In January 2012, the UK Border Agency wrote to all chief executives of local authorities in relation to data sharing between the UK Border Agency and local authorities. The letter refers to the establishment of the new Independent Family Returns Panel for the purpose of providing expert advice to the UK Border Agency on the method of removal from the UK. As part of this, the Panel may request information in order that any return plan for a particular family has taken into account any information held by other agencies that relates to safeguarding, welfare or child protection. In particular a social worker or manager from Children’s Social Care may be invited to contribute to the Panel.
This chapter was updated in October 2012 in relation to information regarding the UK Border Agency’s data sharing requirements.
1. Immigration Issues and the Role of The Local Authority
1.1 People with No Recourse to Public Funds
People who have no legal entitlement to financial support or assistance from the state are people who have no recourse to public funds. They may self-refer to Children's Social Care for support or may be referred from other agencies.
Children's Social Care are likely to be approached by families with children or children who are unaccompanied or separated* from their families.
*Separated Children are children who are accompanied or unaccompanied outside their country of origin and separated from their parents or their legal or customary care-giver.
They may be:
- People with refugee status from another European Economic Area (EEA) country other than the UK or dependents of people in the UK who have refugee status from a EEA country other than the UK;
- People who are citizens of an EEA country other than the UK or are dependents of people who are citizens of an EEA country other than the UK;
- Failed asylum seekers who have exhausted their appeal rights and who have failed to co-operate with removal directions;
- Persons who are unlawfully present in the UK who are not asylum seekers, e.g. people who have overstayed their leave to remain or who have been trafficked into the country or who entered the country illegally;
- People who have been granted limited leave to remain on the condition that they have no recourse to public funds, e.g. people who are spouses and unmarried partners of persons with British citizenship or indefinite leave to remain, who have been granted a two year probationary period on condition of no recourse to public funds;
- People who have been granted Discretionary Leave to Remain, e.g. Separated Children from non-suspensive appeal countries to whom the Home Office does not grant either refugee status or humanitarian protection, but who are given 12 months leave to remain or leave to remain until their 18th birthday, whichever is the shorter;
- People on student visas who are unable to work and have no recourse to public funds.
NB This list is by no means exhaustive and provides only examples of the categories of people who may present to Children's Social Care as destitute and have no recourse to public funds.
1.2 Role of the Local Authority
The local authority is restricted by legislation in what it can provide in terms of assistance and support for all the categories of people outlined in the previous section.
Under Section 54 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002, families who fall under categories a. to d. are not eligible for support from Children's Social Care under Sections 17, 23C, 24A or 24B of the Children Act 1989. They are also not eligible for:
- Support or assistance under Section 21 and Section 29 of the National Assistance Act 1948;
- Support for the elderly under Section 45 of the Health Services and Public Health Act 1968;
- Section 21 of and Schedule 8 to the National Health Service Act 1977;
- Accommodation under homelessness legislation;
- Promotion of well-being under Section 2 of the Local Government Act 2000.
The Home Office allows for limited forms of assistance to be given by local authorities to some families and this could be in the form of:
- Travel assistance to people in category a. and b. with dependents under 18 to leave the UK;
- Temporary accommodation to people in category a. and b. with dependents under 18 awaiting the implementation of their travel arrangements;
- Temporary accommodation to people in category d. with dependents under 18 who are awaiting instructions for removal.
However, the local authority still has the following duties towards all children and their families regardless of their status:
- Under the Children Act 1989, to carry out a Child in Need Assessment for all children under 18 who are with their families, where there may be concerns about a child's welfare and/or safety;
- Under the Children Act 1989, to carry out a Child in Need Assessment for all Separated Children under the age of 18 and to provide them with services in line with their needs identified using Section 17 and Section 20 of the Children Act 1989;
- Under Section 47 of the National Health Service and Community Care Act 1990, to carry out an assessment of an adult for community care services where it appears that the individual may be In Need of such services.
1.3 Asylum Seekers and the UK Border Agency
All asylum seeking applicants aged 18 and over who arrive in the UK are now supported and Accommodated under arrangements managed by the UK Border Agency.
1.4 Failed Asylum Seekers and Section 9 of the Asylum and Immigration Act 2004
Except for the duties outlined in 2.4, local authorities have no duty or power to provide for families who are failed asylum seekers, unless they can show that otherwise they would be destitute.
Failed asylum seekers who are facing destitution can be signposted to the UK Border Agency for support under Section 4 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999.
In the case of a failed Asylum Seeker with an application for humanitarian protection still pending, the duty officer should signpost them to the UK Border Agency as the application should be treated in the same manner as an asylum application and the UK Border Agency may have a responsibility to support.
Social workers also need to be aware of Section 9 of the 2004 Asylum and Immigration Act - which the Government started piloting in April 2005 in Greater Manchester, Leeds and London.
Under Section 9, failed asylum seekers with families whose asylum appeal rights are exhausted and are judged by the UK Border Agency not to be co-operating with voluntary return can have their support withdrawn. However, it allows for children under 18 to be supported under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989 if their welfare is compromised.
The legislation is controversial as families can be made destitute by this policy which will in turn have an impact on the welfare of children, increasing the likelihood of children being taken into care and separated from their family.
The Home Office is being called upon by many in the statutory, voluntary and legal sectors to review the policy. But in the meantime, Children's Social Care may be obliged to take children into care until the families agree to leave the country.
2. Working with Families with no Recourse to Public Funds
This section is for social workers working with families with no recourse to public funds. In this section, 'families' are defined as 'families presenting with their own children'.
For people presenting with children for whom they say they are the primary care givers or relations or friends, social workers should be aware that these children are essentially 'separated' children, i.e. children who are outside their country of origin without the care and protection of their parents or legal guardian. Social workers should work with these children with a view to ensuring their safety and welfare.
2.2 What is Involved when Deciding to Assess?
Families with no recourse to public funds usually present in different ways:
- Self-referral without an appointment;
- Self-referral or referral by an external agency, by appointment.
Social workers need to consider if there is evidence to suggest that the child or children comes within the definition of a Child in Need or there is potential for such concerns. This may include health needs affecting the parent/s or children, e.g. chronic health conditions, physical disabilities, learning disabilities, or safeguarding issues, e.g. Neglect and/or domestic abuse.
If there is a strong possibility of such needs as outlined above, the Referral and Assessment Service should commence an assessment as for all children and as set out Part 1.2 of the Manual.
When interviewing the children and parents, social workers should explore as fully as possible with them any existing sources of help and support in the community, voluntary groups, social networks etc.
Because of the 'no recourse' status of the applicant, social workers will also have to check the following alongside the Child in Need assessment:
- Key Documents;
- Local Connection;
- Immigration Status of the Client;
- The applicant must have sufficient identification although this may not be possible, e.g. if the person is fleeing domestic abuse. In such cases evidence should be established at a later date through the assistance of a solicitor or the police;
- If potential clients do not bring the necessary documentation on first presentation, the assessment can still go ahead but they must be informed that any decisions regarding provision of support can only be made when they have provided the appropriate documents, and they should have all the required documents before another interview is arranged;
- If the client needs an interpreter, arrangements should be made with the interpreter to inform the client of the documentation required;
- Applicants should be asked to verify their identity and immigration status with the production of the following identification:
- Passports and birth certificates for all members of the family;
- If available, travel documents like return airtickets;
- Home Office papers (Application Registration Card (ARC), application letters or refusal letters) and solicitors' letters; and
- If available, bank account statements (from the last 3 months).
All identification documents supplied must be original documents. Social workers should view the original documents, take photocopies; and file them in the client's folder.If the applicant or any dependents have health needs, they must provide any documented evidence of ill health or disability for any member of the family, e.g. OT reports, mental health/psychiatric reports
- It is important to establish where the person has a local connection as it may be another local authority, which has responsibility for this person;
- Local connection criteria need not always apply, e.g. if the person is at risk of violence if s/he returns to the local authority where they have a local connection;
- It should be stressed to all clients that social workers will follow up on the contact details given by the clients and make enquiries into their local connection;
- If it is established that the person has a local connection with another local authority, the social worker should refer the person to that local authority.
Immigration Status of the Client
- The social worker must check with the Home Office whether the client has a 'live' asylum application, or has been refused asylum, or has some other application pending;
- Social workers should have the documentation outlined in Key Documentation to establish the status and identity of the applicant and his/her dependents and this should be cross-referenced with the Home Office as fully as possible;
- Social workers need to tell overstayers they have a duty to inform the Home Office as they have approached the local authority for assistance.
- It is important to build up a clear picture of the client's circumstances and social workers need to assess if the client is indeed destitute, i.e. he/she has no means of supporting him/herself nor family or friends whom he/she can rely on for support;
- Social workers must consider if the information given by the client both verbally and in documented form is credible. If they do not think it is credible, they must be confident that there is enough evidence to the contrary (taking care to record this in the client's case file) otherwise the local authority's decision making will be open to legal challenge.
2.3 Completion of Assessment
When an assessment is completed, the social worker should discuss the outcome with his or her team manager, including any need for urgent/immediate support.
The team manager will decide whether to approve the outcome of the assessment. Such decisions will be based upon the assessments and the applicant's immigration status.
The decision will be one of the following:
- To accept the client's application for support or agree to continue support;
- To reject the client's application for support or terminate any existing support;
- To defer the decision pending the presentation of documents or further evidence.
2.4 Terminating Support
Any decision to terminate support for an ongoing case should be made by a team manager and informed by an up-to-date assessment.
The social worker must inform the client if the support is to be terminated. This should be done in an interview, with the use of an interpreter if necessary.
The social worker should send a letter to the client confirming the decision to terminate support and giving 28 days notice from when support will terminate. The letter should also advise the client of their right to seek legal advice if they disagree with the decision.
2.5 Arranging and Administering Support
Arranging support will be undertaken by referral to the Access to Resources Team asset out in the Access to Family Support Services Procedure and a Child in Need Plan will be drawn up - see Child in Need Plans and Reviews Procedure.
3. Families with no Recourse - Checklist
Information Gathering and Assessment
Before you start the assessment with the family you need to make it clear to them that you will need to completely check their details before any service decision is made.
You need to tell them that you will be asking them detailed questions to confirm information and that this is time consuming, requires evidence, and checking with others.
You need to tell them that no decision will be made without full information having been made available and which they must supply. It needs to be clear that any interim decision for the provision of support will not necessarily result in ongoing support.
You need to check whether an interpreter is needed. NB It is not advisable to use a family member.
Our Information Gathering must Include the Following:
1. Immigration Status
Have you confirmed each person’s immigration status?
- Passport plus entry visa;
- Precise date of entry and visa status, including dates of applications to change visa status with supporting documentation;
- Home office documentation;
- Home Office reference number;
- Marriage certificate, birth certificates, divorce certificates;
- Sponsor's details, including full name, address and contact details;
- A full chronology of events since arrival in the UK;
- Details of past living arrangements, friends/relatives etc;
- Details of current living arrangements and sources of support.
If immediate destitution is claimed:
- Where have the family been sleeping for the past 14 days?
- How have they been feeding themselves?
- Why is any support they have been receiving no longer available?
- Or When/why is it to be withdrawn?
- Information from the Benefits Agency;
- Bank statements;
- Income from all sources;
- National Insurance number;
- Length of time that the family claim to have been without finances;
- What has the family been living on?
Children and Dependants
Have you confirmed the details in relation to the children/dependants and their connection or relationship to the presenting person?
- Estimated delivery date and confirmation of pregnancy;
- Children’s passports;
- Children’s birth certificates;
- Details of schools attended;
- Family tree.
Why can they not get housing or return to the address they originally arrived at or people they stayed with?
- Housing history and last address, address of sponsor, details of person that they have been staying with and permission to contact them;
- Information as to whether the housing department will not be giving the family housing and the reason why.
- Written confirmation that the family have sought legal advice;
- Written confirmation that their legal advisers have lodged an application/appeal, and what it was for.
The social worker should seek his or her own legal advice on the meaning of these applications, request which piece of case law this case relates to and include this information in the written assessment.
The social worker should request legal services to contact the client's legal representatives, THE SOCIAL WORKER MUST NOT SPEAK DIRECTLY TO AN OUTSIDE LEGAL REPRESENTATIVE.
Carry out checks on ICS:
Obtain agreement to do external checks, including the following:
- Local authority areas where the family previously stayed to check whether the family was in receipt of support;
- The children's schools to see when the children came on role;
- SEN (Special Educational Needs Sections);
- GP’s and Health Visitors;
- Police, in relation to incidents of domestic abuse incidents that do not involve children;
- Home Office; What information do they have? When did the family enter the country, what appeals have been lodged?
Assessments which need to be considered:
- Destitution assessment;
- Child In Need assessment;
- Community Care assessments.
Whilst assessments are taking place:
- Establish the basis upon which the family can remain at their accommodation;
- Establish the basis upon which the family can continue to live without any immediate support;
- Establish timescales within which they can provide any missing information to a satisfactory level;
- If Section 17 money is given, the social worker should provide the family with written confirmation that it is an emergency payment pending the outcome of the assessment;
- Remember it is up to the presenting person to provide us with the information which we need to meet their needs;
- All agreements for expenditure must be made by a team manager based on the information we have gathered.