The Home Secretary and Education Secretary have today announced several changes to the National Transfer Scheme (NTS), the scheme by which unaccompanied children seeking asylum are placed with local authorities around the country to ensure they are spread out evenly.
These changes were included as part of the outcome of the Government’s consultation into the distribution of migrant children across England announced in September 2020.
The announcement comes just days after Kent County Council announced it was at ‘breaking point’ given the increased numbers of children arriving across the Channel, and that it would therefore stop accepting separated children into its care. Additionally, the Council has issued legal proceedings against the Home Secretary for the Home Office’s failure to secure placements for these children.
Changes announced today include providing local authorities with increased funding to support care leavers, a gap the Refugee Council has highlighted many times. Additionally a ‘rota’ scheme aims to provide regions and local authorities with a clearer indication as to the number of children to expect and when to except them, in order for local authorities to better plan and prepare in advance.
Enver Solomon, CEO of the Refugee Council: “Children who come to the UK alone seeking asylum are some of the most vulnerable in our society who have experienced unimaginable trauma and been forced to flee on utterly terrifying journeys to find safety. It is vital these children are given the specialist care and support they need to start new lives in our communities.
“The National Transfer Scheme (NTS) is an important part of enabling councils to provide care fairly and adequately but has long been in need of reform. We welcome this government’s changes to the scheme and hope it leads to it being able to work in the way it needs to. New funding is a positive change, as is the introduction of a ‘rota’ format, which we hope will reduce delays and make the transfer of children to local authorities better able to support them, more straightforward.
“However, the Government must address the barriers that still exist around children being able to access the specialist services they need to recover and rebuild their lives. It is also important that the new scheme is kept under review to ensure it is having the desired effect and, if necessary, making the system mandatory should not be ruled out in the future.”