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SESPM Topical Issues

SESPM Topical Issues


Asylum accommodation and support system

Home Office colleagues will be producing a more formal update and a FAQ about how the asylum accommodation and support system is adapting to the challenge posed by COVID-19. In the meantime, here are some key developments. These are up-to-date at time of writing (on 23/03/20), whilst we will endeavour to keep them updated, it is worth noting that they may have changed subsequently.

  • The Home Office, following guidance from Public Health England, has been working to set up a response for new asylum seeker arrivals who are displaying symptoms of the coronavirus. This has entailed procuring two hotels in London which will be used to enable the self-isolation of all new arrivals displaying symptoms from across the UK. The Home Office are in dialogue with the relevant local authorities, CCGs and other statutory services about support for these services users. It is expected that the first hotel will come into use on Monday;
  • Any new asylum seekers without symptoms will go into Initial Accommodation and then Dispersed Accommodation as usual;
  • The 28 day move-on period is being extended on a case by case basis. The Home Office will be sharing an inbox for third parties to refer in concerns about particular cases. We will share this as soon as it is provided.

Strategic Migration Partnerships are having regular calls with the Home Office for the purpose of information sharing, and to raise issues and concerns. Please let us know about challenges as they arise, particularly if you think they are being overlooked, so that we can raise them in this forum by emailing Roymillard@secouncils.gov.uk

Migrant Help update

Please find here an update from Migrant Help on how their services are developing and adapting in response to the current situation.

Information on COVID-19 for non-UK nationals

Many of you will be aware that Doctors of the World, in collaboration with other civil society partners, have been translating official government guidance on COVID-19 into a wide range of languages. I understand that Clearsprings has this week been distributing this guidance to asylum seekers. The latest translations can be found here.

Doctors of the world have kindly said that they are happy for links to these resources on their websites to be added to your Council websites if you wish to share them that way also.

On Friday, the Government released translated guidance for self-isolation and social distancing into the following languages: Arabic, French, Mandarin, Cantonese, Polish and Welsh. The links to this guidance are here:

Migrants who are vulnerable to Covid-19

PHE and DfE have created this link for any migrant (or NGO/VCO assisting that migrant), to register themselves with the NHS if they have any of the following health conditions which would make them more vulnerable to Covid-19,so that they would be eligible for extra support measures.

  1. Solid organ transplant recipients
  2. People with specific cancers – People with cancer who are undergoing active chemotherapy or radical radiotherapy for lung cancer
    · People with cancers of the blood or bone marrow such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma who are at any stage of treatment
    · People having immunotherapy or other continuing antibody treatments for cancer
    · People having other targeted cancer treatments which can affect the immune system, such as protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors
    · People who have had bone marrow or stem cell transplants in the last 6 months, or who are still taking immunosuppression drugs
  3. People with severe respiratory conditions including all cystic fibrosis, severe asthma and severe COPD
  4. People with rare diseases and inborn errors of metabolism that significantly increase the risk of infections (such as SCID, homozygous sickle cell)
  5. People on immunosuppression therapies sufficient to significantly increase risk of infection
  6. People who are pregnant with significant heart disease, congenital or acquired”

For asylum seekers, this support obviously is in addition to, rather than in place of, the support which is provided by AASC/AIRE.

Local Government Association & Resources for Local Authorities

The LGA have created this resource for local authorities which is a general hub for all concerns from local authorities relating to Covid-19.

Information on the £1.6 billion that the Government has pledged to support to local authorities work surrounding Covid-19 can be found here.

DfE and PHE Guidance for self-isolation within residential settings for young people such as in children’s homes, boarding schools or universities can be found here. Guidance for self-isolation within nursing homes for people with learning disabilities, mental health and/or other disabilities can be found here.

Client Resources – ESOL 

The following links provide information on where you can access good quality online ESOL  provision.

Future of Resettlement Post 2020 – A New Global Scheme!

The Home Secretary has written to Parliament outlining the future of Refugee Resettlement in the UK. From 2020 all existing schemes will be consolidated into a new global resettlement scheme, broadening the geographical focus beyond the Middle East and North Africa region so as to be better placed to swiftly respond to international crises, in coordination with global partners. The new scheme will continue to resettle the most vulnerable refugees, as identified and referred by UNHCR. The scheme aims to resettle 5,000 people within its first year, with subsequent targets renewed on an annual basis. Rates of support to local authorities will remain the same as they are presently, and the Community Sponsorship Scheme will also continue. A new process for emergency resettlement will also be developed, allowing the UK to respond quickly to instances of heightened protection need, providing a faster route to protection where lives are at risk. SESPM and SEEC will consult with our local authorities to share information about the new scheme and to understand the commitment they can make.

Click here to access the full Ministerial written statement and here to access the Government’s press statement.

New Asylum Support Contracts Announced

The Asylum Accommodation Support Contracts (AASC)  and the Advice Issue Reporting Eligibility (AIRE) contract has now been awarded and will replace the current COMPASS arrangements in September this year. The details are contained within this  ministerial statement.

In summary for the South East, the incumbent provider, Clearsprings Ready Homes have been awarded the contract for Initial Accommodation, Dispersal Accommodation, Transport and associated Support Services. Migrant Help have been awarded the single, national contract for Advice Issue Reporting Eligibility services.

Windrush Compensation Scheme

A 12 week Government consultation is currently open which will feed into the creation of a Windrush compensation scheme for all those who have been adversely affected. The consultation will run until the 11th October 2018, and is open to those who have suffered loss or difficulty as a result of not being able to prove their status in the UK as well as friends, family and representatives of those affected. The final scheme will be announced as soon as possible after the end of the consultation. Should you wish to request the attendance of the Home Office compensation team at an event please contact: windrushcompensation@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk. Respond online here. Request a paper or email copy to be sent by completing the form here. For enquiries or to complete the document over the phone, call freephone on 0800 678 1925. There is also an information pack to help share information with Commonwealth Citizens including the Windrush generation about the support available following issues faced by some individuals over their immigration status.

The Home Office presented an update at all SESPM’s Sub Regional Strategic Migration groups through September 2018  on the actions being pursued in respect of addressing the issues arising from ‘Windrush’. This includes the consultation events covering the support available, gathering lessons learned and compensation.

In order to assist local authorities helping undocumented Commonwealth Citizens the NRPF network has created guidance. The Local Government Association (LGA) has also issued advice regarding Commonwealth Citizens without status.

Refugees – South East update

The majority of South East local authorities are accommodating refugees as part of the Government commitment to resettle 20,000 Syrian refugees by 2020. The refugee resettlement scheme has now been extended to include a further 3,000 people in families from the Middle East and North Africa and SESPM continues to receive pledges from South East local authorities to place refugees. SESPM co-ordinates refugee arrivals to the South East and works closely with local authorities to match the individual needs of arrivals with pledges received.

Further information on the national scheme is available from LGA, which has published a one-stop resource for councils to answer questions about the local authority role in resettling refugees. The LGA information includes updates on the details of a funding package to assist local authorities who offer to help refugees. The package includes financial support for councils. LGA has also produced a guide to support available to local authorities resettling refugees after the first year.

South East residents who want to offer accommodation should contact their local authority directly. Residents who want to donate money or goods should visit the Home Office advice page, which lists organisations to contact.

At the start of the resettlement programme SEEC and SESPM  published a Member Briefing on the Syrian Refugee Relocation in September 2015, an updated member briefing in November 2015 and a further update in April 2016.

The Government has recently published an overview of the UK’s resettlement policies and main resettlement schemes.

Further information on SESPM activities and the support it provides to local authorities is available from SESPM Head of Partnership Roy Millard. Contact him at roymillard@secouncils.gov.uk


SESPM also provides support and information to help local authorities make the best use of Government funding for English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) to help refugees learn English. SESPM has commissioned a ‘how to guide’ on delivering ESOL and a helpdesk to provide information and offer support with commissioning of new ESOL provision. An interactive map has also been created to help identify local ESOL providers in your area. A key challenge facing ESOL practitioners is how to provide language training to those who speak no or very little English, especially to those who may not be literate in their own language. These learners are classified as ‘pre-entry’ level within the UK education system.  Consequently, SESPM commissioned Learning and Work Institute (L&W) to create a pre-entry ESOL guide focusing exclusively on this issue, containing advice such as how to undertake initial assessment and overcome barriers to progression as well as useful resources.

SESPM and L&W’s event on the 20th November 2019 focused on young ESOL learners aged 16-19 proved very popular with 94% of respondents saying they felt the day had fully met its aims. Topics covered on the day include: supporting young people to access suitable ESOL provision (with a presentation from Pathways to Independence), accessing suitable provision including work experience, (with presentation from Philips), examples of good practice from colleges (with presentations from East Surrey College, John Ruskin College and Milton Keynes College). The final report from the day can be accessed here. L&Ws slides from the day including key resources for learners in this cohort can be accessed here.

South East authorities participating in any of the resettlement programmes can contact the helpdesk via southeastesol@learningandwork.org.uk.


SESPM also works with the Learning and Work Institute to support local authorities helping refugees into employment. Together we created an Employment Guide. The guide was officially launched on March 26th 2019 at an event focusing on employability held in Reigate and attended by over 70 people. In addition to introducing the guide, the event featured presentations from the Home Office, Department for Work and Pensions, and case studies of successful employment initiatives taking place in Oxford and Reigate. Feedback from the event was very positive, with 91% of respondents felt that the day had fully achieved its stated aims and 94% stated that the topics were relevant to their work.

Refugee Resettlement Workshops

South East authorities provide a significant contribution to the Refugee Resettlement Programmes i.e. Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme (SVPRS) and Vulnerable Children’s Resettlement Scheme (VCRS).

In supporting our authorities SESPM runs quarterly multi-agency workshops for practitioners addressing key areas such as cultural orientation, health, education, reporting requirements, financial arrangements and topical issues.

We are grateful to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) for their ongoing support in delivering these workshops. This is an example of a typical agenda.

SESPM is supported in delivering the resettlement programmes and coordinating these workshops by an expert Programme Coordinator, Susan Fawcus; for further information please contact Susan on sespm@secouncils.gov.uk.

Community Sponsorship

In addition to the local authority-led model for refugee resettlement, SESPM is assisting in providing information and raising awareness about the Community Sponsorship modelFull community sponsorship is a way that community groups can be involved in supporting the resettlement of vulnerable people fleeing conflict.

SESPM works alongside RESET,  a new charity partnering with leading refugee, faith and community charities to promote community sponsorship across the UK.

National Transfer Scheme and Children’s Programmes

A National Transfer Scheme (NTS) for unaccompanied children came into operation on 1 July 2016 and SESPM has been delivering a coordination function to support placement of children in local authorities in the South East where capacity allows.

The partnership has a seconded Principal Social Worker, Sarah Spain, who is assisting councils on Migrant Children.  Sarah is providing expert support which covers Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC), transferred to the UK under the  so called ‘Dubs’ amendment (section 67 of the 2016 Immigration Act) and others arriving under the Dublin III regulation, which allows children to be reunited with family living in the UK.

This work includes organising practitioner training in key areas including Age Assessment, Trauma Training and Child Trafficking as well as coordinating a practitioners’ group. SESPM also sits on the National Police Chiefs Council task and finish group on UASC issues.

For more information please contact sarahspain@secouncils.gov.uk

Asylum – Asylum Accommodation Contracts

Current contracts to provide asylum accommodation and support expire in September 2019. SESPM has supported engagement with South East local authorities and third sector partners to contribute to the consultation to inform the new arrangements through the Asylum Accommodation and Support Transformation (AAST). More information is available through this briefing note on the LGA website.

Controlling Migration Fund

The Controlling Migration Fund is designed to support local areas facing pressures linked to recent immigration.

The Fund will be available over the 4 years from 2016-17 to 2019-20 and is in 2 parts:

  • A local service impacts part of £100 million, to help English local authorities and their communities experiencing high and unexpected volumes of immigration to ease pressures on local services.
  • An enforcement part worth £40 million to direct enforcement action against people in the UK illegally in order to reduce the pressure on local areas

The Government website provides more details of the fund including projects granted and how to apply.

The Controlling Migration Fund has also provided some additional funding for local authorities and local projects for building capacity to support unaccompanied asylum seeking children.

Assisted Voluntary Returns and Voluntary Departures

Some people choose to return to their country of origin through a Voluntary Departure scheme.

SESPM works with the Home Office Voluntary Departure Unit to promote awareness of the voluntary return options for people with irregular immigration status or who have an outstanding asylum claim. SESPM sits on the national Voluntary Returns Steering group and connects our partners with the Voluntary Returns Unit through our South East No Recourse to Public Funds and Sub-Regional meetings.

Migration Data

SESPM contributes to SEEC’s twice-yearly data dashboard, reporting key trends in migration across the South East. Headline Statistics are included in the dashboard. The Home Office gives quarterly updates on immigration statistics and Local Area Migration indicators are produced by the Office for National Statistics on a yearly basis.

The Migration Statistics User Forum is supported by the Office for National Statistics and aims to be the strategic voice of users of official statistics. It’s next conference takes place on the 19th October 2018.

Modern Slavery

SESPM has been working with many partners to fight modern slavery in the UK. To find out more information, please look at our Modern Slavery page.

Impacts of Irregular Migration in local areas in the South East

SESPM worked with the University of Reading to research the impacts of irregular migration. This work aims to identify and fill evidence gaps around why people become visa-overstayers and the impact that this has on society and the economy, including labour markets. Headline findings from this research cover:

  • Work is a key driver
  • High housing costs in the SE do not appear to be a significant barrier
  • Existing networks play a significant role in determining the flow & destinations of irregular migrants
  • The SE proximity to London and relative diversity may reduce the visibility of irregular migration
  • The impact on public services and how they are/are not accessed
  • The role of irregular migration in meeting employment gaps.

Migrant skills and the South East economy

In July 2017 SEEC and SESPM ran a workshop on Brexit, migration and skills in the South East economy. Dr Carlos Vargas-Silva of the Oxford University Migration Observatory set out an analysis of economic migration and the impact of EU workers on the South East. 17% of South East residents (925,000) were born outside the UK, of which 42% (384,000) are EU nationals (making up 7% of the total South East workforce).  Significant numbers of EU nationals in the South East work in the banking and finance, public administration, education, health & care and construction sectors.

Sectors and Skills – in 2012 SESPM worked with the University of Reading to identify migrant skills and occupations within the South East. This work highlights the significance of migrant labour to the South East and UK economy, identifies the sectors and occupations migrants are working in and provides a comparison between employment of migrant and native labour over a five year period. Available here are the executive summary, main report and appendices  1-3, 4a, 4b, 5a, 5b, 6a and 6b.

Labour reliance – A major piece of research identified potential skills gaps in LEP areas as a result of the cap on non-EU migrants entering theUK. Seven reports below outline the situation in 7 LEP areas which have a footprint in the South East:

2012 Data for the South East as a whole, Coast to Capital, Enterprise M3, Essex, Kent & East Sussex, Oxfordshire City Region, Solent, Thames Valley Bucks and Thames Valley Berkshire.

2010 Data Coast to CapitalEnterprise M3Essex, Kent & East SussexOxfordshire City RegionSolentSouth East Midlands; and Thames Valley.

Bulgarian and Romanian migration – SESPM commissioned this report from the University of Reading to provide partners across the South East with an independent, practical planning resource to respond to any increase in migration from Bulgaria and Romania from January 2014 onwards.

The report helps local organisations develop a proactive approach to forward planning and effectively assessing and addressing any local impacts. Published in November 2013, review the Executive summary or read the full report.

Gurkha Community

The 2011 census identified that the South East region is home to the largest Nepalese population in the UK with 40% of the total residing here. A full breakdown shows the locations and numbers of Nepalese communities across the area.

Research in 2010 reported on the integration and settlement of Gurkha communities living in the South East of England. Amid concerns that the growing Gurkha community might increase costs for local authorities with a high Gurkha population, the research found a very high level of economic activity among Gurkha families in the South East. See also a brief summary of the research findings or read the full report.

This project received coverage in the media, highlighting the Ghurkhas’ contribution to the economy.

Integration Project(s)

SESPM has been working proactively to jointly co-ordinate an effective coalition of regional partners to deliver shared integration goals.

A particular outcome of this was the development of the South Coast Integration Partnership (SCIP) covering local authority and voluntary sector partners in Portsmouth, Southampton and Brighton & Hove. The partnership demonstrates a model which can be replicated across the South East.

The Controlling Migration Fund was announced in November 2016 and it is designed to support local areas facing pressures linked to recent immigration.

The Fund will be available over the 4 years from 2016-17 to 2019-20, and is in 2 parts:

  • A local service impacts part of £100 million, to help English local authorities and their communities experiencing high and unexpected volumes of immigration to ease pressures on local services.
  • An enforcement part worth £40 million to direct enforcement action against people in the UK illegally in order to reduce the pressure on local areas.

Impact on Policing

SESPM and the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) worked to establish a baseline strategic assessment into the impacts of migration on policing in the South East. The headline findings from this research cover:

  • Understanding the Context of Migration.
  • The Need for Cultural Awareness
  • Interpretation and Translation Costs
  • Destitution and Street Living
  • Local Expertise and specialist knowledge
  • The Role of First Response
  • Migrants as Victims and Perpetrators of Crime:
  • Data Gaps.

Positive Futures Project

The Positive Futures pilot project addressed a key issue affecting former Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children who become Appeal Rights Exhausted when turning age 18. This can lead to a state of limbo during which time these young people are not entitled to work, education or benefits, which increases their vulnerability to exploitation. The project identified the key barriers that these young people cited as preventing them considering a voluntary return to their country of origin as enforced returns are often complex and lengthy.

SESPM and the Centre for Public Innovation  jointly led the delivery of a pilot project which worked  with a cohort of young asylum seekers aged between 18-25 years to make active steps to overcoming barriers to considering voluntary return.

This project was evaluated by the University of Kent and two key policy recommendations presented to the Home Office.

17/07/2014 – Final Report from the Positive Futures roundtable event.


The work of SESPM is funded by the Home Office. For more information on South East Strategic Partnership for Migration contact Roy Millard at South East England Councils –roymillard@secouncils.gov.uk 01304 872186