MPs recommend funding for councils and review of immigration policies 

20 May 2019

Inquiry into funding for children's services considers support for NRPF families 

The Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee has published a series of recommendations for government following an inquiry into the funding of children’s services. The Committee recognises the challenges councils face in delivering children’s social care and recommends that, at a minimum, the huge funding gap of £3.1 billion is met. 

Our written evidence​ highlights how councils play a key role in alleviating poverty and safeguarding the welfare of children by providing accommodation and financial support to families with no recourse to public funds (NRPF), but in doing so, incur costs of at least £31 million/year. Families are supported for an average of 2.5 years due to barriers and delays in resolving their immigration claims, which are usually concluded by grants of leave to remain, so these costs could be significantly reduced if the Home Office undertakes a more strategic approach to case resolution and reviews all policies that may delay this process.

With regards to support for NRPF families, the committee has made the following findings: 

'45. Local authorities should not solely bear the burden of financially supporting children within no recourse to public funds families, particularly as councils are often required to provide long-term support as a result of Home Office delays in deciding immigration cases. Not only does it place extra pressure on local authority budgets but we heard it can also lead to delays in supporting these children. The Government should provide funding to councils proportionate to the number of children within NRPF families that they support. Notwithstanding our later recommendations regarding funding for unaccompanied asylum seeking children, we consider that the Government may wish to introduce a day rate payment equivalent to that available for supporting unaccompanied asylum seeking children.

'46. While we acknowledge that the Government has made some efforts to reduce the time taken to process immigration claims, it is clear that more could be done. We urge the Government to review its relevant immigration policies and processes by December 2019 to consider where delays in the resolution of local authority-supported cases can be reduced. Also, the day payment, which we recommend above, should be payable by the Home Office in order to incentivise the quick conclusion of local authority-supported cases.'

The Committee also recommended that the Home Office increases council funding for supporting unaccompanied asylum seeking children (UASCs). Since the report was published, the Government has announced that funding for 16 and 17 year olds will be increased to the rate that councils currently receive for children under 16 (£114/ day). However, funding for care leavers will remain unchanged at £200/ week. This still falls significantly short of the costs a council may incur in providing accommodation and financial support when a young person’s asylum claim remains outstanding or if they otherwise have NRPF when they turn 18. 

Commentary 

The Committee’s recommendations are welcome and we hope that they will be seriously be considered by the Government in consultation with local government. 

The financial impact of providing essential safety​ net support has primarily been evidenced through collective data provided by councils using the NRPF Connect database. We developed and implemented this system in order to help reduce costs through case prioritisation and provide a more efficient means of communication with the Home Office. In his oral evidence, the Minister for Local Government confirmed that the database has been very helpful. However, despite the existence of good operational working arrangements, the Committee recognises that the Home Office’s efforts to reduce case resolution times have not been sufficient.  

Immigration policies that adversely affect vulnerable groups, communities and local government services are now under greater scrutiny. Last year, the APPG on ending homelessness r​ecommended​ that the NRPF condition should not be imposed on people with children due to the impact this can have on increasing homelessnesslt is imperative that the Government not only reviews how immigration policies may lead to delays when families are provided with local authority support, but also evaluates policies that may give rise to child poverty and impede the integration of families who are recognised as having a future in the UK, for example, the recent regulations that continue to exclude some EEA nationals​ from benefits and homelessness assistance, despite the Government recognising their right to stay in the UK through granting pre-settled status.​

60 councils are now using NRPF Connect and others are encouraged to join in order to benefit from working in partnership with the Home Office and to evidence the costs of safeguarding the welfare of children in NRPF households. ​For more information please contact us

We will continue to work with other sector bodies to press for these recommendations to be acted upon by government and to document any adverse impact of immigration policies on vulnerable residents, council services and wider communities. 

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