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It finds that changes by central government to immigration and welfare benefits under the ‘no recourse to public funds’ policy have left local authorities with a duty of care to safeguard children when their parents are precluded from working or accessing benefits. Thousands of children, many of them British citizens, have been found to be in need of services due to destitution under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989, says the report.
Central government determines who may access mainstream welfare benefits, but local authorities have to intervene to provide a safety net for some children whose parents have been excluded. The researchers found that an estimated 3,391 such families and 5,900 children were supported under local authorities’ Section 17 Children Act 1989 duties in 2012/3. Whilst local authorities have a statutory duty to protect children in these circumstances, they receive no central government funding to account for this specific cost. The researchers also discovered that subsistence rates for some families being supported under Section 17 were found to be extremely low – sometimes just over £1 per person, per day.