Background information about unaccompanied child refugees, local authorities and Government

Note from House of Commons Library Jan 31st 2016

Adults are dispersed across the UK so that no one area is overburdened by the obligation of supporting asylum seekers. There are three providers of accommodation for asylum seekers: Serco, G4S and Clearsprings. Each has a COMPASS (Commercial and Operational Managers Procuring Asylum Support Services) contract awarded in 2012 and covering two regions. Information on these COMPASS contracts is available on the Contract Finder website.

As the Local Government Association (LGA) notes in a “one-stop” webpage on unaccompanied asylum seeking children (UASC), “Unaccompanied children enter the care of a council as a looked after child and have the same rights to help and support as a child who enters the care system for any other reason”.  The Children’s Legal Centre has published a factsheet entitled Services for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (September 2013) which provides information on the types of local authority support available to UASC.

In terms of funding for the placement of unaccompanied asylum seeking children (UASC), as with adults this too comes from the Home Office.  In October 2016, the Home Office published Funding to local authorities Financial year 2016/17 – Home Office funding: Unaccompanied asylum seeking children (UASC) which “sets out the terms under which the Home Office will make funding available to local authorities in respect to their costs of supporting Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC) during the financial year 1 April 2016 to 31 March 2017” (p3, section 1).  The LGA commented that “although we are continuing to press for full funding, we have seen some important concessions from Government in response to sustained and strong lobbying” – details of recent changes are set out in section 4 of its “one-stop” webpage.

It has been reported that Kent County Council, and also the London Borough of Croydon, have been dealing with large numbers of UASC arriving in their local authority areas.  Although, as noted above, funding was provided by the Home Office, Kent in particular faced logistical issues in terms of being able to provide all UASC with accommodation; as Kent Online reported in January 2016, “Vulnerable children from Kent are having to be cared for outside the county because of the influx of asylum seeker children, it has been claimed. Social services chiefs say they have had no option but to place local children away from the county as the problem of large numbers of asylum seeker children arriving in Kent goes on”.

As a result, in the Immigration Act 2016 (sections 69 to 73) the Government made provision for the voluntary dispersal ofchildren to other local authorities.   In a written parliamentary answer given in October 2016, the Home Office Minister, James Brokenshire, said:

We introduced the Voluntary National Transfer Scheme on 1 July to ensure a more equitable distribution of UASC across the country. Over 100 UASC have been transferred so far.

We have consulted with every region in England, Scotland and Wales on their capacity. If we are to make the voluntary transfer scheme a success we need more local authorities to participate in the scheme and offer places for unaccompanied children from councils which are caring for disproportionately high numbers.

[PQ 46928 14 October 2016]

In a press release when the Voluntary National Transfer Scheme was launched, the Government stated that it had “increased the amount of funding that it will provide to local authorities caring for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, with annual support for each child aged under 16 rising from £34,675 to £41,610”.  A “Transfer Flow Chart” published by the Home Office shows the process of transferring a UASC under the Scheme – more information can be found in the Government’s Interim National Transfer Protocol for Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children 2016-17 (version 0.8).