On 1 July 2016 the Government launched a new National Transfer Scheme for refugee children. It enables one local authority to request transfer of an asylum seeking child to another local authority. The rationale is said to be:
to encourage all local authorities to volunteer to support unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC) so there is a more even distribution of caring responsibilities across the country.
The scheme is enabled by the coming into force of parts of the Immigration Act 2016. Initially it is voluntary in nature. A local authority can request transfer of a child in certain circumstances but there is no compulsion on any other local authority to accept transfer of the child. The voluntary scheme is backed by the possibility that it can be made mandatory, however.
It has taken me a little while to to write this up because I have been a tad preoccupied with Brexit and have also been attempting to finish an ebook on the Immigration Act 2016 as a whole, which is almost now complete.
Section 69 of the Immigration Act 2016 enables transfer by one local authority to another of responsibility for children in care who are unaccompanied children who have made protection claims. Consequent provisions follow at sections 70 to 73 which impose a duty on local authorities to provide information requested by the Secretary of State about supported asylum seeking children, enable the Secretary State to require reasons from a local authority which refuses a transfer request and to enable the Secretary of State to introduce a mandatory scheme for transfer of such children with which local authorities must comply.
An Interim National Transfer Protocol for Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children was published to set out the parameters and operation of the voluntary scheme. At the same time the annual central Government funding support for each child was increased from £34,675 to £41,610. Further details of the funding arrangements for the year 2016/17 have also been published.
The basic premise of the scheme is that where a local authority reaches a proportion of 0.07% of unaccompanied asylum seeking children in the child population as a whole then a request can be made for transfer of newly arriving children to other local authorities. This can be done directly by arrangement with another local authority or via a central administration team.
The way in which children are then allocated to another local authority is not clear but initially the idea is that the child will be transferred within the same region or, if the whole region has reached the ceiling of 0.07% of child population, then to a different region. The regions are Kent, South East (excluding Kent), South West, North East, North West, Yorkshire and Humber, East of England, West Midland, East Midlands, London, Wales, and Scotland.
There is no compulsion involved in the voluntary scheme; receiving local authorities do not have to agree to received children allocated to them. However, section 72 of the Immigration Act 2016 enables the Secretary of State if necessary to create a mandatory scheme to force local authorities to receive transferred children.