The LGA is concerned that new legislation may conflict with children’s rights
Councils have a proud history of welcoming new arrivals, stepping forward at times of crisis to offer homes and support, so families and individuals can build new lives in the UK.
The Illegal Migration Bill, which seeks to address current pressures in the asylum system, has been making its way through Parliament.
It is the LGA’s view that the Bill adds extra complexity to areas seeking to manage pressures on local services, community cohesion or community tensions because of asylum and resettlement accommodation.
As part of our engagement on the Bill, we have been stressing that councils and their partners want to work with government to jointly plan and put in place the resources required to support families and individuals arriving in the UK, to help ensure we can be ahead of the same pressures next year, based on realistic projections of the numbers of arrivals.
This needs to take account of the impacts on local services of the streamlined decision-making process. There is a clear need for a cross-cutting approach to all asylum and resettlement schemes that understands the cumulative impact on local areas.
The location of large-scale detention centres would have very significant local implications and so – as with currently proposed large sites – local government and their statutory partners should be engaged well in advance of decisions on potential locations.
Those decisions should take account of a shared risk assessment, clarity on funding and put in place a community engagement process.
We are also concerned that the Bill may be incompatible with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which the UK is a signatory.
This incompatibility would place councils in the position of trying to comply with two competing sets of legislation as they attempt to fulfil their duties towards children.
The Bill does not yet take the opportunity to clarify who is the corporate parent of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children placed in hotels by the Home Office or commit to ending this practice, which the LGA has stressed the need for.
Clarification on the corporate parent role is important to ensure clear accountability for the welfare and safety of all children.
During debate on the Bill in the House of Lords, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Migration and Borders, Lord Murray of Blidworth, said that within three months of Royal Assent, the Government “will begin the consultation with local authorities and communities themselves to understand their capacity to accommodate and support persons to be admitted to the UK each year through safe and legal routes”.
LGA Vice-President Lord Scriven (Lib Dem) noted, however, that it is unclear how the powers set out in the Bill will sit alongside local authorities’ duty under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 to safeguard any child in their area and take them into care under Section 20 if the criteria for so doing are met.
Lord Scriven expressed concern that the Bill has the “potential to make it harder for local authorities to fulfil their duties under the Children Act to ensure stability for children as their corporate parent and to protect and support child victims of trafficking and exploitation”.
We will continue to brief on the changes we think are needed to the Bill as it passes through Parliament.
- Find out more about the LGA’s work in Parliament.