Skip to main content
Shelter Logo

Housing support for families with no recourse to public funds

You could get help from the council if you have children and are homeless, or will be soon.

You can only get help from the council's homeless team if you meet immigration conditions.

You could get help from social services

Social services is part of your council.

They can sometimes help families with 'no recourse to public funds'.

What does 'no recourse to public funds' mean?

It means you cannot get most benefits, or housing and homeless help from the council.

This is usually because your visa or leave to remain says you cannot get this help. For example, skilled worker or student visas.

It could also be because you do not have permission to be in the UK.

Social services help does not count as public funds

You still need immigration advice before you ask for help if you do not have permission to be in the UK.

Get free advice through Citizens Advice.

Will social services help?

Social services should keep children safe and support families.

Usually they only help if no one else can. They expect you to ask friends, family members, charities or community groups first.

If you've already tried other options, social services could help with:

  • emergency housing

  • finding a private tenancy

  • money for rent, food, energy and travel costs

This is sometimes called 'section 17 support'.

Help in an emergency

Social services should give you some immediate help if you are on the streets or need money for food.

Can support affect your immigration status?

The council tells the Home Office if you ask them for help. Some councils have immigration officers in their teams.

This could cause you immigration problems. For example, if you have no leave to remain or have overstayed your visa.

Could your children be taken into care?

The council should help you stay together unless your children are at risk of serious harm.

Social services should not offer to take your children into care if their main concern is that you're homeless.

They should:

  • talk to you and your children about what you need

  • offer support to the whole family

You can say no if the council only offer somewhere to stay for your children.

Social services cannot take your children away without a court order.

Will you have to move to another area?

The council might offer you housing or help to pay for it in a different area.

It's best to accept this as social services might not offer anything else.

You may want to stay in your local area, but it can be hard to get the council to agree.

You might have a stronger case if:

  • you cannot get to work

  • you need care or support from someone in the area

  • your child is disabled or has special educational needs

  • your child needs contact with their other parent in the area

  • you or your child have to get medical treatment at a specific hospital

  • your child is doing important exams soon, for example, GCSEs or A levels

How to ask for social services support

You should ask for social services support from the council where you live.

If your children are at school in another area, you could speak to that council instead.

If you have moved around, you should ask for support from the council where you are now.

Get someone to help you

You could ask a friend or relative to speak to social services for you.

Ask for a translator if you need one.

Find a charity that can help.

Find the right team at the council

Search for your council's website on GOV.UK

Choose the county council website if you get 2 results.

Get a social services phone number from the council website by searching for things like:

  • children and families

  • children's services

  • children's social care

If you cannot find the right team, search for 'housing' and speak to that team.

It can be frustrating. Keep trying until you find the right team.

If someone tells you go to another team or council, ask them to contact that team or council for you.

What to say to the council

Ask to speak to a duty social worker.

Say you need a 'child in need' assessment because you are a homeless family with no recourse to public funds.

What to expect next

The full assessment process takes up to 9 weeks.

We have more advice on:

  • what social services will ask you

  • documents you need to show

Social services should help straight away if you have no food or nowhere to stay.

Find out how to prepare for the assessment.

Last updated: 17 September 2023

If you need to talk to someone, we'll do our best to help

Get help