The LGA is calling for the Government to work with councils on a jointly managed, locally driven process to asylum and resettlement that properly takes into account pressures on local areas and public services.
- Councils are committed to protecting and supporting refugees and asylum seekers and help deliver a wide range of government asylum and resettlement schemes.
- As the LGA’s Annual Conference begins in Bournemouth today (July 4), councils warn combined pressures from these many schemes are growing and leading to unsustainable pressures on housing, homelessness, and children’s services teams.
- The LGA is calling for the Government to work with councils on a jointly managed, locally driven process to asylum and resettlement that properly takes into account pressures on local areas and public services.
There is a risk of Afghan families becoming homeless and ending up in temporary accommodation due to a housing shortage and long waiting lists as the Home Office (HO) deadline for them to leave hotels rapidly approaches, the LGA says at the start of its Annual Conference today (July 4).
Around 8,000 Afghan individuals and families – housed at 59 temporary bridging hotels across the country – have been served notice by the HO to leave by the end of August and provided details of available support for them to find their own settled accommodation.
Councils have a proud history of stepping up during humanitarian crises and supporting asylum seekers and refugees to settle in the UK and rebuild their lives. They are working hard to support Afghan households served with eviction notices with enhanced case working, involving councils, government and the community and voluntary sector, attempting to help them to find accommodation.
It is good that government has responded to the LGA’s call for additional funding and provided councils with £35 million of new money to support this case working in hotels and to fund potential homelessness demand. A second Local Authority Housing Fund round of £250 million has also launched with a focus on helping councils source homes to house Afghans.
However, the LGA said the acute shortage of housing available across the country and short timeframe until the end of notice periods is making the ability to quickly secure appropriate accommodation for all Afghan families in bridging hotels extremely challenging. Councils are increasingly concerned that many will end up needing homelessness support if families – some of whom are vulnerable and include children – fail to find properties or refuse the offer they receive.
At the start of its Annual Conference in Bournemouth, which will see more than 1,300 local government leaders, councillors, ministers, and other key national organisations come together to debate a wide range of issues, the LGA said government needs to urgently hit the switch on a radical reset on the current relationship with councils on asylum and resettlement schemes.
The LGA said there must be better engagement with councils and the HO must take proper account of local concerns and impacts. A genuine partnership is urgently needed with local government to better plan how to meet our pressing housing needs in the short and the long term across all asylum and resettlement schemes.
The LGA said councils are also growing increasingly frustrated about a lack of recognition of existing local pressures and a failure to adequately engage with councils on the ground about the complexities they face as they try to manage the impact on local services and community cohesion as a result of ongoing asylum and resettlement pressures.
- As the weather has improved, the number of small boat crossings have increased. Hotels continue to be used by the HO to house asylum seekers with little improvement on notice to councils of where and when they will be stood up. Councils are also concerned around the increased use of room sharing and changes to regulations around licensing for large properties, both in terms of their responsibilities to keep people safe and the impact on local services of the rapid rise in numbers of new arrivals, often well over agreed limits.
- These hotels continue to also be used to accommodate unaccompanied asylum-seeking children while they wait to be transferred to council placements under the national transfer scheme. The HO does not appear to take any account at all of the impact on the local council's ability to carry out its statutory duties in relation to those children and potentially other children in the area when deciding where to stand up these hotels and there is no legal mechanism to force them to do so.
- Councils with proposed large sites in their local areas – which are proposed to be used to accommodate asylum seekers and reduce the reliance on hotels – need urgent clarity from government on the implications for local services, the cohorts who will be arriving and the expectations for how long the sites will be used.
- The number of homeless Ukrainian refugee households has more than doubled in just over six months – with almost 700 households currently living in temporary accommodation. Recent additional funding could help reduce homelessness risks for new arrivals, but we remain concerned that there is no funding beyond the first year for councils for their support for Ukrainian households and funding for arrivals in 2023 has halved. The LGA is calling on government to review funding to ensure all families are helped over time to find permanent homes, jobs, and schools.
- The change to the roles and responsibilities for councils proposed in the Illegal Migration Bill, with a need for joint planning on the location of possible detention sites and the planned consultation with councils on potential numbers of arrivals via resettlement routes.
New LGA Chair Cllr Shaun Davies, in his first speech at the Annual Conference, will say today:
“Councils have a proud history of stepping up and supporting asylum seekers and refugees to settle in the UK and rebuild their lives. But combined pressures from government asylum and resettlement schemes are growing on councils.
“We are at crisis point.
“We want to work with the Government to get this right. Not just in a way that best supports the people arriving in the UK but also tackles the unsustainable pressures on our local services and on our communities.”
Notes to editors
The three-day LGA Annual Conference begins in Bournemouth today (July 4). Speakers across the three-day event include Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove MP, Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer, Education Secretary Gillian Keegan MP, and Liberal Democrat Leader Sir Ed Davey.
A session on ‘Supporting asylum and resettlement; current and future issues for councils’ will take place at the conference to explore both current risks and priorities for change and will explore what is needed for a long-term and sustainable approach across all asylum and resettlement programmes. Speakers include Simon Ridley, Home Office Permanent Secretary, Sunder Katwala, Director of British Future and Cllr Izzi Seccombe OBE, Leader of Warwickshire County Council.
The LGA has published a series of Make it Local briefings, setting out how local government can solve the challenges we face as a nation and how the Government can radically reset the culture of Whitehall.