Ending destitution together: strategy

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

Developing the Strategy

In 2017, the Scottish Parliament’s Equalities and Human Rights Committee published Hidden Lives – New Beginnings,[14] a report setting out the findings of an inquiry into destitution, asylum and insecure immigration status in Scotland. A key recommendation of the report was the development of an anti-destitution strategy for people with No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) to mitigate destitution.

The Scottish Government committed to develop a strategy, informed by the evidence and recommendations presented in Hidden Lives – New Beginnings.

Since 2017, the Scottish Government and COSLA have been working in partnership to ensure a joined-up approach across national and local government to the challenge of destitution. There has been continuing work to develop an improved understanding of the issues relating to destitution and NRPF conditions impacting people living in Scotland.

As a first step, we developed and published guidance on Migrants’ Rights and Entitlements to Local Authority Support and Services.[15] The guidance sets out the legal context for local authorities to make support decisions, with due attention to their duties under devolved legislation and in respect of human rights. We have committed to review the guidance regularly to ensure it remains up to date as part of this strategy.

Action Already Taken

Since 2017, work has included:

  • Publishing new national guidance on Migrants’ Rights and Entitlements in 2019.
  • Delivering learning to assist local authority staff supporting people at risk of destitution.
  • Supporting the COSLA NRPF Network of local authorities.
  • Funding the Humanitarian Project to support access to legal advice and advocacy for people at risk of eviction from asylum accommodation.
  • Informing the response to COVID-19 to ensure people with NRPF were included in support where possible.
  • Providing £550,000 immediate priority funding to third sector organisations to include support for people with NRPF during COVID-19 restrictions.

In addition to the evidence presented in Hidden Lives – New Beginnings, this strategy has been informed by targeted engagement with key stakeholders (support providers from across local authorities, the third sector and the legal sector) and people who have lived experience of destitution. People with lived experience also engaged in the strategy development through a project group led by Govan Community Project and the Scottish Refugee Council.

Engagement which took place in 2019 and early 2020 helped to inform the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the strategy has also been informed by issues that emerged during the pandemic. Issues were raised and recommendations made by a range of groups which came together to inform Scotland’s response to COVID-19, including the COSLA Consortium on NRPF and Scottish Government Expert Reference Groups, for example the group on COVID-19 and Ethnicity.[16]


COVID-19 has impacted everyone. For people living in poverty who were already isolated in our communities, it has compounded their experience and increased risks of stress, anxiety and financial insecurity which can significantly impact health, wellbeing and the opportunities to find routes out of destitution.

Most of the support provided to help people to protect themselves and comply with public health restrictions was delivered through existing welfare distribution mechanisms. These included Universal Credit and the Scottish Welfare Fund, which are inaccessible for people subject to NRPF.

However, because of the public health emergency, it has been possible for the Scottish Government and local authorities to directly fund the provision of support and services to reduce public health risks. Engagement which had already been undertaken to develop this strategy helped to inform the COVID-19 response.

In April 2020, COSLA published COVID-19 specific guidance to help local authorities make decisions about support provision in the context of public health requirements.[17] The Scottish Government was able to fund services, provided they did not relate to the reserved matter of immigration, including making over £1.5 million available to enable third sector organisations to acquire emergency hotel accommodation. This provision was on the basis of public health requirements, both for the individual who would be at risk of contracting COVID-19, if they were rough sleeping or living in dormitory-style accommodation, and the general need to reduce the spread of the virus in the community.

The Scottish Government also provided support to people through other unrestricted routes. This included new funding streams created to support the response to COVID-19, such as Wellbeing and Food Funds, which provided local authorities and third sector organisations with funds to support people on the basis of need, regardless of immigration status. Where possible, support was extended on the same basis to people subject to NRPF, including through Social Isolation Support Grants for those asked to self-isolate by Test and Protect, and Winter Child Payments to families in receipt of Free School Meals.

In June 2020, the Social Renewal Advisory Board[18] was created to build on shifts in policy and practice which had taken place as part of Scotland’s response to COVID-19 and consider how reducing poverty and disadvantage, embedding human rights based approaches and advancing equality could progress as Scotland emerges from the pandemic. The independent report, If Not Now, When? was published in January 2021.[19]

COVID-19 highlights the profound impact a change of circumstance can have on people, particularly where it is unexpected and beyond individual control. However, rather than directly causing destitution, in many ways COVID-19 exposed the issues people were already facing in our communities due to NRPF.

The social and economic impacts of COVID-19 continue and will be felt for a long time. This will particularly affect people who are experiencing or at risk of destitution, but may also jeopardise the security of people who would otherwise not have been at risk. Ensuring everyone is aware of advice, information and support will help to prevent a change in personal circumstance from putting them at increased risk of poverty or destitution.


Email: ScotlandsRefugeeStrategy@gov.scot

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