Local authority duty of support

Asylum seekers who have care needs can, in most circumstances, access care and support from their local authority.

This content applies to Scotland

Asylum seekers and care needs

Local authorities have a duty to provide support and, in some circumstances, accommodation to individuals ordinarily resident in their area who have a care need. A person who has been dispersed to a local authority area as an asylum seeker should be considered to be ordinarily resident in that area. [1]

Generally speaking, a person will have a care need when their age, illness or disability affects their ability to live independently. Where it can be established that an asylum seeker has such a need, support of that person will be the duty of the local authority. [2]

However, in order to establish that a local authority has a duty to provide care and/or accommodation it must first be shown that the asylum seeker's need for care has not arisen solely as a result of destitution or the prospect of destitution. [3]

It has been held by the Court of Appeal that an applicant will only qualify for local authority assistance where her/his need for care and attention is made significantly more urgent by circumstances other than a lack of accommodation and funds. [4] Relevant circumstances might include pregnancy, learning or physical disabilities, illness and/or old age.

Ultimately the question that should be asked is whether destitution is the only element that creates a need for care and attention. If it is, then the asylum seeker will not be eligible for assistances from her/his local authority.

Last updated: 11 December 2019


  • [1]

    NASS Policy Bulletin 82, Asylum Seekers with Care Needs

  • [2]

    s.68 Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968, Westminster CC v NASS [2002] HL

  • [3]

    s.120 Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 and s.12(2A) Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968 as inserted by s.118 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999

  • [4]

    R v Wandsworth LBC ex parte O; R v Leicester CC ex parte Bhikha [2001] 1 WLR p.2539