Kent County Council Leader Paul Carter said: “I have today met with the Home Office to discuss both the impact of Operation Stack as well as the number of Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children entering the Port of Dover and Kent County Council’s duty of care to provide for them.
“It is putting enormous strain on our children’s social services.
“We are now caring for 605 under 18s and face a shortfall of £5.5 million in costs to care for them.
“Staff are working flat out to support these vulnerable young people through our reception centres and we are urgently looking at new premises in order to expand the facilities.
“We are now working with the Association of Directors of Children’s Services to come to a dispersal arrangement outside of Kent as we need places across the country where they can go after assessment.”
As of last night, KCC provided 1,500 bottles of water yesterday plus 300 meals were handed out to freight stuck in Stack.
Today, a further 500 meals and bottles of water are being prepared.
Today’s story in the Telegraph:
A spokesman for Kent County Council said: “Under the Children Act 1989, it is KCC’s legal responsibility to care for under-18s who arrive in the county from abroad, seeking asylum.
“Recent world events have led to a huge increase in the number coming through the Port of Dover and Eurotunnel, and Kent is now at breaking point.
“The number of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in our care has increased from 220 in March last year to 368 in March this year and 629 by Friday (31 July).
“After an assessment of their physical and mental health, language ability and other issues, those under 16 go into foster care and 16-17-year-olds go either into foster homes or into supported accommodation.
“We have no more foster beds available anywhere in the county and the current situation is unsustainable.
“We have been working with the Home Office and the Department for Education to try to address this problem; we are asking for a fairer distribution so that these young people are placed across the whole of the UK, and not just left here in Kent.
“We have had some productive talks with the Directors of Children’s Services for other local authorities and have begun transferring a number of UASC to foster homes in areas close to Kent – about 50 so far.
“It has been necessary to transfer some by taxi, for which charges of up to £150 is not unusual, depending on distance. These have generally been the 16-17-year-olds, as younger children are usually taken by our own staff.
“We are trying to keep these costs to a minimum and have negotiated better rates by entering into contracts with some firms. We hope to recoup these costs from central government in due course.”
You can listen to Cllr Oakford discussing the issue on the American radio station NPR here.