Councils to pay for asylum seekers with special needs

Local authorities will have to foot the bill for vulnerable
asylum seekers who also have special care needs, three appeal court
judges ruled last week.

The test case firmly places responsibility for destitute asylum
seekers who have community care requirements with local
authorities, and not the National Asylum Support Service

Nass was established last April under the Immigration and Asylum
Act 1999 and is responsible for supporting asylum seekers who do
not have means of obtaining adequate accommodation or cannot meet
their other essential living needs.

But the new ruling confirms that this responsibility does not
extend to those asylum seekers already covered by the National
Assistance Act 1948 – which obliges local authorities to provide
accommodation and support to “those in need of care and attention
which is not otherwise available to them”.

Westminster Council, which lodged the appeal, argued that the
1999 act had shifted responsibility for this group of people from
local authorities to Nass.

It argued that Nass should pay the £176 per day hotel bill
for accommodating an Iraqi Kurdish asylum seeker who suffers from
spinal myeloma. Sabiha Mirza Y-Ahmad was assessed by the council on
discharge from hospital as requiring a carer for getting between
bed, chair, bath and wheelchair as well as personal care in respect
of washing, dressing and using the toilet. She also required
accommodation near the hospital with at least two rooms with
disabled access.

But Lord Justice Simon Brown ruled: “Mrs Y-Ahmad’s case is a
clear one. She, on any view, appears entitled to 1948 act
assistance and thus is excluded from section 95 [of the 1999 act]

He added: “I would end by expressing the hope that Nass will
continue to accept responsibility for supporting the great majority
of asylum-seekers and that local authorities will only be expected
to assist those comparatively few whose need for care and
assistance qualify them under the 1948 act.”

Chairperson of Westminster’s social services committee Kit
Malthouse said the council was “extremely dismayed” by the appeal
court ruling.

“Once again, local authorities will be forced to pick up the
cost for the most vulnerable asylum seekers as Nass refuses to meet
the cost of accommodation and living needs of those with an
additional or special need,” he said.

“The elderly, depressed or disabled will come under the special
needs category, despite the fact that they are asylum seekers and
need ordinary accommodation and subsistence similar to any other
asylum seeker without these needs.”

A Home Office spokesperson welcomed the judgement’s “helpful
clarification” on the relative responsibilities of Nass and local
authorities, but said it should only be viewed as a test case for
cases where the requirements of the disabled asylum seeker are so
extensive that they need to live in residential care or 24-hour

“We do not take the judgement as meaning that any asylum seeker
who has any disability is automatically the responsibility of the
local authority, and we do not envisage that this will have a major
impact in terms of numbers of cases,” she added.

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