Transfer scheme for migrant children becomes mandatory for all local authorities

All councils will have to take their share as the National Transfer Scheme, which allocates the placement of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children across the country, becomes mandatory.

16/02/22

Transfer scheme for migrant children becomes mandatory for all local authorities

The Home Office has directed all local authorities with children’s services to provide care placements for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC), as part of its New Plan for Immigration.

In November, the Government announced that it was making the National Transfer Scheme for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children mandatory for local authorities with children’s services. Writing to all 217 councils at the time, Migration Minister Kevin Foster said the scheme would become “temporarily mandatory”, giving them two weeks to present reasons why they should not accept.

However, 29 councils did not accept the transfer of children, with 17 making exemption requests, and 12 arguing that they were already caring for high numbers of UASC. The Home Office said this resulted in “significant pressure” on those that did.

A month later, the Government directed 177 local authorities to take part in the mandatory scheme, meaning they received legal notices setting out that they would now be required to accept transfers of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. The Home Office says this resulted in “tangible improvements” both for the vulnerable children and the local authorities already involved.

Minister for Safe and Legal Migration Kevin Foster has now written to the final group of 29 local authorities and directed them to take part.

“I am grateful for the continued support of local authorities who have already stepped up to help more unaccompanied asylum seeking children,” Foster said, adding: “Mandating the scheme has already led to additional placements but we know there is more work to be done.”

The Home Office has not disclosed the names of the councils it has now contacted.

The Home Office takes a range of factors into account when deciding the number of children that will be allocated to a specific local authority, including the proportion of unaccompanied asylum seeking children. A local authority will not need to accept unaccompanied asylum seeking children where this cohort already makes up 0.07% or more of their general child population. When numbers fall below this level, they will begin to receive children through the mandatory scheme.

The announcement comes follows a joint consultation with the Home Office and Department of Education – as well as the threat of legal action from Kent County Council – which showed councils facing unequal UASC pressures.

Before becoming mandatory, the National Transfer Scheme was hoped to allow unaccompanied asylum-seeking children to be moved to different local authorities to begin a care placement rather than responsibility falling disproportionately on certain local authorities or those where they arrived, such as Kent County Council and Croydon Council.

Kent County Council was forced to stop taking unaccompanied asylum-seeking children into its care in August 2020 and June 2021 due to "extreme pressure" on its services, after dozens of children had been accommodated temporarily on camp beds and the floors of Government office buildings and hotels.

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