Moves to further restrict support to migrant families could leave children homeless and put them at risk of exploitation and abuse, a new report argues.
The study, published by the Children's Society, comes as the Government’s Immigration Bill is defeated in the House of Lords with peers calling on Whitehall to take in more child refugees from Europe.
The charity’s report, entitled Making Life Impossible, claims four in ten migrant families making claims for destitution support are being rejected for help.
It also argues even when claims are successful, many families still experience extreme poverty on a daily basis. While support varies across the UK, the Children’s Society says some families are having to survive on less than £2 per day per person.
The charity is demanding that the Government commits to a minimum level of support that is at least equal to that given through the benefits system, which would currently be equivalent to around £110 per week for a single mother with one child.
Sam Royston, director of policy and research at the Children’s Society, said: ‘Far too many migrant families in desperate need are already at crisis point, forced to get by on impossibly low levels of support or denied help altogether.’
‘Further restricting this support would have a devastating impact, making the lives of incredibly vulnerable children even more precarious,’ he added.
Responding to the report, Cllr David Simmonds, chairman of the Local Government Association's Asylum, Refugee and Migration Task Group, said: ‘Councils have a strong track record of supporting refugees and asylum seekers, including children in need of additional support, children travelling alone and those settling in the UK with their families.’
‘The average support provided by councils to each of the thousands of households without recourse to public funds is more than £15,000 per year,’ he added.
Cllr Simmonds also warned the current immigration legislation is ‘muddled’.
‘Councils have long been concerned that current immigration legislation is muddled about the support that these families and vulnerable children should receive,’ he said.
‘Clear links need to be made across all the programmes that resettle asylum seekers and refugees to make sure there is enough funding and support services available.’
He reiterated concerns that a small number of councils are being left to shoulder the burden of taking in more refugees without the requisite funding.
‘It simply isn't possible to leave a small number of councils to look after large numbers of children and no council should be made to choose between supporting children and providing vital services for their local community,’ he said.
Welcoming the Immigration Bill’s measures to address these problems, Cllr Simmonds warns of the risk of families that are refused asylum going underground. ?
‘Councils have significant safeguarding concerns for children in this position, who could be at risk of slavery or sexual exploitation when forced to rely on informal support.
‘We are therefore keen to engage with the Government on the implementation of the Bill to make the role of councils clear and to make sure that refused asylum-seeking families are encouraged to return to their home country before support ends.’?
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