained, except you can walk around and see everyone else living their lives, like you did once, but everything is restricted – you cannot work, you cannot get an education, you cannot move on with your life or contribute to the society here. It is wasting years of people’s lives.”

Some people were frustrated that even where they have built up experience through volunteering they still faced barriers finding work. This included job searching, application and interview skills, but also highlighted cases where people felt that volunteering was not recognised by employers, who prefer people who have been in paid employment in the UK.

Services and communities can benefit by enabling people with lived experience to be directly involved in decision making at local and national level, including in design and promotion of services. This empowers people to support positive change and can help to improve service design and prevent detrimental issues recurring, including gaps in access.

What is already happening

There is work underway to support communities, promote integration and provide services inclusively. Ensuring that people subject to NRPF are included in approaches to support people across communities needs to continue and build on work which is underway.

Fairer Scotland

Fairer Scotland is a commitment to the people of Scotland to take long term action to change our society and make it a fairer and more equal place to live.

The Fairer Scotland Action Plan[53] was published in 2016 and sets out actions to help tackle poverty, reduce inequality and build a fairer and more inclusive Scotland. Progress is reported annually.

The Fairer Scotland Duty, set out in the Equality Act 2010,[54] came into force in April 2018. The duty places a legal responsibility on particular public bodies in Scotland to have due regard, when making decisions about exercising their functions, as to how they can reduce inequality caused by socio-economic disadvantage.

Access to Scottish Benefits

The majority of the UK’s welfare benefits system, which includes all income-related benefits, is reserved to the UK Parliament. There are a number of benefits which have been devolved to the Scottish Government or introduced using new social security powers.

Although the Scottish Government can determine eligibility for each of the benefits it administers, the UK Government retains control of the list of restricted public funds for immigration purposes. This means that the UK Government may add any devolved benefits to the list, restricting access for people subject to NRPF.

Where possible, the Scottish Government has worked with the Home Office to ensure that some access to devolved benefits has been permitted for those restricted by NRPF.

The benefits are:

  • The Best Start Grant Pregnancy and Baby Payment. This is one of a range of measures aimed at giving children the best start in life, and helps with expenses associated with pregnancy or with having a new child. Home Office confirmation has been received to state that parents under 18 years of age with NRPF can apply for the Pregnancy and Baby Payment without it affecting their immigration status.
  • Young Carers Grant provides financial support to young people with caring responsibilities. Following a change on 1 April 2020, young carers with NRPF can now access the Young Carers Grant.

New Scots refugee integration strategy

New Scots[55] sets out a vision for a welcoming Scotland where refugees and asylum seekers are able to rebuild their lives from the day they arrive. This approach to integration recognises the challenges people can face which may limit inclusion and aims to support people and communities to share and build their skills, knowledge and experience. It includes specific work to support participation, including through access to education and employment, and to build connections which can strengthen communities.

Travel: National Entitlement Card

The National Entitlement Card (NEC)[56] is Scotland’s national smartcard. It is used to deliver national and local services, including bus pass travel. Anyone who meets the eligibility for free bus travel can apply for a NEC through their local council. This includes disabled people and people aged over 60.

Free bus travel will be extended to young people under the age of 19 who are resident in Scotland during the course of 2021-22. This will include young asylum seekers and migrants living in Scotland.

Digital Access

Digital access and skills are an essential lifeline and are increasingly important to access information, public services and maintain contact with support networks.

The Connecting Scotland Programme[57] aims to get 50,000 digitally excluded households online by the end of 2021, with a focus on supporting older people, disabled people, low-income families with children and care leavers. The programme also provides information for anyone in Scotland about devices, data and getting connected, as well as basic digital skills and important information about how to stay safe online.

Human Rights

The Scottish Government is working to deliver a radical blueprint for human rights legislation covering all areas of devolved responsibility through work on the First Minister’s National Taskforce for Human Rights Leadership.

This includes a commitment to incorporate the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women into domestic legislation. There is also active consideration, working closely with key stakeholders, of incorporation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

Race Equality Framework

The Race Equality Framework (REF) 2016-2030[58] sets out the long term vision for race equality in Scotland and acknowledges the leadership role that the Scottish Government must take to realise this vision. The REF is also clear that the Scottish Government cannot achieve these goals alone, and highlights the importance of engaging and empowering communities, and taking a partnership approach, across the public and third sectors, to work towards common aims.

The Race Equality Action Plan (REAP) 2017-2021[59] sets out 120 specific actions to advance race equality, tackle racism, and address the barriers that prevent minority ethnic people from realising their potential.

As the REAP is coming to a close, work is underway to develop the next stage of delivering the goals of the REF. This will build on the recommendations from the Expert Reference Group on COVID-19 and Ethnicity,[60] and be informed by data and evidence from COVID-19 response, as well as wider explorations of systemic and structural inequalities.

Fair Work Action Plan and Employment Support

Fair work[61] is at the heart of the Scottish Government’s priorities for inclusive growth, a wellbeing economy and economic recovery. Fair Work is work that offers all individuals an effective voice, opportunity, security, fulfilment and respect. It balances the rights and responsibilities of workers and employers and goes beyond statutory employment rights and protections.

The Fair Work policy promotes fairer work practices across the labour market in Scotland. The Fair Work Action Plan[62] is being progressed to embed fair work practices in workplaces across Scotland, and the Fair Work Convention’s Framework[63] underpins our approach.

Funded programmes such as the Women Returners Programme, which aims to support women back into employment following a career break, are open to migrants who have permission to work in the UK.

The Workplace Equality Fund is employer-focused and seeks to identify and promote practice to reduce employment inequalities, discrimination and barriers in the workplace. This in turn helps to secure and retain employment and ensure employer practices lead to fair access and opportunities.

Employability: No One Left Behind

No One Left Behind[64] sets out our ambition to create a more joined up and aligned employability system in Scotland, with existing employability services aiming to deliver flexible, person-centred employability support in partnership with local government, private and third sector partners. Our overarching principles of equality of access to fair, inclusive labour markets and high quality jobs will remain key in any decisions we make.

“Employment is part of a chain reaction causing destitution. If someone has a problem with their housing, this [can] lead to unemployment, exacerbating the housing issue [because of loss of income] and leading to homelessness.”

Scottish and Local Government published the No One Left Behind Delivery Plan[65] in November 2020, outlining our shared vision to reform Scotland’s employability system to be more adaptable and responsive to the needs of people and a system that is capable of adapting to rapidly changing labour markets, tackles inequalities and grows Scotland’s economy.

Child poverty remains a priority, and access to Fair Work is the best route to support families out of poverty. The Parental Employability Support fund is collaboratively managed between Scottish and Local Government and aims to support low income parents to access or progress in work, supporting parents to upskill, re-train and increase overall household income.

Fair Start Scotland (FSS) is our national devolved employment support service. It aims to provide support to those who have challenges in accessing the labour market such as long-term unemployment and for those with health conditions or disabilities. The service is voluntary and offers personalised, one to one support tailored to individual circumstances.

Through partnership with local authorities, our jointly managed No One Left Behind approach provides employability support to individuals of all ages, supporting them to increase confidence, skills and experience; and enabling them to progress towards or enter employment.

For many people with NRPF who have a legal right to work in the UK, No One Left Behind and its aligned programmes have the potential to provide key support into the labour market.

Adult Education

Eligibility for student support in Scotland is associated with residency. The rules require students to be ordinarily resident in Scotland and to be settled in the UK or have spent a minimum amount of time living in the UK (this time varies depending on whether they are over 18 at the time they start their course).[66]

The Scottish Funding Council has a Fee Waiver Grant Policy[67] which enables asylum seekers, their spouses and children to study full-time or part-time ESOL courses, or part-time advanced or non-advanced courses. These students are also eligible to receive support in kind from the additional discretionary funds to meet travel and study costs. Some universities have scholarships or bursaries which can be accessed by people seeking asylum.

The Adult Learning Strategy Forum for Scotland is developing an Adult Learning Strategy which will be consulted on in 2021. The Adult Learning Strategy focuses on Community Learning and Development (CLD) and opportunities to support adults across Scotland to build, maintain and refresh their skills, as part of life-long learning.

What we will do

We will work to ensure that opportunities to include people subject to NRPF in the delivery of the strategy are identified and for lived experience to inform the design and delivery of public services. We will work to protect and uphold people’s rights, tackle racism and discrimination and support people’s skills, potential and aspirations, so that they can contribute to communities and pursue ambitions for the benefit of Scotland’s society and economy.

Our initial actions

10. We will extend financial support to people subject to NRPF where that is possible to do so, on the same basis. We will explore opportunities to ensure people are included in any new benefits developed through the extended social security powers. While these powers are limited, any new benefits should be made equally available to everyone living in our communities where possible.

11. We will ensure that employability support is accessible for people subject to NRPF who have permission to work. We will improve understanding of the employability support needs of people with NRPF to strengthen the pathways and approach of No One Left Behind.

12. We will contribute to development of the next Race Equality Action Plan to ensure that it takes into account the challenges faced by people with NRPF and explore what further action can be taken to ensure no one faces destitution.

13. We will work with people with lived experience of destitution and NRPF to continue to inform and shape the strategy during implementation. This will include supporting opportunities for people to participate meaningfully in policy development and service design at national and local level.


Email: ScotlandsRefugeeStrategy@gov.scot

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