Council criticised as support is withdrawn from group of asylum seeking adults in Northamptonshire

Asylum seekers will no longer be supported by the county council when they turn 18 if they have exhausted the appeals process to remain in the country.
Asylum seekers will no longer be supported by the county council when they turn 18 if they have exhausted the appeals process to remain in the country.

A plan to remove the support given to some asylum seekers in Northamptonshire when they turn 18 has been described as 'using a sledgehammer to crack a nut'.

The county council wants to save £330,000 a year by withdrawing the support it gives to a current cohort of 23 young people who have fled their home countries.

Northamptonshire’s current practice is for those under 18 who arrive in this country with no parents or suitable carers to be accommodated under the Children Act 1989 and, when eligible, access all leaving care services.

But if the county council's cabinet approves the measure on Tuesday, May 14, those that have had all their rights to appeal to stay in the country refused will be supported to return home.

Currently, even those who have exhausted their appeal rights can still receive money and a place to stay through the council.

Paul Crofts, of the campaign group Save Northants Services, described the policy as a 'nasty, horrible piece of decision making'.

And Labour's shadow cabinet member for finance, Councillor Mick Scrimshaw says he feels 'uncomfortable about the proposal', which he said could leave vulnerable young people 'thrown to the wolves'.

"It seems to me that this is being done as nothing more than a cost-saving measure," he said. "Sometimes these decisions can be taken too quickly without thinking through the consequences.

"Some of these young people may be able to make their way in the world at 18 - but it would be foolish not to judge these on a case-by-case basis.

"It seems like they are using a sledgehammer to crack a nut here."

Under the proposals, all support would be withdrawn from the asylum seekers only following a Human Rights Assessment.

This would consider the impact of the withdrawal, which would be implemented over a 12-week period.

During the 12-week period the young people will be supported to 'return to their home country'.

Both the Human Rights Assessment and 12 week period of withdrawal are in place to mitigate against the impact of the funding withdrawal and provide reasonable time for alternative arrangements to be made by the young people.

A spokesman for Northamptonshire County Council said: “Young people would continue to be supported over a 12-week period to secure alternative arrangements and/return to their home country. All support would be withdrawn only following a Human Rights Assessment that considers the impact of withdrawal and would be implemented over the 12 weeks.

“Other Local Authorities throughout the country are already following this procedure and we are changing our approach to bring us in line with this practice.

“The Immigration Act 2016 makes clear the government's position regarding asylum seekers who have Appeal Rights Exhausted status. That position is that they are unable to access Local Authority support and there is a bar on accessing national benefits and financial provision.”