The High Court has today, Tuesday 28 November 2023, again ruled that the Home Office action in relation to unaccompanied asylum seeking (UAS) children was unlawful when it chose to place them in hotels rather than into local authority care across the country through the statutory National Transfer Scheme.
In the judgement, the court found that the National Transfer Scheme, by which UAS children are transferred into the care of a local authority, was operating unlawfully until July 2023, when the court first ruled the use of hotels to be unlawful.
In future, the National Transfer Scheme operated by the UK government will need to ensure that it will operate in a way that permanently eliminates the use of hotels to accommodate these children.
Brighton & Hove City Council actively supported Kent County Council in a claim for judicial review regarding the operation of the National Transfer Scheme to avoid the situation arising again whereby the government could seek to justify the use of hotels by allowing an emergency to arise rather than placing children into care via the NTS in a timely way.
The distribution of UAS children under the national scheme is supposed to be mandatory, but at no time during the unlawful use of hotels did the Home Office force reluctant local authorities to take children as quickly as the scheme requires.
Instead the claim revealed that were it not for the successful judicial review claim of Brighton & Hove City Council and ECPAT. the Home Office had planned to open more hotels and embed their use into the system to deal with the numbers arriving in Kent. The hotels commissioned have continued to receive tax payer funds while standing empty following the July judgment that their use was unlawful.
The distribution of children across local authorities remains deeply unequal, with some authorities being in excess of their quota and others well below.
Brighton & Hove City Council provided evidence in the claim which demonstrated that the funding local authorities currently receive for UAS children is inadequate and relies on local authorities making up the deficit of what is needed from their already overstretched council budgets.
Councillor Bella Sankey, Leader of the Council said: “These judgments from the High Court bring this miserable chapter in the treatment of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children to an end, locally and nationally.
“I am relieved that as a result of these judgments the Secretary of State can no longer resort to the routine use of hotels for unaccompanied children.
“I’m proud that Brighton & Hove City Council brought this ground-breaking legal case and has continued to hold the Home Office to account.
“It’s an enormous achievement and marks a significant step change in how these extremely vulnerable children are treated in this country."