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Making Life Impossible: How the needs of destitute migrant children are going unmet

A child’s immigration status, or the immigration status of their parents, can affect every area of their lives. Our services provide support and advocacy to children and families who find themselves destitute and in extremely precarious circumstances because of how their immigration status affects their entitlement to work and to the mainstream welfare and housing system.

Local authorities have a duty under Section 17 of The Children Act 1989 to support ‘children in need’ in their area, and for many destitute migrant families this is the only opportunity they have to feed themselves and put a roof over their heads. However, our practitioners report that local authorities are increasingly putting barriers in place before supporting these families and are using new methods to reduce access to this support. Even where families do get this support, subsistence
rates and accommodation are exceptionally poor. Every day, we see how this situation is leaving children hungry and without lunch for school, street homeless or forced to live hours from school and trapped in households engulfed by abusive relationships.

This report examines the circumstances and experiences of families seeking support under Section 17, as well as those who are already living on this support and the problems they continue to face. It provides a timely examination of these problems with the Immigration Bill 2015/16. The bill effectively diverts the support system
for these families away from the Children Act framework replacing it with immigration-led provisions, further eroding the focus of public authorities on safeguarding and promoting these children’s welfare. This report highlights multiple case studies from our practice base and makes recommendations for Government to address the needs of destitute migrants families and their children.