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Friday, 10 October 2014

When marriage is slavery — and UK laws perpetuate inhumanity

By Swheatie of the KUWG

After posting a Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group blog piece this afternoon about the need for people to write their MPs about the Modern Slavery Bill, I recalled a Community Care magazine article from 2006 about 'No Recourse to Public Funds' — known to social workers as 'NRPF'. (Community Care is a trade magazine for social care, and now exclusively online.) While the major UK political parties are saying that they will take the views of UKIP voters on board — and they conveniently ignore the question of why so few voted in the recent parliamentary by-elections — it is high time that someone helps make the public aware of how UK laws are already much too inhumane and why this blogger says, "Stuff UKIP's xenophobic and bigoted 'mission'. It is high time for UK voters and trade unions to get together to promote social justice rather than isolated self-interest. Unite Community is making a good start there, and so I'm glad to be part of it.

"But for far too long and under Labour Governments, trade unions have neglected to support the unwaged including disabled workers, and much of the exploitation that exists in 'work for your benefits' regimes in the UK started under Labour. And now the TUC has colluded with the Confederation of British Industry to promote a 'traineeships scheme' that, it has been argued, is really a form of workfare and could lead to the unpaid 'trainees' being sanctioned — especially given the names of the companies backing it."

Swheatie not backing UKIP in Clacton-on-Sea or anywhere else
Enough of that for a preface, time now to unveil the Community Care magazine I read back in 2006, now shared via the Community Care archives.

No recourse to public funds: the plight of refugees fleeing domestic violence.

Hundreds of women arrive in the UK each year only to be trapped in violent relationships. They have two choices: stay put and remain at the mercy of their assailants, or escape and risk destitution. Mark Gould reports

Simran Kaur, a small gentle woman with a tiny, almost imperceptible, handshake, puts her hands to her face and sobs slow, silent tears. She is almost mute with trauma – unable to find words to describe the nine months of abuse and virtual solitary confinement she faced at the hands of an indifferent husband and his domineering mother from the day she arrived in Bristol from Delhi in December 2003.

Fragments of her story emerge in short sentences translated by her caseworker, Meena Patel. “I was kept in the dark in my room with the curtains closed. When I tried to open them my mother-in-law slapped me. I was vegetarian and she told me to eat meat. I lived on bread and water. When my mother or sister rang I was told I could not speak to them.”

She was even under pressure when she was left alone. On one occasion she was locked in the house and managed to set off security alarms by leaving her bedroom. Every year about 600 women who arrive in the UK as immigrants and asylum seekers are trapped in violent relationships.

Most are married to or have relationships with UK citizens or men who have indefinite leave to remain in the UK. A minority have come here as fiancées or dependants of students and workers or are here temporarily in their own right. Many of them have children who are British citizens. Their official status is NRPF – no recourse to public funds – which excludes them from benefits and housing entitlement. It also prevents them fleeing to a refuge as the rent is usually funded by housing benefit.

While abusive families are at fault for women such as Simran ending up in these situations, campaigners say their actions are compounded and encouraged by “inhuman and discriminatory” failings in the benefits  and immigration system which leaves them with no recourse to public funds. Due to a nightmarish catch-22, women – and some men – are left with the choice of leaving an abusive home and becoming destitute or staying and risking their lives.

Without the help of campaign group Southall Black Sisters, Simran, 26, would have had nowhere to turn; her insecure immigration status labels her NRPF, but she is unable to return to her family in India who see women as in some way culpable for an abusive relationship.

Pragna Patel, of the Southall Black Sisters management committee, says Simran’s story is a familiar one: “Women are  imprisoned as domestic or sexual slaves – by strangers or by their husbands and families who have absolute power over them.

They have the ultimate weapon – they say, ‘disobey and we can send you back’.”

In 2002, after an intense campaign led by Southall Black Sisters, the Home Office introduced the Domestic Violence Immigration Rule. This allows women who enter the UK as spouses or long-term partners of a British national or someone settled in this country – and who are subject to a two-year probationary period – to apply for residency if they can prove that domestic violence caused the relationship to break down. However, they still have no recourse to public funds.

Pragna Patel says the rule is an important step. But she says confused and frightened women like Simran cannot make use of it while trapped in an abusive relationship.

“The rule is too restrictive in terms of the evidence needed and in relation to the category of people who can use it. But the main reason why people do not use it is because they have no recourse to public funds. This means they don’t have the benefit money to pay for accommodation, food or other essentials and that means they are less likely to escape an abusive situation and less  likely to make a complaint about the abuse to the police. And that means perpetrators get away with it.”

Southall Black Sisters says the only solution is to abolish NRPF and has launched a campaign to that effect which has support from a range of women’s groups....

Continue reading this article on the Community Care website.....

See also:
Sep 19, 2013 ... The No Recourse to Public Funds Network (NRPF) is part of the joint Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (DASS) and Association ...

Sunday, 10 August 2014

More on TUC backing for workfare
'Ivy' of the KUWG has added a post script to the blog piece TUC backing for workfare. Perhaps that post script is worthy of a blog piece in its own right rather than an appendage position?

"This cosy TUC and CBI backrub comes right after Ed Milliband’s announcement to cut benefits for 18 - 21 year olds, as revealed in The Guardian," she writes.....

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