FAQs on council support for refugees, asylum seekers and unaccompanied children

This page is a one-stop resource on supporting refugees, asylum seekers and unaccompanied children.

1. How are asylum seekers accommodated and supported?

The need to address ongoing pressures and the need for effective engagement with local government has been consistently raised by the member-led LGA Asylum, Refugee and Migration Task Group.

A Home Office and Local Government Chief Executive Group has been established with the aim to achieve better engagement and oversight; access to funding and data; and a place based and more equitable approach to dispersal as outlined in a joint MoU. Co-chaired by the LGA with representation from each region and devolved administration, quarterly meetings are planned for 2020 with the first taking place in January. It also met in December 2018, February, June and October 2019

The Home Office has further engagement with local government and providers at a regional level and discussions at a political level nationally continue via the member-led Task Group. The Government remains keen to encourage more councils to volunteer to become dispersal areas.

Further briefings

Government confirmed on 8 January 2019 the results for the procurement exercise for the future model for asylum accommodation and support, to start before September 2019. 

This resulted in a letter to the Minister in October 2018 signed by the four Local Government Associations outlining ongoing concerns and suggesting key principles and actions for future engagement. The Government has confirmed that governance arrangements will be established to understand and progress these key asks from councils.

The LGA gave evidence at the Home Office Affairs Committee on 20 November as part of their Inquiry into asylum accommodation. Speaking alongside Cllr Susan Aitken, Leader of Glasgow; Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester and Cllr Roger Lawrence, Leader of Wolverhampton. This stressed the need for more effective oversight, sustainable funding and more equitable dispersal going forward. The Government’s response to the Inquiry’s report outlines that the new Group will focus on these.

The LGA provided a briefing on asylum accommodation contracts for a House of Commons debate on 10 October 2018.

Councils continue to work hard to support and deliver the many programmes for refugees and asylum seekers currently in operation. Councils want to work with central government to find sustainable solutions that minimise the pressures on local authorities, their communities and vulnerable individuals.

Views and queries on this and other programmes can be directed to SMPs. The Associations’ letter contains a further briefing from SMPs from a regional perspective, building on a paper outlining key issues and challenges from a regional perspective developed in July 2018.

What funding is available

There is no additional funding from the Home Office for councils’ role in the accommodation and support of asylum seekers.

£2.5 million of the Controlling Migration Fund was allocated to around 20 local authorities in England over two years to bid to provide officers to support asylum seekers given status settle into local communities and to encourage failed asylum seekers to return home.

2. How are unaccompanied children supported?

Kent have informed the Home Office that they could no longer safely accept any more unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC) into their care following unprecedented numbers of children arriving in recent months via channel crossings. A letter from Government sent to councils on 21 August asked for councils that are able to offer placements and support for a child or young person to contact the Home Office as soon as possible. Many councils have come forward with offers. We are working closely with the Home Office and the Department for Education to identify solutions to immediate issues around quarantine, transport and age assessments. 

We and national partners are stressing the need for solutions to current and ongoing challenges within the National Transfer Scheme. The Government has issued a consultation to councils which considers options for changes such as regional rotas, with a response deadline of 30 September. We continue to highlight that, despite welcome recent uplifts, funding for both UASC and UASC care-leavers may continue to be a barrier to participation and we are pushing for full funding through the forthcoming Spending Review. We are making the case to central government on the need to continue to work with councils on issues in the system for adults and families, particularly around the need to widen dispersal to reduce hotel use.  

3. How the new resettlement scheme will work

The Home Secretary reaffirmed on 17 June 2019 the commitment to the resettlement of refugees when the three largest resettlement schemes conclude in 2020. Councils are asked to submit their offer of places for the new programme to their RSMPs as soon as possible. A letter to local leaders outlines that:

the aim will be to resettle around 5000 of the world’s most vulnerable refugees in the first year of the new scheme these will receive the five-year funding rates currently provided under the VPRS and VCRS, with further funding to be determined by the proposed spending review with the ambition that the rates for subsequent arrivals remain as is councils providing resettled refugees with the help and support they need to successfully integrate in their new communities will remain central

The LGA welcomed the announcement whilst stressing the need for funding to be confirmed in the Spending Review, alongside those arriving to be supported by councils via other schemes. 

Government has announced that the pledges from councils needed to meet the commitment to resettle 20,000 refugees by 2020 has been secured.

  • from 2020, the three biggest schemes will be consolidated into a new global resettlement scheme: VPRS, VCRS and Gateway, with more detail on how this will work in practice to follow post further engagement with councils and regions
  • the priority will remain to the most vulnerable refugees, identified and referred by UNHCR but with a broader geographical focus beyond the current Middle East and North Africa region, though the cohort is unlikely to significantly change given the ongoing issues in that region.
  • discussions with UNCHR on potential arrivals of unaccompanied children are ongoing  
  • the Community Sponsorship scheme will continue and a new process for emergency resettlement will also be developed, providing a faster route to the UK when necessary.

Things to consider when setting up or reviewing your resettlement programme are included in our publications Syrian refugee resettlement - a guide for local authorities and Resettling refugees: support after the first year - a guide for local authorities. More information including good practice examples are included in the Refugee Resettlement Programme Knowledge Hub group.

4. Asylum, migration and Covid-19

Initial guidance from Government looks at meeting statutory duties to accommodate and care for unaccompanied asylum seeking children, with the Home Office and providers remaining responsible for the screening and accommodation of dispersed adult asylum seekers, with face to face substantive asylum interviews paused for now. The LGA, ADCS and SMPs are working with Government to provide further guidance for councils and their partners. Doctors of the World has produced Coronavirus advice for patients in 21 languages, created in partnership with the British Red Cross, Migrant Help and Clear Voice. No NHS charges can made to an overseas visitor for the diagnosis, or, if positive, treatment, of this coronavirus. The NRPF Network has provided information for NRPF services. Find more information for councils on COVID-19.

5. Where do we go for more information?

Local authorities should contact their Regional Strategic Migration Partnership (RSMP) for more advice or if they are interested in participating in any of the programmes detailed on this page. 

Region Officer lead Email
East of England Gosia Strona Malgorzata.Strona@eelga.gov.uk
East Midlands Brein Fisher Brein.Fisher@emcouncils.gov.uk
London - mayor@london.gov.uk
North East Janine Hartley Janine_Hartley@middlesbrough.gov.uk
North West Katie Jones katie.jones@manchester.gov.uk
South East Roy Millard RoyMillard@secouncils.gov.uk
South West Kelly-Anne Phillips kelly-anne.phillips@swcouncils.gov.uk
Wales Anne Hubbard anne.hubbard@wlga.gov.uk
West Midlands Dally Panesar Dalvinder.Panesar@birmingham.gov.uk
Yorkshire & Humberside - admin@migrationyorkshire.org.uk
6.  What is the role of the LGA?

The member led LGA Asylum, Refugee and Migration Task Group is made up of regional member and RSMP representation covering all of the English regions, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland and focuses upon the issues around the asylum, refugee and migration agenda from a local government perspective. The LGA, via the Task Group, has been involved in discussions with Government and with regions for a long period of time on how to work together to find sustainable solutions that minimise the pressures on local authorities, local communities and vulnerable individuals.

As well as working on how the scheme will be funded, we are working with government and partners to clarify what resettlement schemes will look like in practice. The LGA view is that aligned regionally coordinated programmes can meet the needs of vulnerable children and families, more quickly whilst minimising the impact on local communities; and utilising and funding central, regional and local governments' strategic and operational expertise and innovative practice.

7. The EU settlement scheme

More information for councils on the EU settlement scheme can be found here. All EU citizens have to apply before 30 June 2021. Statistics on application rates are produced monthly. Guidance for local authorities on the ways in which they can understand, engage and reassure their communities in following departure from the EU is available here

The No Recourse to Public Funds Network has provided a guide for councils that provides more information on the roles and responsibilities of councils in the scheme with a focus on EU children in care and young people leaving care, EU nationals receiving social services’ support and groups at risk of not securing their status. Please email info@local.gov.uk with any queries or concerns so that these can be raised in our ongoing discussions with Government.


Looked after children

Councils are supporting children in or leaving care to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme or if appropriate, registering for British citizenship. Some children in care or those leaving care may not qualify for settled status because they may not have lived in the UK for the five years required. Pre-settled status’ allow individuals to stay for a further five years, work and have the same access to public funds and services, and to go on to apply for settled status. Coram’s Children’s Legal Centre has produced a guide on children’s and young people’s rights to remain in the UK, including the option of registering for British citizenship if applicable. 

8. What do we know about asylum seekers, refugees and migrants coming the country?

Facts and figures

Frequently updated information on patterns of migration and asylum in the UK at local, regional and local levels can be found in official statistics available from the Home Office and the ONS.

The United Nations Refugee Agency operates the current Syrian resettlement scheme and they have a resource covering asylum seekers and refugees in the UK: The Facts: Asylum in the UK. Further 'myth busting' information can be found on Refugee Week's facts about refugees.

9. Commonwealth citizens without status

Government has provided information for Commonwealth citizens who are long-term residents of the UK and do not have documents to demonstrate their status. There is a website for more information including the current position, the type of evidence that can be provided and what individuals can do next, with the aim to help resolve cases as soon as possible. Individuals can contact a dedicated taskforce via 0800 678 1925 or commonwealthtaskforce@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk

Find out more about citizens without status.

10. Modern slavery

Find out more about our work with national partners on modern slavery.

12. Community cohesion

Councils have great expertise in bringing communities together and existing resources to ensure people are welcome in local areas. Guidance for local authorities on the ways in which they can understand, engage and reassure their communities in following departure from the EU.