Asylum Taskforce Update September 2015

We are currently in a very busy period of work with government on asylum issues:

1. Home Office Consultation on failed asylum seekers and other illegal immigrants

The consultation document was published in early August with a response date of 9 Sept. The proposals aimed to close off mechanisms of funding to failed asylum seekers and to strengthen individual responsibility by failed asylum seekers to return themselves to their countries of origin. The ADCS made a joint response with the LGA, the NRPF Network, COSLA and WLGA-CLIC. This response was informed by a meeting of over 30 officers from local authorities widely distributed across the country. Our analysis is that the proposals would encourage more failed asylum-seekers to go ‘underground’ and would create a cost-shunt to local authorities which, as a result of responsibilities under both the Children Act and Care Act, would result in local authorities having to pick up the costs of support for additional groups of people.

Local authorities had met with the Home Office during August to explain our concerns and to offer to work with the Home Office to find other resolutions. The first such meeting took place on 10 Sept. At this the Home Office praised the quality of the joint response from ADCS and others, saying this would be centre/square in the feedback given to the minister, and it was acknowledged that the 21 individual responses from local authorities were in line with the joint response. The Home Office was keen to understand both the legal imperatives upon local authorities and the practicality of how this plays out at an operational level. In light of this enhanced understanding, the Home Office has agreed to draft alternative proposals as a basis for further discussion.

2. Establishment of a wider dispersal scheme given the pressure of high numbers of UASCs arriving in Kent

As a result of the above, and after an initial ad hoc request by Kent of other authorities to assist in taking some UASCs, work has been undertaken over the past few weeks to create a more sustainable dispersal mechanism for UASCs from Kent. A Task and Finish Group has been established to make operational proposals, as well as a governance group to steer this work – both groups include DfE, Home Office and Local authorities. The current thinking is that a wider dispersal mechanism from Kent could be modelled on the mechanism that has existed in London authorities for some years (given the high numbers that are registered in Croydon), and further work is being undertaken on the operationalization of such a scheme. It is expected that the scheme will initially be voluntary and that local authorities across the country (with the exception of London which already deals with high levels of UASCs) will be encouraged to participate. The conditions necessary to enable such a scheme to be successful (including funding) are also being worked upon.

3. Preparations for receiving Syrian refugees

Further to the government’s commitment to resettle Syrian refugees, ADCS was involved in a meeting on this issue for the first time on 10 September. Government currently does not expect that this programme will include significant numbers of UASCs. Funding mechanisms are being worked upon (the current scheme for resettling vulnerable persons provides for 1 year of funding from the Home Office – the need for a bespoke scheme for this programme is being considered. Where children are to be resettled it is expected that most of these will be with families, and it is expected that the UN will do some initial assessment of children’s needs prior to the journey to the UK. A ministerial group including the Home Secretary met on Sept 11 to consider funding issues for the programme. The ADCS is publishing in its bulletin of 11 Sept advice about Council actions where members of the public are offering to contribute support. The profile of refugees and likely rate of flow is not yet known, but government is hoping that arrivals will begin at the end of October.

Paul Greenhalgh, Executive Director, People, Croydon, Chair of ADCS Asylum Task Force

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