Councils to accept migrant children on a rota after authority reaches ‘breaking point’

The Home Office says it will also distribute a pilot team of expert social workers to support local authorities throughout the UK on age assessment.

10/06/21

Councils to accept migrant children on a rota after authority reaches ‘breaking point’

The Home Office has announced changes to the National Transfer Scheme, which allocates responsibility for the care of Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC).

The changes to the scheme, announced by the Home Secretary and Education Secretary today (Thursday 10 June), will encourage more local authorities to “play their part”, however the scheme remains voluntary.

The scheme will provide local authorities with increased funding and take into account local pressures on local services as well as a ‘rota’ of transfers. The Home Office also says it will distribute a pilot team of ‘expert social workers’ to support local authorities throughout the UK on age assessment, ahead of broader age assessment reforms under the New Plan for Immigration.

The announcement comes just days after Kent County Council announced it was at ‘breaking point’ given the increased numbers of children arriving having crossed the Channel, and that it would therefore stop accepting separated children into its care. Additionally, the Council has issued legal proceedings against the Home Secretary for the Home Office’s failure to secure placements for these children.
Read more: https://www.socialworktoday.co.uk/News/Unaccompanied-migrant-children-crisis-risks-overwhelming-children%E2%80%99s-services

The Home Office says the updated scheme will provide local authorities with greater clarity as to the number of children to expect and the timing of those placements, allowing them time to plan ahead and better manage their capacity.

Chris Philp, Minister for Immigration Compliance and Justice, said the current system had not been working as intended with significant pressures being placed on particular areas.

“Caring for unaccompanied asylum seeking children is a national responsibility, which is why we are introducing a system that will ensure that these children and young people continue to receive the support they need whilst also ensuring a fairer distribution across the UK.”

Enver Solomon, CEO of the Refugee Council, said the National Transfer Scheme had long been in need of reform.

“New funding is a positive change, as is the introduction of a ‘rota’ format, which we hope will reduce delays and make the transfer of children to local authorities better able to support them, more straightforward.

“However, the Government must address the barriers that still exist around children being able to access the specialist services they need to recover and rebuild their lives. It is also important that the new scheme is kept under review to ensure it is having the desired effect and, if necessary, making the system mandatory should not be ruled out in the future.”

There are a number of factors informing the new managed approach including the size of the child population in that region, the number of supported asylum seekers and the capacity of children’s services.

The voluntary scheme includes £20m of increased funding for local authorities – backdated from 1 April this year – to support former care leavers, and additional support for local authorities. There will also be £6 million Department for Education funding for targeted support for the local authorities facing the biggest pressures in caring for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children during the COVID-19 pandemic, split between 56 councils in England that applied.

The Home Office says the changes to the National Transfer Scheme will come into effect “as soon as possible” and are as a result of a joint Home Office and DfE consultation with local authorities across the UK.

Cllr Nick Forbes, Chair of the Local Government Association’s Asylum, Migration and Refugee Task Group, welcomed the funding but warned that councils will continue to face difficulties in finding appropriate accommodation.

“We are pleased that the Government has acted on LGA calls for additional funding to help with the challenges faced by councils to provide support to children and young people starting a new life in the UK. This funding will go some way to bridging the gap between Government funding and what councils pay to support Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children leaving care.”

“Councils will continue to face difficulties in finding appropriate homes for these young people, while ongoing challenges around age assessment and asylum claims add uncertainty for both councils and young people.”

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