The Home Office is consulting with councils on a cap on safe and legal routes to the UK with a deadline of 15 December. Below are some views from the LGA to inform responses.
Views from the LGA
Councils work hard to protect and support refugees and help to deliver a wide range of government asylum and resettlement schemes. It is therefore right that local government is engaged in planning for future resettlement to the UK given their expertise, statutory duties and responsibility for local delivery and place shaping.
We welcome the recognition of the need to take into account the capacity of and the impacts on local areas as part of the consultation. The following issues around the specific ask of councils to set a cap that may impact on councils’ responses to the consultation include:
- Timelines: the 15 December deadline may not give local authorities sufficient time to meet the asks in the consultation to seek agreement across counties and districts; engage with local partners including the voluntary and community sector, health and education partners; work within and across regions; and achieve political sign off. There is no funding provided to support councils with this local engagement. The consultation is also running in parallel with a range of urgent challenges for councils which will impact on their capacity to respond, including the closure of interim hotels for Afghans combined with new arrivals, the acceleration of asylum decisions and asylum hotel closures, alongside ongoing pressures across ages and across asylum and resettlement.
- Calculating a figure: the Home Office highlight that councils will have to use the figure they commit to in 2023 to deliver in and from 2025. This means councils will have to provide on a number based on assumptions of how future pressures could impact on local capacity, including projections of arrival numbers from asylum and resettlement schemes not included in the cap. There is also limited information and advice about how local authorities should calculate that capacity. Councils may find current numbers across councils for asylum and resettlement on the LGA website useful for this as well.
- Reputational risks: we have some concerns about councils being asked to determine annual arrival numbers or, by not replying due to the challenges above, being allocated a zero response and thus be held responsible for limiting the safe and legal routes available.
- Housing pressures: the confirmation of the three-year integration funding is welcomed. However there will be no additional housing funding, as there was with the recent Afghan hotel closure programme, to address current housing demand and supply issues. We would welcome urgent discussions about how those housing challenges will be tackled in the short and the long term across all the schemes that welcome new arrivals to the UK. This needs to cover the future of the current Local Authority Housing Fund and the impact of Local Housing Allowance rates on the availability of affordable housing.
- Clarity on the place-based approach: we remain keen to work with government on a new joined-up approach across programmes that takes into account cumulative pressures across all asylum and resettlement programmes. However, it is not clear how the cap will interact with other programmes; how commitments made as part of the cap will interact with and impact on numbers of new arrivals via other routes being placed in local areas; or how areas with unsustainable pressures across asylum and resettlement will have those pressures addressed. The consultation is running in parallel but separately with the forthcoming review of regional dispersal plans for asylum. This could have provided an opportunity to join up the approach across central and local government to all programmes that currently welcome new arrivals to the UK and to inform councils’ responses to the Consultation.
The Illegal Migration Act places a duty on the Home Office to consult councils on the development of a Cap on the number of entrants to the UK arriving via safe and legal routes for humanitarian purposes. The Government then will lay a Statutory Instrument in Parliament to set the cap in Summer 2024, including both the number and the routes subject to that cap, with the cap expected to be in operation in 2025. The cap will be annual but exemptions can be made in humanitarian emergencies.
The consultation is open from 20 October to midnight 15 December, with councils strongly encouraged not to submit late responses.
The consultation is only open to local authorities, with the Home Office are local authorities to meaningfully engage with the voluntary and community sector (VCS), community sponsorship groups, SMPs and integrated care boards in their areas.
Responding to the consultation is voluntary but if a response is not received, a ‘zero capacity’ commitment from that area could form the basis of the total national figure.
A final report will be published but individual responses will not be published, those these may be subject to Freedom of Information requests.
The Cap includes the following existing resettlement routes:
- Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS) pathways 2 and 3 (stage 2)
- UK Resettlement Scheme (UKRS)
- Community Sponsorship
We welcome the confirmation that the current local authority tariffs will apply. £20,520 per person provided over five years for UKRS arrivals and over three years for Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS). This will also include the current funding rates for ESOL (£850 per adult) and child education (up to £4,500 per child). The £2,600 for local health bodies will also still be available.
In responding to the questionnaire, the Home Office has asked councils to
- to review previous and current resettlement capacity, alongside the future commitments they have already made.
- produce a numerical figure, in their answers, either as a proportion of their local population, or as an absolute number.
- in two tier areas, seek agreement across districts and the county.
- have a politically agreed commitment.
The consultation states that commitments made under the safe and legal routes cap by a local authority will be considered in the round, as part of a regions’ total allocation of all protection-based migrants, under a place-based approach.
There will be further engagement through a series of regional engagement once the responses have been reviewed by the Home Office. This will consider resettlement pledges alongside other anticipated migration pressures as part of a place-based approach with detail of those engagement routes and the place-based process still to be confirmed.
The consultation also states that each local authority is expected to meet its agreed allocation of asylum seekers and unaccompanied asylum-seeking children under the National Transfer Scheme contributing to the regions total share, though this allocation will not form part of the cap.
Please do liaise with your Principal Advisers and your Strategic Migration Partnerships with any views on the cap so we can feed these into ongoing discussions with Government at official and Ministerial level.
The Home Office is consulting with councils on a cap on safe and legal routes to the UK with a deadline of 15 December.