Debate on the costs associated with illegal immigration, House of Commons, 7 May 2024

Councils want to work with government on developing and funding a better system for accommodating and supporting asylum seekers.

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1. Key messages

  • Councils have a proud history of welcoming new arrivals, stepping forward at times of crisis to offer homes and support so families and individuals can build new lives in the UK.
  • Councils want to work with government on developing and funding a better system for accommodating and supporting asylum seekers. The LGA [Who we are and what we do] is keen to support a discussion at a national level that accelerates the move to more equitable patterns of asylum accommodation procurement across the UK. This needs to take account of asylum seekers in all types of accommodation and the range of asks across both asylum and resettlement.
  • This more place-based approach to all the pressures local areas face across programmes needs including a joined-up approach to pressing housing supply challenges. Given increased demand and the acute shortage of housing across the country, this requires a national, regional and local approach to solving pressing housing needs across all schemes that welcome new arrivals to the UK.

2. Asylum – current concerns and proposals

2.1 Funding

  • Councils urgently need confirmation of funding for their role in asylum dispersal, as the funding for new bedspaces for dispersal ended in March 2025. 
  • Councils would also like to see the results of previous government work on costs, including a new burdens assessment that took place in December 2022. 
  • Councils do not receive any funding for hotels used for asylum accommodation and, given the impacts on local services, need the same funding per bed for hotels as they are currently receive for dispersed accommodation and large sites. 

2.2. Full dispersal

  • Local government remains committed to ‘full dispersal’ which seeks to achieve a more even spread across the UK, as underpinned by targets in Regional Asylum Dispersal Plans agreed in every council area. A key ongoing concern is that accommodation procurement by Home Office contractors remains uneven within and across regions, despite the announcement of the move to full dispersal in April 2022. 
  • Regional and Devolved Administration Asylum Dispersal Plans were developed by local government and the Home Office in order to deliver full dispersal, and these plans set clear dispersed accommodation targets for their Providers – Clearsprings, Mears and Serco – in each council area. 
  • However, whilst there has been some provider procurement in line with allocations, the majority of allocations have not been met, and in some areas there has even been a net decrease in dispersed accommodation procurement. This has resulted not only in the continued uneven distribution of asylum seekers across the country, but also a continued reliance on the use of expensive hotels. 
  • The LGA is keen to support a discussion at a national level on how to re-route the money being spent on hotels to increasing the amount of sustainable and cheaper asylum accommodation in a way that accelerates the move to more equitable patterns of procurement across the UK. 
  • Whilst local government share aims to end hotel use, we are keen for local government to be fully involved in the hotel closure process to develop a more sustainable approach. This could include sharing information on local impacts to inform decisions on which hotels to close and a flexible approach to enable councils to use under-occupied hotels for local people in housing need, so these hotels can quickly be stepped up again if intake pressures require it. 
  • Whilst the Government’s growing commitment to a more place-based approach to procurement is welcome, we are working with the Government to ensure the impacts of large sites, hotels and other contingency sites are recognised and mitigated in future plans for asylum dispersal. 
  • Regional governance arrangements for full dispersal are still in development and local leaders are keen to see more effective shared oversight of the implementation of the regional plans. Whilst data sharing is improving, councils remain keen to see effective and consistent data flow at local, regional and national levels. Given the issues with meeting bedspace targets under current plans, potential increased demand for asylum accommodation needs to be shared with councils well in advance of summer arrivals and as part of regional planning given the risks of continued reliance on hotels. 
  • It is also crucial that the Home Office and their providers engage with councils well in advance of any asylum accommodation procurement and if necessary, allow time for alternative, more appropriate sites to be proposed by councils and their partners. Any new accommodation needs to open in areas that are not already facing unsustainable pressures due to asylum and resettlement and be in line with regionally agreed plans. Councils need advance engagement on alternatives sites opened up for those leaving hotels, and for ongoing new arrivals, and, as above, play an active role in deciding which hotels to close.
  • Councils also remain concerned around the cohesion impacts of a lack of engagement and equity. Although activity is less frequent and attracting smaller numbers than last year, protests and other activity in response to asylum seeker dispersal currently consisting of a mixture of ad hoc community-led and organised anti-minority groups continues. While more extreme activists have generally received limited traction with community-led protests, it is anticipated that asylum related narratives will remain a focus for anti-minority actors for the foreseeable future. Provider behaviour is also a concern, with examples of providers increasing local competition with councils and driving up rent levels.

2.2. Local impacts of cessations 

  • Councils would like to be funded for their key role helping people move on from Home Office accommodation once they have a decision on their claim and have to leave their accommodation. Funding is also key to maintaining a fair share approach by ensuring that newly recognised refugees are supported to understand the UK housing market and local services and do not present as homeless in the same concentrated areas.
  • A current key funding and capacity pressure for councils is the scale of the move on from asylum accommodation and support as part of the asylum decision-making backlog clearance. The unequal distribution of asylum seekers combined with subsequent internal migration also has exacerbated the impacts of the backlog clearance.
  • Recent homelessness data from government [Statutory homelessness in England: October to December 2023 - GOV.UK (] indicates a significant increase in homelessness from those leaving asylum accommodation in the last quarter of 2023, compared with the same quarter the year before. 
  • an increase of 173.1 per cent to 1,830 households owed a prevention duty following the requirement to leave accommodation provided by the Home Office 
  • an increase of 363.1 per cent for households owed a relief duty following the requirement to leave accommodation provided by the Home Office, to 5,140 households
  • Recent data from the Centre for Homeless Impact indicated that the amount of street homelessness from those leaving asylum housing increased by 223 per cent in June to September 2023 when the backlog clearance programme began, and some areas are reporting very acute increases in homelessness pressures. [Homelessness, refugees and resettlement, Centre for Homeless Impact, January 2024] A survey by London Councils found 311 refugees in London were forced to sleep rough after eviction from Home Office accommodation in January 2024. This marks an increase of 234 per cent compared to September 2023. In total, 1,087 refugees approached London homelessness services for help in January following Home Office evictions, a rise of 78 per cent in the four months since September. [Hundreds of refugees sleeping rough in London amid ‘dramatic spike’ in homelessness | London Councils]
  • Whilst quicker decision making is welcome, we are keen to work with the Government on a more robust cross-system approach to minimise impacts on local housing and homelessness services and reduce the risks of destitution. [Thousands of refugees could be on the streets for Christmas without urgent government action | Local Government Association] Having called for a cross-system approach and funding for councils, the LGA is keen to ensure that the learning from the pilot Home Office Liaison Officers that have been placed in a small number of hotels to work across local partners, is shared more widely. We are also keen to work across government to develop shared communications and engagement for those receiving a decision on their claim that both enables an understanding of next steps and signposts people to the relevant local services.

3.4. Illegal Migration Act

  • Local government also needs early engagement on the implementation of the Illegal Migration Act for asylum accommodation and support, including around the impacts on flow from asylum accommodation, plans for removals, and support for lone children, particularly given the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Act 2024 is now in place. If asylum seekers are not deported to Rwanda or other countries at the same rate as arrivals, councils have asked for more information around what accommodation and support will be provided whilst they are in the UK and waiting for deportation in detention centres.
  • Councils have raised significant concerns over tensions between duties towards unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC) under the Children Act 1989 and those under the Illegal Migration Act. These include issues around supporting care leavers who are to be removed under the Illegal Migration Act and on ensuring child-centred support for all children and young people. [Illegal Migration Bill, consideration of Lords amendments, House of Commons, 12 July 2023 | Local Government Association] We are working with the Home Office and the Department for Education to fully understand these tensions and to inform the development of guidance for local authorities that will enable them to effectively support children and care leavers while fulfilling their duties under both Acts.

3. Lone asylum-seeking children

  • Councils are directly responsible for accommodation and support of UAS (unaccompanied asylum seeking) children. We are calling for:
    • Full funding of support and accommodation for UAS children and former UASC care leavers.
    • Improvements to the age assessment process, including the role of the National Age Assessment Board, both to reduce risks to councils and limit the burden on the workforce. 
    • Support to expand placement capacity. 
    • A funded programme of sector led support to share practice and support quick transfers.
  • The number of UAS children in the care of councils rose by 29 per cent last year – up to 7,290 and former UASC care leavers now account for more than a quarter of all care leavers aged 19-21 [Children looked after in England including adoptions, Reporting year 2023 – Explore education statistics – GOV.UK (]. Councils are particularly concerned about funding to support care leavers, which is only 27 per cent that of funding for under 18s. There needs to be a shared understanding of the true cost, with children arriving with varied and sometimes complex needs, and certainty that funding is sufficient to cover the costs of appropriate support to a young person. Councils are also finding it extremely difficult to recruit the children’s social workers needed to meet the numbers of children in need of support.
  • ruling in the High Court at the end of November 2023 requires the Home Secretary to either commence provisions in the Illegal Migration Act 2023 allowing for the accommodation of UASC by the Home Secretary, or to produce a plan to ensure that the use of hotels to accommodate UAS children does not resume. To be lawful, the plan must include estimates of the numbers of UAS children likely to arrive in the short and medium term, model the speed and quantity of National Transfer Scheme (NTS) procedures likely to be required to ensure that children are not accommodated in hotels, and contain arrangements to ensure that transfers take place in line with what is required, whether this is through incentives to receiving authorities, enforcement procedures or otherwise. The LGA continues to provide information to officials across government about what needs to put in place both to ensure the effective operation of the NTS and the wider system changes.

4. A cross system approach to No Recourse to Public Funds

  • Councils continue to support those who are destitute but with No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) due statutory responsibilities including under the Care Act and Children’s Acts. This cost pressure for councils continues to grow, with data from the council-based NRPF Network indicating that costs to 82 councils in England and Scotland increased by 22 per cent to £77.6 million in 2022-23. 27 per cent of these NRPF cases were asylum seekers.
  • Adults received unfunded support from councils for an average of just over 900 days, and families for 580. The majority subsequently went on to receive leave to remain once the Home Office had decided their claim to stay in the UK, so earlier case resolution could have reduced costs to councils. [NRPF Connect data report 2022 23 | NRPF (] As more people become appeal rights exhausted after receiving a negative decision on their asylum claim as part asylum decision backlog clearance, there is concern that NRPF pressures will continue to grow, particularly if there is no clear process for removal. 

5. A placed-based approach

  • We are keen to work with the Government to improve join-up across asylum and resettlement programmes in a way that recognises cumulative impacts on councils. Each programme is led by different government departments and has a range of different funding, data, engagement, and support and accommodation requirements, even if individuals have similar needs for local services. Although the Government has agreed to work towards a more placed-based approach to asylum and resettlement, a siloed approach to programmes often results in a range of schemes being concentrated in specific locations. We are keen to see a cross-system approach, underpinned by regular strategic level engagement between relevant Ministers and local government leadership across the UK, on both the current issues flagged above and on longer-term political sensitive issues, such as access to employment and housing. 
  • Given wider housing pressures, asylum and resettlement also affects all councils’ capacity to source accommodation both for new arrivals and for all those in housing need in their local area. Having access secure and permanent housing is key to enabling those seeking asylum to properly integrate and feel settled.
  • We have suggested joint work across local and central government to explore how to increase the supply of sufficient and appropriate accommodation for all groups of new arrivals, both given current housing pressures and in the context of the proposed consultation on reforms to social housing allocations. This approach to increasing housing supply should build on learning from the Local Authority Housing Fund (LAHF) which has enabled councils to increase their social housing stock to accommodate Afghans, Ukrainians and the wider homelessness population. Further information on accommodation pressures for Ukrainian and Afghan arrivals and on solutions to wider current housing pressures are given below. 
  • In the longer term, given the current challenges with providers and as part of their 10-year review of asylum accommodation, the Home Office are considering different approaches to the provision of asylum accommodation and support. [Investigation into asylum accommodation - NAO report] Currently, contracts with their four providers are in place until August 2029 with a potential break clause in 2026. 
  • If councils were funded to play a more active role in both sourcing and increasing accommodation supply, this would need to be subject to some key principles including: sufficient and sustainable funding and incentives; the need for participation to remain voluntary; any risks to be agreed and mitigated; and for any new accommodation to form part of regional plans.

6. LGA asks on housing and homelessness pressures

  • Building more genuinely affordable homes remains the best way to help families and individuals meet housing costs, provide homes to rent, reduce homelessness and tackle council housing waiting lists in the long term. The Government must urgently implement our six-point plan to give councils the powers.
  • We are disappointed that the Spring Budget provided no support to address the spiralling cost of temporary accommodation. Councils are spending more than £1.74 billion supporting 104,000 households in temporary accommodation, both the highest figures since records began. The restoration of Local Housing Allowance rates to the 30th percentile of market rents from April 2024, announced at Autumn Statement 2023, is a welcome step. However, it is disappointing that the Government has not taken the opportunity to uprate the subsidy for claims in respect of people living in temporary accommodation which remains capped at 90 per cent of January 2011 rates.


Arian Nemati, Public Affairs and Campaigns Adviser
Mobile: 07799 038403  
 [email protected]