I thank you for inviting me—I am pleased to be here and to give evidence to the committee.
In Edinburgh, we have been working for many years with a range of refugees, and families in particular, who have no recourse to public funds. For about 10 years, I have been the strategic and operational lead for working with such families. We have been in touch with councils throughout the country. Colleagues from Dundee came to see us several times; they looked at what we were doing and we helped them to develop their guidance. We have done that with a number of local authorities. At any given time, we are supporting around 40 families that have no recourse to public funds. Over the course of a year, we might support 60 or 70 families. I have just been looking at figures for this year—we have paid out something like £375,000 in rent and maintenance to families. That is not staff costs, but direct payments to support families.
In the main, those families have a human rights claim to remain in the UK. However, some of them are seeking asylum under article 3 of the European convention on human rights. The UK Government policy keeps shifting, and it is getting more and more difficult for people to get support when they have put a claim in. We support people while their claim is pending. Following a successful claim, it can take some time for people to get that support.
We have seen a number of changes—for example, in what are known as Zambrano cases. I do not know whether the committee is aware of the Zambrano case, which went to the European Court. The judgment in that case said that someone who is the parent of a child who is a European Union citizen has a de facto right to remain in the EU to look after that child until they are 18. We deal with parents—mainly of British citizens—who do not have a legal right to remain in the UK but who are given temporary leave to remain until their child is 18. When the Zambrano judgment was made, the rules changed and many of those parents were given leave to remain but they still had no recourse to public funds. We continue to challenge that, and to support families that have young children and cannot manage to work and provide childcare.
There is often huge pressure on families to prove that they are destitute to get asylum support, but it is very difficult for someone to prove that they do not have an income. Again, we support families through that process. Each week, we get a lot of presentations. We have OISC-trained staff, and we refer families immediately to immigration lawyers to look at their human rights. We support families through that process, too. We support families to a great extent, but we get no financial support from the UK Government or the Scottish Government to do so.
We also get a lot of UASC presentations in the city. We are currently supporting 27 children, including some whom we took directly from France. We will get no support for them once they turn 18, so we continue to support them as children who were formerly in care. So far, we have taken 153 people through the Syrian refugee settlement scheme, and another 50 are coming. We have a huge breadth of experience, and we are often asked to help and support other agencies with policies and to speak at conferences on NRPF status and the impact that it can have on families.