Rights, entitlements and responsibilities

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Co-financed by the European Fund for the Integration of Third Country Nationals

8. Rights, entitlements and responsibilities

8.1 Understanding migrants’ rights and entitlements

Migrants’ rights and entitlements are very complex and dependent on a variety of factors.  These rights can also be subject to change on a relatively regular basis.  This section focuses specifically on migrants’ rights to benefits and welfare services, and identifies a number of sources of support and advice related to this.

Broadly speaking, migrants fall into three distinct categories as far as benefits and welfare services are concerned:

  • Nationals of countries that the UK has a political agreement with - mainly European Economic Area nationals - who have access to a wide range of benefits and services.
  • People who come to the UK for protection from persecution or human rights abuse.  If protection is granted, these people will be able to access their rights from the UK as a surrogate state. However, while their claim for protection is being processed, their rights are strongly curtailed.  
  • Third Country Nationals who don’t fall into the above groups.  These people generally have minimal access to benefits and services in the UK, and are often living, working or studying in the UK on the condition that they have ‘no recourse to public funds’.

In 2012, we published guidance on the different categories of migrants’ entitlement to benefits and local authority services.  This was produced to support Scottish local authorities to take into account all relevant factors, when making decisions about service provision and migrants’ entitlements.  Although still useful and relevant, it should be noted that some aspects of migrants’ rights and entitlements have changed since the guidance was published.  In addition, the guidance does not provide an exhaustive statement of the relevant law.  Therefore, local authorities may still wish to seek their own legal advice when dealing with complex issues associated with migrants’ rights.

Find out more...

Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) is a source of comprehensive information on migrants’ rights and welfare rights more generally.  In particular, their ‘Benefits for Migrants Handbook’ is a particularly useful guide for practitioners.

Further guidance on migrants’ housing rights is available from the Chartered Institute of Housing.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) are able to provide localised advice to local authorities regarding migrants’ benefit entitlements.  For further details, please contact us.

There is a UK-wide No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) Network which allows local authorities and other partners to share learning and best practice in fulfilling their statutory duties to migrants with no recourse to public funds.  We host a Scotland sub group of the Network.  For more details on this, please contact us.