Posted: 28 April 2016

The needs of destitute migrant children going unmet

Our report sheds light on an often marginalised and hidden group of children – those who as a result of their immigration status are unable to claim benefits and other types of support.

This is known as having ‘no recourse to public funds’.  

Without this support these children often find themselves destitute and in need of help. 

Families unable to access mainstream benefits and support can approach their local authority for help under Section 17 of The Children Act.  These are families who often have exhausted all of their informal support networks and find themselves living in abusive or exploitative situations, placing their children at risk.

The Section 17  duty requires local authorities to safeguard and promote the welfare of all ‘children in need’ in their local area.

Overwhelmingly the need from families is for accommodation and subsistence with children living in destitution and in some cases at risk of being homelessness. 

Our report exposes the challenges many families face in accessing Section 17 support when they approach their local authority for help.

According to data from 35 local authorities in 2015 over 1,700 families sought support from their local council and 6 in 10 were turned away.


families requested support


were provided with support

6 in 10

families were not supported when they approached their local authority

Immigration status first, children second  

'Normally their child in need assessment is a really thorough analysis of what their mum has done for the past seven years: where they’ve stayed, what’s wrong with her immigration stats, how she’s got money, where and when'. Quote from a practitioner from The Children’s Society. 

Our findings show that rather than being child-led, too often decisions about the support provided to children are based not on need but rather on the immigration status of the child or their parents. 

Barriers are put in the way for families, limiting their entitlement to support and placing the child and their family at significant risk of homelessness, destitution and exploitation. 

Barriers that our practitioners have seen include a reluctance to conduct a child in need assessment, the trialling of stricter criteria for deeming a child in need, and the presence of Home Office officials during assessments of the child’s needs.

of families we made referrals for

under Section 17 needed legal intervention

to receive the support they required 

Receiving support is not the end of the story

Unfortunately for the families we work with, receiving Section 17 in many cases, does not adequately protect and safeguard children.

Many families continue to live in unsuitable accommodation and face extreme poverty. 

As support rates under Section 17 vary across the country there are cases of families with three children being given just £50 per week, living significantly below the poverty line and being unable to meet their basic needs.

The impact of the Immigration Bill

This report presents a timely examination of this so often marginalised and at risk group of children. 

The Immigration Bill changes the type of support provided to children and their families who cannot access mainstream benefits – who are ‘no recourse to public funds’.

Moving support away from being children-led to immigration led. 

In the coming months there will be the introduction of a new type of support for these families, known as 10A support. 

We will be using this report to highlight the risks and acute vulnerabilities of these children.

We are working to make sure  all children receive an appropriate assessment of their needs conducted by a qualified social worker and that all children are provided with the support they need to meet their needs.

To be kept updated on our work in this area sign up to receive our policy newsletter

By Lucy Dacey - Programme staff

Read more

Thousands of children cut off from justice

Posted: 17 July 2015