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Project 17 looks at migrant children's experiences of the hostile environment

Summary:

Report finds children living in families with no recourse to public funds struggle to acess support

Date of Publication:
21 February 2019

Project 17 looks at migrant children's experiences of the hostile environment

21 February 2019
EIN

Project 17, a campaign group which works to end destitution among migrant children, has published a report looking at children's experiences of the hostile environment.

You can read the 48-page report here.

The report examines the experiences of children living in families with no recourse to public funds and considers their ability to access support under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989, which places a duty on local authorities to safeguard and promote the welfare of children 'in need' in their area.

In 2013, an estimated 5,900 children from families with no recourse to public funds received section 17 support in England and Wales.

Project 17 says hostile environment measures have been introduced to deter families from accessing section 17 support, and the pressures of austerity and cuts to local authority budgets have left local authorities largely unwilling to provide such support.

"The families we work with are routinely failed by local authorities and the results are devastating," Project 17 states.

As highlighted by The Independent, the report's findings include that UK-born children are being left homeless due to the immigration status of their parents.

The report states: "The majority of the children in this report were born in the UK and have spent their entire lives here. A large number are British citizens, and many others are likely to become British before they reach adulthood. These children are barred from accessing the public funds they should be entitled to because of their parents' immigration status."

It adds: "A shocking 24% of children in this study had been left street homeless by a local authority. In all but one of these cases, local migrant organisations had safeguarded children from homelessness by paying for emergency accommodation."

The report's key findings are as follows:

• Local authority assessments for section 17 support are excessively focused on the credibility of parents at the expense of a focus on the child. Children's views, wishes, and feelings are frequently neglected, and children are left feeling ignored.

• Support under section 17 is increasingly hard to access and local authorities are employing various strategies to refuse families with no recourse to public funds (NRPF) support. Misinformation, attacks on credibility, intimidation, aggression, and disrespect on the part of local authorities leaves families destitute and at high risk of exploitation. Of the children in this study, 24% were left street homeless by a local authority.

• Housing is a key issue for children living in families with NRPF. Many children supported under section 17 are living in poor conditions, without enough space or privacy, often far away from their schools, friends, and support networks.

• Financial support provided to families under section 17 is often well below Asylum Support rates under section 4 of the Immigration and Asylum Act. This is the minimum the Home Office says is required to avoid a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights, and case law suggests it is the minimum a local authority is required to pay under section 17. Many families are unable to afford basic necessities such as enough food, clothing, school uniform, and transport.

• The challenges of having no recourse to public funds and the interconnected barriers to accessing local authority support has a significant emotional impact on children and young people. Children experiencing these issues are left feeling socially isolated, distressed, ashamed, and unsafe.

Amy Murtagh, Project 17's interim director, told The Independent: "All children deserve to have a home and enough to eat, regardless of their parents' immigration status. Local authorities need to do better at meeting their legal duties to children in need. Migrant families often struggle to access Section 17 support, facing hostile gatekeeping tactics. If support is provided, often it is inadequate to meet children's needs."

A Home Office spokesperson told The Independent: "The welfare of children is one of our top priorities and our immigration system will always protect families with children from becoming destitute. Support will never be withheld if the welfare of a child is at risk due to a family's financial circumstances."