Council support for refugees, asylum seekers and unaccompanied children

Councils play a key role in supporting asylum seekers, resettlement and unaccompanied children.


Resources

Councils continue to work hard to support and deliver the many programmes for refugees and asylum seekers currently in operation. Councils want to work with central government to find sustainable solutions that minimise the pressures on local authorities, their communities and vulnerable individuals.

1. The role of the LGA

The need to address ongoing pressures, sustainable funding and the need for effective engagement with local government has been consistently raised by the member-led LGA Asylum, Refugee and Migration Task Group. The member led LGA Asylum, Refugee and Migration Task Group is made up of LGA lead members from across the LGA political groups and regional member representation covering all of the English regions and Devolved Administrations. It focuses upon the issues around the asylum, refugee and migration agenda at a national and strategic level from a local government political leadership perspective.

Home Office and Local Government Chief Executive Group reporting to the Task Group has been established with the aim to achieve better engagement and oversight; access to funding and data; and a place based and more equitable approach to dispersal as outlined in a joint MoU. Meeting quarterly since 2019, the group is co-chaired by the LGA with representation from each region and devolved administration.

The LGA has been involved in discussions with Government and with regions for a long period of time on how to work together to find sustainable solutions that minimise the pressures on local authorities, local communities and vulnerable individuals. The LGA view is that aligned regionally coordinated programmes can meet the needs of vulnerable children and families, more quickly whilst minimising the impact on local communities; and utilising and funding central, regional and local governments' strategic and operational expertise and innovative practice.

The Government remains keen to encourage more councils to participate in dispersal. The Home Office has further engagement with local government and providers at a regional level. Views and queries on this and other programmes can be directed to Strategic Migration Partnershipsee folder 5.

2. How are unaccompanied children supported?

We and national partners are stressing the need for urgent and sustainable solutions to current and ongoing challenges around support for for lone asylum seeking children.  The government announced in November 2021 that it will temporarily mandate the National Transfer Scheme The Government issued a consultation to councils which considers options for changes and in our joint response to the consultation with ADCS, we continue to highlight that, despite welcome recent uplifts, funding for care-leavers, placement capacity and issues with age assessment may continue to be a barrier to participation.  We are also making the case to central government on the need to continue to work with councils on issues in the system for adults and families, particularly around the need to widen dispersal to reduce hotel use, with more information under folder 1. 

3. How Afghan resettlement and relocation will work

Please go to council support for afghan resettlement.

4. How the resettlement scheme will work

Councils play a key role in working with partners and communities in providing resettled refugees with the help and support they need to successfully integrate in their new communities. Things to consider when setting up or reviewing your resettlement programme are included in our publications Syrian refugee resettlement - a guide for local authorities and Resettling refugees: support after the first year - a guide for local authorities. More information including good practice examples are included in the Refugee Resettlement Programme Knowledge Hub group.

The Home Secretary reaffirmed in June 2019 governments’ ongoing commitment to the resettlement of refugees under a new combined programme.  The priority will remain to the most vulnerable refugees, identified and referred by UNHCR. The scheme will have a broader geographical focus beyond the current Middle East and North Africa region, although the cohort arriving in the UK is unlikely to significantly change. The Community Sponsorship scheme will continue and a new process for emergency resettlement will provide a faster route to the UK when necessary. Councils were asked to submit their offer of places for 2021 onwards to their RSMPs, with the scheme subsequently paused as a result of the pandemic.

letter to local leaders outlined that the aim will be to resettle around 5000 of the world’s most vulnerable refugees in the first year of the new scheme. These will receive the five-year funding rates currently provided under the previous programme, with further funding to be determined in the spending review. The LGA welcomed the announcement whilst stressing the need for long term funding to be confirmed, alongside those arriving to be supported by councils via other schemes. 

Government committed in 2015 to resettle 20,000 refugees affected by the conflict in Syria over the next five years. Government has announced that the pledges from councils needed to meet the commitment to resettle 20,000 refugees by 2020 has been secured.

5. Where do we go for more information?

Local authorities should contact their Regional Strategic Migration Partnership (RSMP) for more advice or if they are interested in participating in any of the programmes detailed on this page. 

Contact details of Regional Strategic Migration Partnerships (RSMP)
Region Officer lead Email
East of England Gosia Strona Malgorzata.Strona@eelga.gov.uk
East Midlands Brein Fisher Brein.Fisher@emcouncils.gov.uk
London - mayor@london.gov.uk
North East Janine Hartley Janine_Hartley@middlesbrough.gov.uk
North West Katie Jones katie.jones@manchester.gov.uk
South East Roy Millard RoyMillard@secouncils.gov.uk
South West Kelly-Anne Phillips kelly-anne.phillips@swcouncils.gov.uk
Wales Anne Hubbard anne.hubbard@wlga.gov.uk
West Midlands Dally Panesar Dalvinder.Panesar@birmingham.gov.uk
Yorkshire & Humberside - admin@migrationyorkshire.org.uk
6.  What is the role of the LGA?

The member led LGA Asylum, Refugee and Migration Task Group is made up of regional member and RSMP representation covering all of the English regions, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland and focuses upon the issues around the asylum, refugee and migration agenda from a local government perspective. The LGA, via the Task Group, has been involved in discussions with Government and with regions for a long period of time on how to work together to find sustainable solutions that minimise the pressures on local authorities, local communities and vulnerable individuals.

As well as working on how the scheme will be funded, we are working with government and partners to clarify what resettlement schemes will look like in practice. The LGA view is that aligned regionally coordinated programmes can meet the needs of vulnerable children and families, more quickly whilst minimising the impact on local communities; and utilising and funding central, regional and local governments' strategic and operational expertise and innovative practice.

Related issues

7. No recourse to public funds

The NRPF Network provides a range of resources and training for councils on their support for those without access to public funds. ADCS, the Network and the LGA provided a joint submission to the Work and Pensions Committee inquiry on children in poverty with no recourse to public funds in October 2021.  

The LGA also provided a response to the Homelessness Select Committee inquiry in May 2020 which outlined its call to end the use of the condition during the pandemic. More information on our ongoing work on homelessness can be found here.

8. The EU settlement scheme

More information for councils on the EU settlement scheme can be found here. All EU citizens have to apply before 30 June 2021. Statistics on application rates are produced monthly. Guidance for local authorities on the ways in which they can understand, engage and reassure their communities in following departure from the EU is available here

The No Recourse to Public Funds Network has provided a guide for councils that provides more information on the roles and responsibilities of councils in the scheme with a focus on EU children in care and young people leaving care, EU nationals receiving social services’ support and groups at risk of not securing their status. Please email info@local.gov.uk with any queries or concerns so that these can be raised in our ongoing discussions with Government.

Looked after children

Councils are supporting children in or leaving care to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme or if appropriate, registering for British citizenship. Some children in care or those leaving care may not qualify for settled status because they may not have lived in the UK for the five years required. Pre-settled status’ allow individuals to stay for a further five years, work and have the same access to public funds and services, and to go on to apply for settled status. Coram’s Children’s Legal Centre has produced a guide on children’s and young people’s rights to remain in the UK, including the option of registering for British citizenship if applicable. 

9. New route to the UK for British Nationals (Overseas) in Hong Kong 

The Government announced in July that UK will open a Hong Kong British National (Overseas) visa for British nationals and their close family members from 31 January 2021. Applications will be open both outside or inside the UK for a fee and successful applicants for this route will be able to work, study and be able to apply for two periods of 30 months’ leave or apply for settlement after five years as a route to becoming full British citizens. Applicants will have to show that they can accommodate and provide financial support for themselves and family members for at least six months in the UK, as well as be able to pay the NHS surcharge. There is currently no additional funding to councils for any support they may provide to those arriving via this route, nor is it currently subject to a new burdens assessment.

Arrivals will not be able to claim public funds (social welfare benefits). The LGA has flagged concerns about the possible cost impacts of the statutory support councils may need to provide to destitute families or adults with care needs if they are no longer able to support themselves via employment or their own funds in its submission to the Comprehensive Spending Review and has asked local leaders for views on potential impacts.  If you have any evidence of potential costs, please contact your SMP.

Background

The UK Government’s decision to introduce a new visa follows Chinese Government introduction of a national security law oi Hong Kong. The BN(O) status is a form of British nationality created after the handover to China in 1997, with 10 years allowed for applications. Currently it allows a visit to UK for up to six months at a time but not a right of abode. It is estimated there may be around 2.9 million BN(O) citizens, with no quota placed on arrivals via the new route, or language or qualification expectations. It is unknown how many will choose to come to the UK given the risks to Hong Kong residents of asking of their intent to leave or stay. Home Office estimates indicate 123,000 to 153,000 people with BNO status and their dependants arriving in the UK in the first year and between 258,000 and 322,400 over five years.

10. Commonwealth citizens without status

Government has provided information for Commonwealth citizens who are long-term residents of the UK and do not have documents to demonstrate their status. The page includes the current position, the type of evidence that can be provided and what individuals can do next, with the aim to help resolve cases as soon as possible. Individuals can contact a dedicated taskforce via 0800 678 1925 or commonwealthtaskforce@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk

Find out more about citizens without status.

11. Modern slavery

Find out more about our work with national partners on modern slavery.

12. Community cohesion

Councils have great expertise in bringing communities together and existing resources to ensure people are welcome in local areas. Guidance for local authorities on the ways in which they can understand, engage and reassure their communities in following departure from the EU.