Today's Home Office stories include the extension of stop-and-search powers and funding for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children.
Stop and search powers extended
The Times reports that police are to get more powers to stop and search people they suspect of carrying acid and other corrosive substances in public. The Home Secretary is to broaden the circumstances in which it can be used after the public supported such a move.
Of 213 replies to the public consultation on the issue, 90% strongly agreed that a new power was needed to allow police to investigate the possession of a corrosive substance. A new offence, carrying corrosives in a public place, is included in the Offensive Weapons Bill currently before Parliament.
The number of assaults involving corrosive substances has more than doubled between 2012-13 and 2016-17 and most took place in London.
The Poisons Act has already been amended so that anyone buying substances which contain more than 15% sulphuric acid requires a license and sentences for those caught carrying a corrosive substance twice will be brought into line with those found twice with knives. Police have also started carrying ‘acid kits’, which include equipment to deal with an attack.
The National Police Chiefs Council has welcomed the changes.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid said:
Anyone who carries acid to maim and disfigure others is a coward who deserves to face the full force of the law.
That is why we are giving police officers greater powers to help bring them to justice and protect the public from their sickening crimes – which can leave victims’ with life-changing injuries.
The police are clear stop and search is one of the most important tools they have in the fight against serious violence - I will continue to give them the support they need to do their vital work.
Funding for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children
The Telegraph and Mail report that supporting unaccompanied asylum-seeking children cost local authorities over £150m last year.
According to the Telegraph, council spending on care for child asylum seekers has almost doubled in four years as authorities are being forced to cut services and raise council tax, new figures show.
The Local Government Association (LGA) says spending on child asylum seekers has risen to £152m. It warns a sharp increase in unaccompanied asylum-seeking children after the migration crisis in 2015 contributed to a "soaring" demand on children's services.
The LGA asylum, migration and refugee task force chair, David Simmonds, called for the Government to "properly fund the joint commitment to support unaccompanied children".
The Mail notes that nearly 4,500 children are supported by councils across the country.
A Home Office spokesperson said:
We are very grateful to local authorities who provide care for a significant number of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children.
We are currently reviewing the funding arrangements and over 50 local authorities have taken part. We hope to reach a conclusion soon, but it is right that we take time to thoroughly assess the evidence.
We are committed to putting in place arrangements which work as well as possible for both the unaccompanied children and local authorities.