Andy Jolly

Household food security amongst undocumented migrant families in Birmingham

Supervisors: Dr Lisa Goodson and Professor Janice L Thompson

Current poverty indicators in the UK render undocumented migrant children invisible in discussions about child poverty. Indicators such as the number of households receiving means tested welfare benefits assume entitlements which undocumented migrant children don’t have, both because of their immigration status and the No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) rule. Policy debates about child poverty have focused on relative measures of poverty, using median income as a benchmark. However, this approach hides the experience of children in families with an irregular migration status by not taking account of the stratification within the cohort of children in poverty. Families who have no regular income due to restrictions on accessing paid employment and public funds are likely to have the levels of poverty which are significantly higher than others within the cohort due to the lack of access to the social protection mechanisms of the welfare state.

Although there is a growing literature around food poverty in the UK (Cooper and Dumpleton, 2013; Cooper et al 2014; Perry et al, 2014), the focus has been particularly on the effect of austerity for those included in the welfare state, rather than on those groups who are excluded, such as families with NRPF. Little is known about access to food in the absence of legal employment opportunities or social protection, and the identity and experiences of undocumented migrant families is an under-researched area, at least in the UK.

The aim of my PhD research is to explore the experiences of household food security for undocumented migrant families with NRPF in the City of Birmingham, and the likely impact this has on health and well-being. The objectives of the research are to: 1) Estimate the size of the undocumented migrant population in Birmingham; 2) Understand the extent of household food security amongst undocumented migrant families; and 3) explore the daily survival strategies employed by undocumented migrant families.


My employment background is in social work and social care, having worked in a number of settings, mostly in the voluntary sector. Before starting my PhD I was the project coordinator for the West Midlands migrant service at the Children’s Society – working with families who had become destitute as a result of their immigration status, and my research interests stem from this work. I am involved in two local charities working in the Refugee and Migrant sector - a trustee of Birmingham Community Hosting Network, and on the Management Committee of Restore.


  • MA Social Work (Birmingham)
  • BA Politics (Leicester)

Research interests

  • Household food security
  • Child poverty
  • Irregular migration
  • No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF)

Teaching responsibilities

  • Introduction to Social Policy – University of Birmingham (Graduate Teaching Assistant)
  • Access to Birmingham – University of Birmingham (Tutor)
  • Psychological approaches to Health and Social Care – University of Derby (Associate Lecturer)

Professional memberships

  • British Association of Social Workers
  • Health and Care Professions Council (Registered Social Worker number: SW27661)
  • Social Policy Association
  • British Sociological Association


Jolly, A., 2017. ‘You Just Have to Work with What You’ve Got’ Practitioner Research with Precarious Migrant Families. Practice, pp.1-18. 

Jolly, A., 2017. Book Review: Destitution in the UK by S Fitzpatrick, G Bramley, F Sosenko, J Blenkinsopp, J Johnsen, M Littlewood, G Netto and B Watts. Journal of Poverty and Social Justice, 25(1), pp.95-97.

Conference papers

'Consulting the oracle: undocumented migrant families and the Delphi method' Social Policy Association Annual Conference: Social Policy: Radical, Resistant, Resolute’ Belfast Metropolitan College (July 2016).

'Working together to understand migration and superdiversity in Birmingham – Poster session'  Superdiversity: Theory, Method and Practice - Rethinking society in an era of change, University of Birmingham (June 2014).

'No Recourse to Social Work?: Working with Undocumented Migrant Families' SWAN Conference 2014: Social Work in a 'Cold Climate' fighting for good practice in times of austerity” Durham University (April 2014).



Twitter: @Andy_jolly