Schedule 6 - Support for certain categories of migrant

Part of Immigration Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:00 am on 10th November 2015.

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Photo of Emma Lewell-Buck Emma Lewell-Buck Labour, South Shields 10:00 am, 10th November 2015

I thank the hon. Lady for that intervention. I made that error last week, too. I apologise again; I should have said “failed asylum seekers”, but what I am saying still stands.

Can the Minister clarify something? We had a long discussion last week, but I am still not entirely sure—this may be my fault, and I may be missing something—how the Bill fits with the ethos of other legislation in this country, which protects vulnerable people. I hope that the Minister can explain for my benefit—I am quite a simple character, and I like things in straightforward terms—how the Bill fits with the ethos of other legislation.

I feel strongly that this measure will potentially be a disaster for local authorities, which are already overwhelmed by funding pressures and will soon have a duty of care for other people as well. Asylum seekers are generally more concentrated in urban areas and areas of higher deprivation—the places where local authority budgets have been most dramatically cut in recent years. I do not need to remind the Committee that in the top 10 most deprived areas, the cost is 18 times higher per resident than in the 10 least deprived. If the Bill is passed, those local authorities will face a big surge in demand for such services. How will they pay for that? Will the Minister let us know whether he is going to offer them any funds?

Section 95 support cost the Home Office £45 million in 2014-15. Given that councils will have to process failed asylum seekers, assess their needs and so on, the process is likely to become much more expensive. The people concerned are spread across dozens of local authorities, which will entail duplication of work. What options do local authorities have? Should they cut services elsewhere, put up council tax or abandon their legal duties? The Bill’s lasting legacy may be to effect a massive transfer of responsibilities from the Home Office to local authorities, with no accompanying transfer of services or resources. On top of all the challenges that councils face, they will now be asked to do the Home Office’s job. The Government are washing their hands of failed asylum seekers and passing the buck to somebody else.

We must think of the human cost of causing families to live in the most dreadful poverty and separating children from their parents. When a family cannot feed their children, it is considered neglect. Children’s services will have to step in and take those children into care. I do not know what will happen when the time comes for the family to return. Will the child or children get returned to their family’s care? I have worked in child protection with a large number of families who have fled war and persecution, and I cannot stress enough the long-term damage that the separation of a child or children from their family can do to their and their parents’ mental health and emotional wellbeing. At the end of the day, it is the migrants who will suffer, and our constituents will too, with public services pushed beyond breaking point as their local authority is forced to clean up the Home Office’s mess.

The Home Office must know that that is about to happen. When the section 9 pilots were trialled a decade ago, the Home Office said that they placed “significant demands” on local authority resources. I believe strongly that the Government are on the brink of making a terrible mistake that will simultaneously undermine efforts to process asylum seekers quickly and heap unmanageable new duties on some of our country’s most deprived local authorities. I urge Government Members to accept our amendments to avoid this disaster.