Under a new scheme, local authorities in England, Scotland and Wales will receive financial support to house people seeking asylum. The Home Office has said that the Asylum Dispersal Grant will support local authorities through one-off payments of £250 per person seeking asylum. The scheme is intended is to address concerns raised by local authorities in relation to pressure on local services associated with supporting asylum seekers.
The grant is available to local authorities that were accommodating asylum seekers on 28 March 2022.
Kevin Foster, minister for safe and legal migration, also announced further funding to provide £3,500 for each new dispersal bed space occupied, in both new and existing dispersal areas, between 28 March 2022 and 31 March 2023.
Foster has said this funding can be used to implement and/or bolster services in both new and existing areas. The hope is that this will “alleviate some pressures” on local authorities.
Several councils had pulled out of the scheme over concerns
Seven West Midlands councils have now withdrawn legal action against the Home Office after the government set out plans for the asylum dispersal scheme.
In a joint statement, Birmingham City Council, Coventry City Council, Dudley MBC, Sandwell MBC, Walsall MBC, City of Wolverhampton Council and Stoke-on-Trent City Council said:
“Collectively, our respective local authorities have been at the forefront of welcoming asylum seekers to our region for more than 10 years as we firmly believe it is the right thing to do.
“However, in recent years, we have become increasingly concerned about the fairness of the asylum seekers dispersal system and the lack of funding available to those wanting to support them as well as to the people themselves who need it most.”
The councils said that legal action had been a last resort to “resolve the issue and fight for a fairer dispersal for those seeking asylum”.
They also stated that despite retracting legal action, they will be watching closely to ensure that the Home Office fully honours the commitment.
Concerns from councils are still present
Thanet council leader Ash Ashbee says she is “absolutely dismayed” that she was not notified or consulted about the use of former student accommodation to house people seeking asylum in her area. Speaking to the Isle of Thanet News, she raised concerns that no risk assessment or consultation had taken place.
Ashbee said: “It is a total disregard by the Home Office and disrespect for the district council. How can I explain to the people of Thanet that I did not know anything about this.”
In a letter, Kevin Foster said:
“As part of the ongoing work with local authorities we will ensure the asylum dispersal scheme is part of the broader context, including ensuring we work together on providing accommodation to refugees brought here under the UK Resettlement Scheme (UKRS), those on the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS), the Afghanistan Relocation and Assistance Policy (ARAP), Homes for Ukraine and unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC) looked after by local authorities.”
A spokesperson for the Home Office said: “The government is working with all local authorities in England, Wales and Scotland to provide more suitable accommodation for asylum seekers and to end the unacceptable use of hotels, with more than £21 million in grant funding already been provided to local authorities to help them respond to challenges in their area.”