We have been concerned about the levels of destitution facing refugee and asylum-seeking children for many years.

Our report, I don’t feel human, experiences of destitution among young refugees and migrants (2013), reveals that incredibly vulnerable young people are being left homeless and hungry. They are forced to resort to increasingly desperate means in order to survive.

We know from our practice that children are growing up in households without food, heating or toys, parents are entering exploitative work and pregnant women cannot afford to eat or access vital healthcare. In 2015, the Government reduced the rate of asylum support for children, which was already alarmingly low. This means children have faced a cut of £16.00 per week or almost 30%.

In April we published our Making life impossible (2016) report which examines the effect of destitution faced by families and children accessing support through Section 17 of the Children Act 1989.

The report makes the following recommendations

  • Subsistence support for families with NRPF under Section 17 and Section 10A should never be lower than that provided for destitute families seeking asylum. Both should be aligned to mainstream benefit rates paid for living expenses, where accommodation is provided.
  • Statutory guidance on the provision of accommodation under Section 17 support and the forthcoming 10A support should be drawn in line with the Decent Homes Standard.
  • The Home Office should not apply NRPF conditions to parents with leave to remain in the UK where they have children under 18 years old.
  • Families with children under 18 years old who have had their NRPF condition lifted should not have this condition reapplied without an assessment of the child’s needs.
  • Child in need assessments should always be undertaken by a qualified social worker – as is stated in statutory guidance – and this should be stated in new regulations resulting from the Immigration Act 2016 on Section 10A support for families.
  • A child in need assessment for children and their families facing destitution should always recognise the risks and potentially exploitative situations families face if they are reliant on informal networks and short-term ad hoc support from voluntary organisations.
  • Families with NRPF with children should have access to nursery places to make sure children can benefit from early years provision like all other children in disadvantaged families.
  • The Education Act 1996 should be amended to ensure children in families that have NRPF are entitled to receive free school meals.
  • Local Welfare Provision funding should be removed from the definition of ‘public funds’ in Paragraph 6 of the Immigration Rules.
  • Families with NRPF who are being supported by the local authority under Section 17 or 10A should be exempt from all secondary NHS charges and any forthcoming primary NHS charges.