Scotland’s biggest black and minority ethnic network is calling on the Scottish government to “show it can do things differently” by extending its £500 self-isolation support grant to all those with no recourse to public funds (NRPF) because of their immigration status.
People on low incomes in Scotland are now eligible to receive a £500 grant if told to self-isolate, which is administered by local authorities. Applications opened on 12 October.
The Ethnic Minority National Resilience Network (EMNRN) said it would be “unconscionable” to restrict provision after it was told the new grant would only be available to people with NRPF who are working, the Guardian has learned.
Describing NRPF as “the flagship policy of the hostile environment”, the network says in a letter to the Scottish equalities minister, Christina McKelvie, that this approach would disproportionately impact some of Scotland’s most vulnerable black and Asian people, as those subject to NRPF who are allowed to work are predominantly white eastern European and European Economic Area citizens.
The EMNRN, a network of grassroots organisations, campaigners and professionals, set up to support minority communities through the pandemic, has been pushing the Scottish government to use its devolved powers to mitigate the policy, which has left many facing destitution.
Coming into force on 2 November: Light controls on socialising with time limits possible on licensed premises; a maximum of eight people from three households meeting indoors, and 15 people from five households outdoors. Indoor worship, weddings and funerals capped at 50 people; car-sharing should be avoided and face coverings compulsory on public transport.
As above but only six people from two households can meet indoors or outdoors; numbers at weddings and funerals capped at 20 and no indoor contact sports for over-18s; working in offices restricted to essential only.
As above, but no indoor socialising and only six people from two households outdoors; enhanced protective measures for schools; outdoor events banned, stadiums closed to spectators but drive-in events and cinemas allowed; no sale of alcohol indoors, except served with meals; soft play, snooker halls, nightclubs and casinos closed.
No indoor socialising; six people from two households allowed to meet outdoors; no non-essential travel; no indoor or outdoor alcohol sales; hotels, B&Bs and camp sites restricted to locals or essential workers only; all stadiums and events shut; colleges and universities would have greater restrictions on mixing; amateur outdoor contact sports banned; all leisure venues closed; essential public services only.
As in level 3 but hotels and B&Bs closed except for essential workers; may enforce “stay at home” rules or limit travel distances; only essential journeys on public transport; all non-essential shops are closed; hairdressers, beauticians and driving lessons banned; worship capped at 20 people; only five people allowed at weddings; gyms closed; all leisure venues, pubs, restaurants, visitor attractions and cinemas closed; only essential indoor workplaces, outdoor building and manufacturing allowed.
Severin Carrell, Scotland editor
Jenni Keenan, of Perth and Kinross Minority Communities Hub, worked with EU nationals self-isolating during the 2 Sisters chicken factory outbreak in Coupar Angus, who became NRPF by default when they were unable to apply for necessary documents during lockdown.
Keenan said: “We’ve seen many more individuals struggling during the pandemic, and higher numbers of ethnic minorities are in insecure work. We talk about this in abstract terms, but really it’s about a family who can’t feed themselves.
“We know that the Scottish government can’t change immigration law, but it is really important that they take the action they can to mitigate it. The Scottish government have been vocal about the moral argument against NRPF, but as far as we understand it, they could tomorrow introduce a new payment to support those people.”
The EMNRN coordinator, Danny Boyle, said that the extension of the self-isolation grant should set a precedent: “If we have established that a discretionary payment can be progressed under section 4 of the Public Health (Scotland) Act 2008 then the next logical step is to utilise this method to support everyone subjected to the flagship policy of the hostile environment.
“If we are truly committed to a human rights-based approach in Scotland, then now is the time to show that we can do things differently. The progression of longer-term payment would provide clarity, safety and security to people in extremely difficult positions.”
A Scottish government spokesperson said: “On countless occasions we have asked the UK government to lift the restrictions of no recourse to public funds for the duration of the Coronavirus pandemic on public health grounds. As we have seen both before and during the pandemic, we are left in a position where the task of supporting people with NRPF has been shifted to the Scottish Government and local authorities, using the limited powers we have to protect individuals and public health.”
“The Scottish Government is providing funding to third sector organisations supporting people with NRPF in Glasgow and Edinburgh. We have also agreed with local authorities that a discretionary payment, equivalent to the Scottish Welfare Fund, is provided to people with NRPF. Guidance is being provided to help local authorities assess applications.”