The UK government has introduced legislation to extend a scheme which ensures the care responsibilities of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children is shared by local authorities to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the Immigration Minister announced.
Once passed, this legislation will enable local authorities across Scotland and Wales, and Health and Social Care Trusts in Northern Ireland, to participate in the scheme which has been running in England since July 2016.
The National Transfer Scheme (NTS) is a voluntary scheme which means that local authorities which are caring for a disproportionate number of unaccompanied children can transfer children to another council with capacity.
The scheme helps ensure there is a more even distribution of caring responsibilities and that all children get the care and support they need. Local authorities are currently providing support to over 4,500 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children.
Immigration Minister Brandon Lewis said:
The National Transfer Scheme is essential in ensuring all unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in the care of local authorities get the support they need.
I am delighted that so many local authorities have already expressed their interest in getting involved. By bringing forward this legislation we will have a truly national scheme.
I hope that going forward, local authorities from all across the UK will volunteer to play their part in providing protection for the thousands of children who need our help each year.
Secretary of State for Wales Alun Cairns said:
I want to be sure that all unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in Wales can secure the best possible care. Welsh local authorities have a long history of collaboration and I am glad that they are prepared to work together to support each other in this vitally important area.
Since the scheme was introduced last July, over 550 children have been transferred between English local authorities.
The UK government remains committed to helping and supporting children in need of international protection. Since 2010 the UK has provided protection or another form of leave to remain to over 49,000 children including almost 9,000 in the year ending September 2017.
Last month, the UK government also published a safeguarding strategy which sets out a vision and commitment to caring for and supporting unaccompanied asylum-seeking and refugee children.