Dame Emma Thompson is one of a number of voices to call on home secretary Priti Patel to end restrictions that prevent thousands of migrants in the UK from accessing financial support during the coronavirus crisis.
The actress is joined by Call The Midwife star Miriam Margoyles, playwright Sir Tom Stoppard and Westworld star Thandie Newton in asking the government to suspend ‘No recourse to public funds’ (NRPF) during the pandemic, saying it is a ‘disgrace’ that children in the UK face extreme poverty.
The policy prevents migrant families, who have not yet qualified for permanent residency in the UK, from accessing support including Universal Credit, tax credits, child and housing benefits, even if their children were born in the UK.
The Children’s Society has warned that families face ‘crippling poverty’ without action from the government.
A letter to Priti Patel in support of the society’s campaign said: ‘The families and children affected by NRPF come in all shapes and sizes.
‘Some will have heart-breaking stories; they may have been trafficked here, or may be victims of criminal, sexual and domestic exploitation. Some will be single parents.
‘Most will be juggling various low-paid jobs or working on zero-hours contracts – the very roles most likely to have disappeared as a result of coronavirus.
‘Some are the NHS heroes battling on the frontline – nurses, nursing home staff and care workers – on whom we are counting. Yet if something goes wrong for them, who can they count on?
‘Shockingly, many of the children from these families are British – they were born in this country but are denied vital support because of their parents’ immigration status.
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‘Whatever the reason they have NRPF, during this worldwide crisis their immigration status should not prevent the government from giving them support. That is why we are supporting The Children’s Society campaign to suspend NRPF.
‘Without recourse to public funds, thousands of children face extreme poverty. In one of the richest countries in the world, that is a disgrace.
‘During these times we all need to unite in common decency and humanity. Please join me to ensure all children and families can turn to the government at this time of national emergency. We cannot leave them to fend for themselves.’
Dame Emma said: ‘No child should be disadvantaged or discriminated against simply because of the immigration status of their parents, yet the NRPF condition does just that.
‘It can have a devastating effect on families, leaving children exposed to cruel levels of poverty and even destitution.
‘That is why I believe it is imperative that our government shows decency and humanity and ensures these families have somewhere to turn if they lose their income due to the coronavirus.’
Mark Russell, chief executive of The Children’s Society, added: ‘We are honoured to have such well respected artists giving their support to our campaign and to families who are suffering.
‘We are all in this situation together, but we have to make sure no-one is left behind. Without urgent action from the government, many of these families, already vulnerable to financial shocks, will face crippling poverty.
‘The government must step in and provide an urgent lifeline for all, regardless of their immigration status.’
Earlier this week The New European reported that EU citizens with pre-settled status were also being denied access to Universal Credit.