FAQs on council support for refugees, asylum seekers and unaccompanied children

This page is a one-stop resource on supporting refugees, asylum seekers and unaccompanied children.


1. How are asylum seekers accommodated and supported?

The need to address ongoing pressures and the need for effective engagement with local government has been consistently raised by the member-led LGA Asylum, Refugee and Migration Task Group.

A Home Office and Local Government Chief Executive 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. Co-chaired by the LGA with representation from each region and devolved administration, quarterly meetings are planned for 2020 with the first taking place in January. It also met in December 2018, February, June and October 2019

The Home Office has further engagement with local government and providers at a regional level and discussions at a political level nationally continue via the member-led Task Group. The Government remains keen to encourage more councils to volunteer to become dispersal areas.

Further briefings

Government confirmed on 8 January 2019 the results for the procurement exercise for the future model for asylum accommodation and support, to start before September 2019. 

This resulted in a letter to the Minister in October 2018 signed by the four Local Government Associations outlining ongoing concerns and suggesting key principles and actions for future engagement. The Government has confirmed that governance arrangements will be established to understand and progress these key asks from councils.

The LGA gave evidence at the Home Office Affairs Committee on 20 November as part of their Inquiry into asylum accommodation. Speaking alongside Cllr Susan Aitken, Leader of Glasgow; Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester and Cllr Roger Lawrence, Leader of Wolverhampton. This stressed the need for more effective oversight, sustainable funding and more equitable dispersal going forward. The Government’s response to the Inquiry’s report outlines that the new Group will focus on these.

The LGA provided a briefing on asylum accommodation contracts for a House of Commons debate on 10 October 2018.

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.

Views and queries on this and other programmes can be directed to SMPs. The Associations’ letter contains a further briefing from SMPs from a regional perspective, building on a paper outlining key issues and challenges from a regional perspective developed in July 2018.

What funding is available

There is no additional funding from the Home Office for councils’ role in the accommodation and support of asylum seekers.

£2.5 million of the Controlling Migration Fund was allocated to around 20 local authorities in England over two years to bid to provide officers to support asylum seekers given status settle into local communities and to encourage failed asylum seekers to return home.

2. How are unaccompanied children supported?

We and national partners are stressing the need for urgent and sustainable solutions to current and ongoing challenges within the National Transfer Scheme. The Government has issued a consultation to councils which considers options for changes such as regional rotas and mandation. In our joint response to the consultation with ADCS, we continue to highlight that, despite welcome recent uplifts, funding for both UASC and UASC care-leavers may continue to be a barrier to participation and we are pushing for full funding through the forthcoming Spending Review.  We remain keen to work with government and councils across the UK on the findings of the review.

Kent have informed the Home Office that they could no longer safely accept any more unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC) into their care following unprecedented numbers of children arriving in recent months via channel crossings. A letter from Government sent to councils on 21 August asked for councils that are able to offer placements and support for a child or young person to contact the Home Office as soon as possible. Many councils have come forward with offers. We are working closely with the Home Office and the Department for Education to identify solutions to immediate issues around quarantine, transport and age assessments.

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 question 1.  

3. How the new 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. The scheme has been paused since March 2020 as a result of the pandemic, with arrivals under the scheme to start again in the new year.

Government committed in 2015 to resettle 20,000 refugees affected by the conflict in Syria over the next five years. The Home Secretary reaffirmed in June 2019 governments’ ongoing commitment to the resettlement of refugees under a new combined  programme when the three largest resettlement schemes conclude in 2020.  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 are asked to submit their offer of places for 2021 onwards to their RSMPs.

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 in the Spending Review, alongside those arriving to be supported by councils via other schemes. 

Government has announced that the pledges from councils needed to meet the commitment to resettle 20,000 refugees by 2020 has been secured. With arrivals to achieve that target just missed when the programme paused in March 2020, Government will seek to achieve this in partnership with councils when the programme restarts early in 2021.

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.

4. Asylum, migration and Covid-19

Initial guidance from Government looks at meeting statutory duties to accommodate and care for unaccompanied asylum seeking children, with the Home Office and providers remaining responsible for the screening and accommodation of dispersed adult asylum seekers, with face to face substantive asylum interviews paused for now. The LGA, ADCS and SMPs are working with Government to provide further guidance for councils and their partners. Doctors of the World has produced Coronavirus advice for patients in 21 languages, created in partnership with the British Red Cross, Migrant Help and Clear Voice. No NHS charges can made to an overseas visitor for the diagnosis, or, if positive, treatment, of this coronavirus. The NRPF Network has provided information for NRPF services. Find more information for councils on COVID-19.

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. 

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.

7. 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. 

8. What do we know about asylum seekers, refugees and migrants coming the country?

Facts and figures

Frequently updated information on patterns of migration and asylum in the UK at local, regional and local levels can be found in official statistics available from the Home Office and the ONS.

The United Nations Refugee Agency operates the current Syrian resettlement scheme and it has a resource covering asylum seekers and refugees in the UK: The Facts: Asylum in the UK. Further 'myth busting' information can be found in a briefing from the Common’s library, alongside NGOs like the Red Cross.

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.