Council leaders in England, Scotland and Wales have called for a temporary lifting of the immigration rules that stop some migrants accessing public funds.
The Local Government Association, Welsh Local Government Association and Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) warned home secretary Priti Patel that existing restrictions made it difficult for people with no recourse to public funds (NRPF) to self-isolate if necessary during the coronavirus pandemic.
They added that they could feel pressured to continue working even if they had symptoms, making it more likely that the virus would spread, and called for people to be allowed to access benefits and public services regardless of their immigration status.
In a letter to Ms Patel about people with NRPF, the three associations wrote: ‘As is the case for so many throughout Britain, the unexpected shock caused by COVID-19 means they now need urgent access to the support that the rest of the population receives.
‘People with NRPF are more likely to be in casual, zero-hours or temporary work so they have neither the safety net of statutory sick pay nor Universal Credit.
‘COVID-19 affects people regardless of their immigration status and we cannot afford to exclude people in our response.’
COSLA said the rules were ‘undermining the response to COVID-19, adding to the complexity and pressure on services and leaving people highly vulnerable during the crisis’.
Community wellbeing spokeswoman for COSLA, Cllr Kelly Parry, added: ‘There is no capacity for the extra complexity the current immigration rules are causing.’
A government spokeswoman said many of the coronavirus measures put in place were not considered public funds and were therefore available to migrants with NRPF.
She added the Government was keeping the situation under review.