A government commitment to increase funding and support for the care of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC) in Kent has been welcomed by Kent County Council (KCC) Leader, Roger Gough although several long-term issues still require resolution.
Mr. Gough’s direct appeals to central government for intervention have resulted in a personal commitment from Chris Philp MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Immigration Compliance to increase financial support for the care of UASC and care leavers, along with ongoing assistance to find placements for children outside of Kent.
Government will be seeking support from other local authorities to asking them to receive UASC children on transfer from Kent.
In his letter, the minister thanked Kent County Council for the vital work undertaken to support UASC and stated that KCC had played a “pivotal role” in government’s commitment to safeguard the country’s most vulnerable children.
Roger Gough, KCC Leader, said: “This is a great outcome for Kent taxpayers.
“As a result of our appeals the increased government support, in particular for care leavers, will reduce current costs to Kent considerably.
“The county presently cares for the highest number of UASC nationally and the enhanced funding will amount to in excess of £5 million for Kent this year, significantly easing the financial burden on the county’s residents.
“Government has listened to the case that we made and that is good news for Kent.”
Capacity to accommodate UASC in Kent has been under severe pressure for weeks.
Although the council has engaged with other local authorities to secure some placements elsewhere in the UK, offers received so far are fewer than the new arrivals received in May and many more are required to ease capacity and resources in Kent.
As part of central government’s commitment, the Council will now work with the Home Office and Strategic Migration Partnerships to generate maximum support from other local authorities under the National Transfer Scheme.
However, the council remains concerned that while the increase in rates to support UASC young people and care leavers is welcome, more will need to be done to put the National Transfer Scheme on a sustainable longer-term footing.
Mr. Gough continued: “Concerted efforts to place asylum seeking young people with other local authorities will, if successful, ease some of the pressures that Kent has been experiencing However, our position remains on a knife edge.
“Even with these measures in place, if we see additional large scale UASC arrivals over the summer, our capacity will soon come under pressure again.
“I would like to thank Chris Philp MP and Vicky Ford MP, Under Secretary of State for Children and Families, for their serious engagement with the issue and the commitment they have given to improving the child migrant crisis in Kent.
“This new set of measures will provide much-needed assistance to alleviate the pressure on Kent in the short term. KCC looks forward to engaging with central government further to refresh and incentivise the National Transfer Scheme to provide a sustainable, longer-term solution to achieving the equitable care of UASC nationally.”