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No recourse to public funds: a qualitative evidence synthesis

Andy Jolly (School of Health Professions, University of Plymouth, Plymouth, UK and Institute for Community Research and Development, University of Wolverhampton, Wolverhampton, UK)
Jasber Singh (Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience, Coventry University, Coventry, UK)
Sunila Lobo (Sadaka, Reading, UK)

International Journal of Migration, Health and Social Care

ISSN: 1747-9894

Article publication date: 2 March 2022

Issue publication date: 10 March 2022




This study aims to outlines the findings of the first qualitative evidence synthesis of empirical research on the impact of the No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) rule which prevents most temporary migrants from accessing social security benefits in the UK.


The review used the 2020 Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic reviews and Meta-Analyses protocol guidelines. Data were analysed by using Thomas and Harden’s (2008) thematic synthesis methodology. An initial 321 articles were identified from 13 databases, of which 38 studies met the inclusion criteria.


The key insights were that NRPF causes destitution and extreme poverty and has a disproportionate impact on racialised women. Studies found that support services were underdeveloped, underfunded, inconsistent and had a culture of mistrust and racism towards migrants. Migrants were often fearful of services due to concerns around deportation, destitution and state intervention around children.

Research limitations/implications

The review focussed on qualitative research. Future empirical and theoretical research is needed in the following areas: NRPF as a practice of everyday bordering, the role of the Home Office in creating and sustaining the policy; differing gendered experiences of NRPF; and a broader geographical scope which includes all four UK nations and takes an international comparative approach.


Despite an estimated 1.4 million people in the UK with NRPF (Citizens Advice, 2020), there is little policy or theoretical discussion of the experience of having NRPF or the implications of the rule. This lack of analysis is a significant gap in both our understanding of the landscape of poverty in the UK, and the ways in which immigration policies create extreme poverty. To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this paper is the first systematic qualitative review on NRPF, bringing together the research evidence on how NRPF negatively affects outcomes for migrants, local authority and voluntary sector responses to NRPF and theoretical perspectives on NRPF.



The authors would like to thank Sara Bailey for her contribution in identifying and accessing relevant databases and assistance with the initial screening of articles.


Jolly, A., Singh, J. and Lobo, S. (2022), "No recourse to public funds: a qualitative evidence synthesis", International Journal of Migration, Health and Social Care, Vol. 18 No. 1, pp. 107-123.



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