"If you have been given permission to live in the UK, this permission may include the condition that you have 'no recourse to public funds'. If so, you will not be able to claim most benefits, tax credits or housing assistance that are paid by the state."

- UK Border Agency

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.

  • 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.

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.

A report, published March 2008, by Southall Black Sisters and Amnesty International, reveals how hundreds of women are trapped in a cycle of abuse, unable to access basic levels of protection and support, simply because of their vulnerable immigration status.

"No recourse, No Safety" Report 

Destitution Domestic Violence Concession (DDV)

The introduction of the Destitution Domestic Violence (DDV) concession replaces the successful Sojourner project. It allows women with no recourse to public funds to notify the UKBA that they need to access financial support while they make a claim for indefinite leave to remain as a victim of domestic violence. Women who are eligible for the DDV concession are:

  • Destitute;
  • In the UK on a spousal visa;
  • Marriage has ended because of domestic abuse;
  • Planning to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain under the Domestic Violence Rule.

From 1 April 2012 migrants will be able to apply under the DDV concession. Read our briefing on the Destitution Domestic Violence Concession.

How Can I Support Her?

Domestic Violence, immigration and women with no recourse to public funds

The Women's Resource Centre and Southall Black Sisters have produced a resource pack to help women's organisations supporting women with no recourse to public funds. It covers how to make applications under the Domestic Violence Rule, information on other immigration and asylum procedures, and details of financial support that women may be eligible for.

How can I support her? Domestic violence, immigration and women with no recourse to public funds

Contact us for a hard copy of the report. If you would like to order multiple copies please send a donation of £10 per pack to Southall Black Sisters, 21 Avenue Road, Southall, Middlesex UB1 3BL cheques payable to “Abolish no Recourse”.

Asylum support for women who are victims of domestic violence

The ASAP Project have published a new factsheet that provides advice to asylum-seeking and refused asylum-seeking women about applying to the UKBA for accommodation if they are experiencing domestic violence in their homes. It is aimed at women who are already living in accommodation provided by the UKBA and to those who are living in other accommodation, such as privately rented, who need to leave due to domestic violence

ASAP factsheet: Asylum support for women who are victims of domestic violence

Women trapped in cycle of violence by UK law

Laws and policies on no recourse

Rights of Women have produced a briefing to outline some of the laws and polices which prevent or restrict women with an insecure immigration status from accessing welfare benefits or certain
community care services.

Rights of Women’s briefing on the Ministry of Justice proposed changes to legal aid 

Guidance for Local Authorities

The No Recourse to Public Funds Network has produced practice guidance for local authorities on how to assess and support victims of domestic violence who have no recourse to public fubds. This provides useful information on what the obligations of local authorities are as well as relevant legislation and resources and can be used to support a case.

Practice Guidance for Local Authorities

Legal support helpline

Rights of Women provide an advice line with free, confidential legal advice on immigration issues. Contact women lawyers on: 020 7251 8887 (telephone) or 020 7490 2562 (textphone) on Mondays 2pm-4pm and Wednesdays 11am-1pm.

Southall Black Sisters No Recourse Fund

In recognition of the plight of hundreds of women and children in this situation, Southall Black Sisters have (with funds provided by London Councils and Oxfam) set up a small 'last resort fund' called the SBS No Recourse Fund.

The fund will be used to help accommodate and provide subsistence costs for a limited period
for women who have experienced domestic violence and have insecure immigration status with no recourse to public funds. The funds will also be used to help women who are victims of  trafficking and prostitution.

The funds will be allocated in the following way:

  • Funds from London Councils will be used to cover emergency housing costs and living expenses for women and children in London
  • Funds from Oxfam will cover emergency housing and living expenses for women and children outside London.

Please note that the SBS No Recourse Fund is a last resort fund. The funds will only be open to non-governmental organisations. The overall funds available are severely limited and will only be provided where organisation give a commitment to assist women to pursue other avenues of financial assistance, including legal proceedings against local authorities. The No Recourse Funds will not be released if organisations fail, during the period of funding from SBS, to assist women to obtain alternative funding.

The No Recourse Fund will cover the costs of emergency accommodation and other basic living expenses to enable women and children to access places of safety such as a refuge pending more long-term arrangements for housing and living expenses. SBS can assist you through this process.

The fund will pay accommodation and subsistence costs of up to £30 per week for an adult and £10 per week for a child. Single women will be assisted for a maximum of 6 weeks. Women with children will be assisted for one week.

Application Packs

Please contact SBS for an application pack, which sets out the criteria and conditions of eligibility in more detail. You can also download the application pack from the SBS website:

http://www.southallblacksisters.org.uk/norecoursefunds.html

Please also feel free to contact SBS if you need advice and assistance in pursuing other sources of funding for women.

Please contact: Southall Black Sisters, SBS NO RECOURSE FUND, 21 Avenue Road, Southall,
Middlesex, UB1 3BL.

The Women's Resource Centre is part of a coalition of organisations working to highlight the devastating impact of this restriction on access to public funds on a particularly vulnerable group of women. The coalition includes Amnesty International UK, Ashiana Network, Apna Haq Project (Rotherham), BAWSO (Wales), British Red Cross, AVA - Against Violence and Abuse (formerly the Greater London Domestic Violence Project), Imkaan, IMECE Turkish Speaking Women's Group, Iranian and Kurdish Women's Rights Organisation (IKWRO), Kalayaan, Latin American Women's Rights Service (LAWRS), Newham Asian Women’s Project, Refuge, Roshni Asian Women’s Resource Centre (Sheffield), Scottish Women's Aid, Shakti Women’s Aid, Southall Black Sisters, The Kiran Project, Welsh Women's Aid, Women’s Aid (England), Women's Aid Federation of Northern Ireland, and Women’s Resource Centre.

We call on the government to:

  • Abolish the 'no recourse' requirement for abused women who have insecure status.
  • Fast track applications to remain in the UK (process within 2 months) where there is prima facie evidence of domestic violence.
  • Reform the Domestic Violence Rule so that all types of evidence of domestic violence are accepted.
  • Extend the Domestic Violence Rule to all abused women with an insecure immigration status and introduce similar protection for trafficked women subjected to sexual and economic abuse and to overseas domestic workers experiencing violence from employers.
  • Provide adequate levels of legal aid so that there is access to good quality legal advice and assistance.

 Take action on No Recourse

The Home Office has recently launched a new scheme that replaces the Sojourner Project, which ran from 2009 - March 2012. Women who are eligible for the new Destitute Domestic Violence Concession will receive benefits and housing for 3 months while they submit an application for Independent Leave to Remain (ILR). This concession represents a major victory for the Campaign to Abolish No Recourse to Public Funds, and for the rights of women at risk of gender based violence and exploitation.

However, there are many other vulnerable victims who are ineligible for this concession and remain without support and without a safety net.

See the press release from the campaign group for more information.

The No Recourse campaign needs your support NOW!

  • Take action - write to your MP asking them to urge the Home Secretary, Theresa May, and Minister for Equalities, Lynne Featherstone, to ensure that government schemes for women with no recourse to public funds take into account the concerns of the campaign group. See the campaign statement for more information.
  • Sign your organisation up to the campaign statement. Please contact: Gisela@wrc.org.uk for more information.
  • Join the campaign Facebook group and invite others to join.