The government has made the National Transfer Scheme regarding unaccompanied asylum seeking children mandatory for all local authorities with children’s services.
While a temporary move, the announcement will mean all local authorities will have been given legal notice to accept transfers of children into their care, providing crucial placements to unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC).
The decision was made to ensure unaccompanied asylum-seeking children receive the vital care they need and end the use of hotels for them following the unprecedented recent pressure placed on the asylum system.
Minister Kevin Foster, the Minister for Safe and Legal Migration said: “It’s right we do all we can to protect unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, many of whom have gone through dangerous journeys and been exploited by despicable people smugglers.
“I am grateful for the continued, and invaluable, support of local authorities across the country who have provided crucial placements to vulnerable young asylum-seekers.
“This decision has not been taken lightly but it is in the best interests of these children to make sure they receive the support they need,” he added.
Many local authorities have already been participating with the scheme on a voluntary basis but the government feels that it is a national issue that requires all local authorities play their part. Fuller participation will ensure the scheme is fair for all local authorities with children’s services.
The Home Office will consider a number of factors when transferring children to a local authority including the existing child population, the number of supported asylum seekers and pressures on children’s services, and the best interests of the child.
Following last year’s joint consultation with the Home Office and Department of Education, an extra £20 million of additional funding was made available to support the needs of these children. Any local authority receiving a child transferred under the scheme now receives a funding contribution at the higher rate of £143 per child per night.
Local authorities will not need to accept unaccompanied asylum-seeking children where this cohort already makes up 0.07% or more of their general child population.
A start date for mandatory National Transfer Scheme transfers will be confirmed as soon as possible following the initial notice period. The scheme will be kept under review.
Cllr James Jamieson, Chairman of the Local Government Association, said: “Councils will want to continue to work closely with government to ensure the rights and needs of children are at the heart of these new arrangements. These need to enable local partners to give children the help they need, including mental and physical health support and appropriate education.
“Councils continue to face challenges in finding appropriate homes, with ongoing issues around centrally-led age assessment and delays in decision-making adding uncertainty for both councils and young people. These new arrangements must continue to swiftly take into account existing pressures in local areas, with greater join-up across government to improve engagement with councils on all the programmes that support new arrivals to start new lives in the UK,” he added.
ADCS president Charlotte Ramsden added: “Whilst mandating the National Transfer Scheme will help towards the goal of caring for all children who have arrived in such dire circumstances, this is not a complete solution to the many pressing and longstanding issues we have been raising with the government for some time. These include significant placement sufficiency challenges which continue to exist, current public sector workforce capacity issues, plus resource pressures for older young people who need support post 21.
“The improved funding arrangements in general are helpful. It will be for individual local authorities to make their representations to government as to whether they are able to safely discharge their duties while also being mandated to take part in the National Transfer Scheme but as ADCS we do recognise the importance of everyone playing their part in addressing this national crisis,” she concluded.