Home secretary Priti Patel has denied that the government policy of no recourse to public funds is ‘racially discriminate’.
Calling for the policy to be suspended as a step towards tackling inequalities facing people from BAME communities, the SNP’s home affairs spokesperson Joanna Cherry said: ‘The Black Lives Matter movement and Public Health England’s Covid-19 outbreak review of disparities in risks and outcomes have highlighted the inequalities suffered by black and minority ethnic people in our society.
‘Does the home secretary accept that the no recourse to public funds policy disproportionately affects people from BAME communities and if she does, why won’t she push for it to be suspended as a concrete step towards tackling the inequalities which so appal many of our constituents?’
Whilst admitting that members of BAME communities face ‘many challenges’ and that the findings of the recent Public Health England report were ‘shocking’, Patel refused to suspend the no recourse to public funds policy for the remainder of the pandemic.
Patel agreed that with regards to the PHE report, ‘the findings are indeed shocking and it is right that the government invests its time and resources through the equalities minister in particular to look at the measures that can be brought in place’.
But sshe said: ‘Now this policy of no recourse to public funds is one of many policies and it is right as a government that we look at all policies that affect all communities in the round without singling one particular policy out.’
Cherry added that no recourse to public funds is ‘inherently more likely to affect BAME British children than white British children’.
‘So given this evidence that no recourse to public funds is a policy with racially discriminatory impacts, why won’t she accept that it needs to go?’, Ms Cherry said.
Patel replied: ‘If I may, I think it is wrong to characterise as a policy of racial discrimination.’
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She added: ‘Now I think it is important to recognise that there are a number of issues, there are a plethora of issues that affect people from black, Asian, ethnic minority communities but we cannot assume that there is a one size fits all approach or a single policy solution to address those issues.’
But Lib Dem acting leader Sir Ed Davey said Patel ‘doesn’t get it’.
‘People who work here, paid taxes here for years are being denied support and are falling to destitution,’ he said.
Sir Ed added: ‘So given that this rule disproportionately affects people in our black and minority ethnic communities the hardest, will the home secretary now suspend the no recourse to public funds rule for the duration of the pandemic?’
Patel replied: ‘The answer is no.
‘Local authorities have provided a basic safety net and that is through significant financial provisions introduced by the government and a range of measures to support those people that have been working and because of coronavirus, because of this national health pandemic, the situation we find ourselves in, will support people with no recourse to public funds.
‘And that assistance is being given under the Coronavirus Retention Scheme and also the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme. So these funds are available.’