DESTITUTE asylum-seeking and migrant families are increasingly being told that their young children and babies can only be accommodated if they are taken into care, according to charities working to support them.

Positive Action in Housing (PAIH), which offers spare rooms to thousands across the UK who are refused accommodation by the Home Office through its Rooms for Refugees scheme, says it is currently housing five families with young children or babies.

Three of them were told by Glasgow City Council’s social services that they could only offer to accommodate the child, separating them from their parents.

One family that the charity is supporting comprises refused asylum seekers who claim they cannot return to their home country out of for fear for their lives. The National understands they are preparing to submit a judicial review on their case, a process that could take several months, but which means they are not currently judged eligible for support. The couple, who have been in the country since 2009 and previously slept rough on occasion, now have an eight-month-old baby. They were told they could not be housed by social services as a family, a decision which PAIH insisted was against the child’s best interests.

Another woman, also being housed by the scheme, was left destitute with her newborn baby and was only saved from street homelessness by friends who put her up when she left hospital.

She claimed social worker said her baby might have to be taken into care if she could not find anywhere to live, although she was breastfeeding and recovering from a C-section.

Robina Qureshi, director of PAIH, said: “We were informed by client’s caseworkers – including the British Red Cross – that accommodation was sought with us after social services told three families in Glasgow that they would accommodate the child but not the parents.

“Parents are frightened into not seeking help from social services in Glasgow as they fear their children being taken away.

“Social services should honour its obligations and not force parents into destitution or effectively threaten parents with removal of the child. Recently the numbers have increased. We are supporting five families currently, whereas it is usually individuals or couples only.”

The charity has also been approached by others who have managed to access emergency support – known as section 98 – at the last minute, she added.

Phil Arnold, head of refugee services in Scotland for British Red Cross, said the charity was “deeply concerned” by the number of destitute families it has seen who had been refused support by social services.

“There appears to be a change in practice within local authorities,” he said.

“In our experience social services have used section 22 of the Children Scotland Act to provide accommodation and financial assistance to families as a unit in order to prevent the destitution of the children within the family.

“Recently, we have supported families to seek support from social services and families have been advised that the only type of support they were willing to provide was to take the children into care, despite there being no concerns about the care provided to the children by their parents.”

The most recent figures from Refugee Survival Trust, which provides grants for destitute asylum seekers, show that the charity provided financial support to 88 children in a three-month period. Nine children were homeless at the time of the application.

The Asylum Support Appeals Project has also raised concerns that rules due to be implemented under the Immigration Act look set to make it harder for refused asylum seekers with children to access emergency support, or appeal against decisions not to offer it.

A Glasgow City Council spokesman said: “We are fully aware of the difficulties faced by asylum seekers who have no further appeal rights and no recourse to public funds.

“We do look at cases on their individual merits to establish whether support can be provided within the context of the law.

“It’s impossible to comment on the cases being referred to in this instance without being made aware of further detail.”