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National Transfer Scheme becomes mandatory

The National Transfer Scheme for supporting unaccompanied asylum seeking children has become mandatory for all local authorities with children’s services.

We revealed back in November that the Home Office had announced plans to make the NTS was made temporarily mandatory to ensure unaccompanied asylum-seeking children receive the vital care they need.

But this week, the Home Office has stepped up efforts to help unaccompanied asylum seeking children, by directing all local authorities with children’s services to provide care placements for them, as part of the New Plan for Immigration.

Minister for Safe and Legal Migration Kevin Foster said: “I am grateful for the continued support of local authorities who have already stepped up to help more unaccompanied asylum seeking children.

“Mandating the scheme has already led to additional placements but we know there is more work to be done,” he added.

When the government announced in November that it was making the National Transfer Scheme for unaccompanied asylum seeking children mandatory for local authorities with children’s services, many councils did not accept the transfer of children, resulting in significant pressure on the few which did.

The decision to mandate the scheme will ensure unaccompanied asylum seeking children receive the critical care they need and end the use of hotels for them.

In December, 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. Since then, there have been tangible improvements both for the vulnerable children and the local authorities already involved, including youngsters being moved from hotels to permanent accommodation.

Kevin Foster has now written to the final group of 29 local authorities and directed them to take part.

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.

ADCS President Charlotte Ramsden said: “ADCS has been working with local authorities and officials in the Department for Education and the Home Office for several years towards a sustainable, child focussed solution to the rising number of asylum-seeking children arriving alone on UK shores. ADCS recognises the importance of finding an equitable solution to address this national crisis, relieve pressure in gateway authorities and meet children’s needs.

“Many hundreds of children have already been settled across the country via the voluntary National Transfer Scheme and more recently the nationally mandated scheme. We recognise the current urgency of need over and above what is already being offered and therefore the response from the Home Office which means that all authorities will participate. Mandating participation however, is not the whole solution to the many pressing and longstanding issues we have been raising with the government for some time. These include having the right placements in the right places, the availability of specialist mental health support, historically low funding rates for us to support care leavers and the timeliness of decision making in relation to immigration status. ADCS will continue to work with government on these pressing issues.”

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