Immigration Bill

Immigration Bill Report Stage, House of Lords, 15 and 21 March 2016

Key messages

  • Councils have an important role in protecting families, children and vulnerable adults who are seeking asylum. We are working to ensure local authorities are able to deliver their duties, keep children safe and prevent families from becoming homeless. The LGA remains concerned that Clauses 62/63 and Schedule 11 of the Immigration Bill could result in:
  1. Failed asylum seekers choosing not to engage in services.
  2. Large numbers of referrals of families resulting in increased assessment costs, and potentially then receiving a long period of support from local authorities.
  • Clause 64 provides important clarity on the transfer of responsibility for caring for an unaccompanied migrant child from one council area to another. The LGA supports amendments 126 and 127 led by Lord Bates. These seek to extend the proposed process for transferring legal responsibility for unaccompanied asylum seeking children between local authorities to apply equally to unaccompanied children who already have leave to enter or remain in the UK.
  • However we are concerned that Clause 67 seeks to confer powers for the Secretary of State to compel local authorities to take responsibility for unaccompanied minors who arrive elsewhere in the UK, with no clarity on how their support needs will be funded. If powers to direct local authorities to take legal responsibility for additional children and young people are to be enacted, they must be recognised as a new burden and funded accordingly. No council should be made to choose between supporting unaccompanied asylum seeking or refugee children and providing vital services for their local community.
  • Councils have a strong track record of supporting vulnerable children, including unaccompanied asylum seeking and refugee children, and stand ready to provide care and support to those who need it. Nevertheless, an additional 3,000 unaccompanied children would more than double the number of unaccompanied asylum seeking children in local authority care in England at March 2015, and represents an increase in the total population of looked after children which would usually take more than three years. Any increased resettlement programme as set out by amendment 115 (Lord Dubs, Lord Alton of Liverpool, Lord Roberts of Llandundo and Baroness Sheehan) should be planned in full partnership with councils across the country to ensure that services are able to cope with this additional demand and be part of a properly funded national system.
  • We are keen the Home Office maintains engagement with local authorities when drafting regulations and guidance to implement those aspects that affect councils. This will help ensure absolute clarity on how the new responsibilities should be interpreted and how local authority practice should change, particularly to reduce the risk of expensive litigation and to ensure consistency in support.

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Immigration Bill Report Stage, House of Lords, 15 and 21 March 2016


Second Reading, House of Lords 22 December 2015

Key messages

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Second Reading, House of Lords 22 December 2015 (PDF, 215KB, 4 pages)


Report Stage, House of Commons 1 December 2015

Key messages

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Report Stage, House of Commons 1 December 2015 (PDF, 133KB, 6 pages)


Second Reading, House of Commons Tuesday 13 October 2015

Key messages

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Immigration Bill, Second Reading, House of Commons Tuesday 13 October 2015 (PDF, 3 pages, 180KB)

    Councils have an important role in protecting families, children and vulnerable adults who are seeking asylum. We are working to ensure local authorities are able to deliver their duties, keep children safe and prevent families from becoming homeless. The LGA remains concerned that Clauses 62/63 and Schedule 11 of the Immigration Bill could result in:
    • Councils have an important role in protecting families, children and vulnerable adults who are seeking asylum. We are working to ensure local authorities are able to deliver their duties, keep children safe and prevent families from becoming homeless.

    • The LGA remains concerned that Clauses 37/38 and Schedule 8 of the Immigration Bill could result in:
      - Failed asylum seekers choosing not to engage in services
      - Large numbers of referrals of families resulting in increased assessment costs, and potentially then receiving a long period of support from local authorities.

    • Although local authorities are keen to support care leavers to meet their aspirations as part of their ongoing leaving care responsibilities, we welcome the provision in Schedule 9 in terms of the cost implications for local authorities no longer having to pay higher education tuition fees for care leavers as a result of their immigration status. We hope the regulations will ensure that any residence criteria is sufficiently broad to allow this group of care leavers to pursue their studies.

    • Local authorities currently have a statutory responsibility to provide support to vulnerable migrants who face reduced access to the welfare state on account of their immigration status. Local authorities support the continuing power to prevent families and vulnerable adults becoming homeless and at risk of harm within our communities. Local government representatives have therefore been working with Government and parliamentarians to ensure that this essential ‘safety net' is retained.

    • We are also working to identify, and where possible to mitigate, the impact of the provisions of the Immigration Bill on local government. We are keen to avoid an unfunded transfer of responsibility from the Home Office to local authorities. The changes to the asylum support system set out in Schedule 6 of the Immigration Bill are likely to result in increased referrals to local authorities of families who have been refused asylum in the UK. We therefore welcome the commitment to a new burdens assessment. We are calling for the Home Office to progress applications effectively and expediently from the outset; for local authority supported cases to be prioritised; and for engagement in the voluntary returns process to be secured or returns enforced when appropriate to avoid any cost burden caused by international issues being placed on the local taxpayer.

    • We welcome the Government's amendment seven that seeks to address the significant cost burden of local authorities, as part of their leaving care responsibilities, having to pay the tuition fees normally at international rates of former unaccompanied asylum seeking children if they went on to higher education.

    • Local authorities are responsible for preventing the most vulnerable migrants who are unable to access benefits or support due to their immigration status from falling into destitution and homelessness. The changes to the asylum support system set out in Schedule 6 are likely to particularly affect the most vulnerable, such as families with children, adults who require care and former looked after children. The LGA is concerned that the proposed measures will significantly increase the numbers of destitute families within communities as well as numbers of homeless children.

    • This is likely to result in increased referrals to local authorities of families who have been refused indefinite leave to remain in the UK. The proposed changes would therefore be a clear transfer of responsibility for the costs of assessing and supporting such cases from the Home Office to local authorities.

    • The LGA is not convinced that the removal of support will encourage an increase in the numbers of refused asylum seekers and other unlawfully present migrants who leave the UK. Unless there is a change in the Home Office's current approach to enforced removals, the result is likely to be the transfer of costs currently met by the Home Office on to local government.

    • Home Office resources should be focussed on getting decisions right on asylum applications and then progressing cases to removal should the claim be unsuccessful. In particular, the Home Office should focus on making existing systems work for all groups of migrants that have no further procedural right to pursue their immigration or asylum case, which would also reduce existing local authority expenditure on migrants.

    • The proposals in clauses 38 and 41 to require customer-facing public authority staff to speak fluent English could have significant legal, financial and employment implications for councils. Until the codes of practice which can be issued under clause 41 are made available in draft the full implications of these provisions cannot be assessed. The LGA would therefore urge the Government to publish a draft of the code covering local government as a matter of urgency to allow parliamentarians to arrive at an informed view of the affect of these provisions.

6 January 2017