Accommodation for asylum seekers with care needs

12 November 2018

Local authority and Home Office responsibilities clarified
Recently updated guidance for Home Office staff confirms whether local authorities or the Home Office will be responsible for providing accommodation to an asylum seeker who has care needs. The main points of the guidance that local authorities need to b​e aware of are summarised here. 

Referrals from the Home Office​
Home Office staff and asylum accommodation providers are advised to ensure that asylum seekers with urgent care needs are referred to the local authority immediately, although those with non-urgent needs can be referred once they are dispersed to their asylum accommodation. 

A local authority is required to meet the eligible care and support needs of a person who is ordinarily resident or has no place of settled residence and is present in the area. An asylum seeker living in initial or dispersal Home Office accommodation is to be treated as ordinarily resident in that local authority’s area. 

Home Office staff are directed not to provide initial accommodation to asylum seekers with urgent care needs until a local authority assessment has been carried out. ​

The local authority should undertake a needs assessment in the usual way when an asylum seeker is referred.

Providing accommodation and meeting care needs
When an asylum seeker is not already accommodated by the Home Office and has no other housing available to them, then the local authority would need to provide interim accommodation whilst the needs assessment is being carried out. 

If the local authority establishes that an asylum seeker has eligible care and support needs under the relevant legislation, it must determine how to meet those needs, including what type of accommodation is required to enable the person's care needs to be met. This will determine whether the Home Office or local authority will be responsible for providing accommodation. 

Assessment outcome Responsibility for providing accommodation
​Asylum seeker has eligible needs and requires a care home placement/ residential care Local authority
​Asylum seeker has eligible needs and requires care that can be provided within the community, needs a specific type of property or adaptations to a property Home Office
​Asylum seeker does not have eligible care and support needs Home Office
If the asylum seeker requires care within the community, then the Home Office will be responsible, through the asylum accommodation provider, to source appropriate accommodation with the necessary adaptations or a property in which care can be provided. With regards to location requests, the guidance states that:

 ‘..any request for accommodation to be provided in a particular area, for example, for continuity of care, should be considered on its merits’.

If the asylum seeker is receiving care from the local authority whilst they are living in Home Office accommodation, and they are dispersed to a different area, then their care would need to be transferred to the second local authority in the usual way in order to maintain continuity of care. In England, local authorities would need to follow the Care and support statutory guidance

When a local authority provides an asylum seeker with a care home placement located out of its area, then it will continue to retain responsibility for funding this. 

The guidance is applicable UK-wide but refers to the Care Act 2014, which applies in England and may contain different provisions to the legislation under which care is provided in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, i.e. the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968, the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 and the Health and Personal Social Services (Northern Ireland) Order 1972.

The guidance provides welcome clarification that responsibility for housing asylum seekers with care needs lies with the Home Office, unless an asylum seeker requires residential care. 

The guidance is clear about the process and what is expected of the local authority with regards to providing care to new arrivals and people who have recently claimed asylum. However, there will be many cases where local authorities are already providing ordinary accommodation to asylum seekers, and ‘appeal rights exhausted’ asylum seekers, in order to enable their care needs to be met. In such cases, the guidance does not specify to what extent the Home Office would assist with a transfer to asylum support and sourcing appropriate accommodation. Local authorities therefore need to be cautious when deciding whether to refer such a person to the Home Office for accommodation, and should be mindful that any decision must be compliant with the relevant social care legislation. For example, in the case of an asylum seeker who is being accommodated under the Care Act 2014, the local authority must consider how any potential change of accommodation (and possibly location) would impact on the individual’s well-being.   

Local authorities are advised to refer to our practice guidance for more information about the provision of care and support, including accommodation, for asylum seekers and other migrant groups with no recourse to public funds. This will be updated in due course to reflect the Home Office guidance. 

Local authorities are requested to contact us with any feedback about how the Home Office guidance is being implemented in practice.

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