A former reception centre for unaccompanied asylum seeking children is being brought back into use to help tackle the current pressures on Kent County Council’s Children’s Services.
The site is part of the KCC-owned Swattenden Centre, an outdoor education and residential facility near Cranbrook.
Preparations are now in hand to get the Appledore building ready for about 40 UASC, which will help ease the pressure on the council’s main centre near Ashford.
Appledore was originally part-funded by the Home Office as a reception centre for unaccompanied children and now that the numbers have increased significantly, it will be returned to its former use.
KCC cabinet member for children’s services Peter Oakford said: “We need extra capacity as it is not possible to predict the number of unaccompanied asylum seeking children who will arrive at the border in need of our care.
“Since June this year there has been an unprecedented increase in the number of arrivals. We have accommodated as many as is possible in our existing provision at Ashford, but it reached full capacity several weeks ago.
“We therefore carried out an appraisal of all KCC properties to identify suitable buildings that could be used as a reception centre.”
KCC has already announced plans to convert Ladesfield, a former residential care home in Whitstable, into a temporary reception centre. Ladesfield was vacant and available, and was the first property to be identified.
Cllr Oakford added: “We always knew it was a short-term solution, so the search for other properties continued and Appledore was identified. Plans were put in place to make it suitable, and it should be ready in the next two weeks.
“Although the legal responsibility for these children rests with KCC, because Kent is where they first enter the country, we have also succeeded in working in co-operation with other authorities who have agreed to take some of our UASC.”
Frequently asked questions
Why does Kent County Council have responsibility for these children?
Kent County Council has legal duty of care for all children in Kent who have no parent (or someone who can act as their parent). This includes unaccompanied asylum seeking children (UASC) who arrive in Kent. (The Children’s Act 1989)
These children have often experienced traumatic journeys and have fled from extremely distressing situations, they require our care and support
Who pays for Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children?
Kent County Council receives funding from the Home Office to provide care.
What is a reception centre?
A reception centre is a place where newly arrived young people are supported for a maximum period of 6 to 8 weeks each; during this time their social care, education and health needs are assessed and care plans put in place. They also receive orientation and independence skills, training and support.
Will the unit be for males and females and how many will be there?
The centre is only for males aged 16 or 17 and will accommodate up to 40 at any one time.
What happens after the 6 to 8 weeks?
After this time the young people will be moved to more permanent supported accommodation units which are situated across Kent.
What will they do all day?
Whilst in the centre the young people will be assessed and education and care plans put in place. They will also receive orientation, independence skills and training and support. In addition to this they will be learning the English language.
What security measures will be in place?
We will be working closely with Swattenden Centre on any security arrangements that they feel need to be put in place. The reception centre will be staffed 24 hours a day.
How many staff will there be at the centre?
The reception centre will be staffed twenty four hours a day. Between the hours of 8.00 am to 10.00 pm, there will be a minimum of 5 staff on duty to care for the young people. In addition, there will be a range of social workers, education staff, advocates and interpreters who will be in attendance during the core working hours of 9.00 am to 5.00 pm undertaking assessments and working with the young people. Support staff will also be in the centre during those hours. Between 10.00 pm and 8.00 am there will also be staff responsible for maintaining security in and around the building.
Will the young people be able to leave the property? If so will they be supervised?
The young people are not in detention so will be able to leave the property, but they will be escorted when off site as required
What is the Government doing?
We are working closely with the Home Office to identify both short term and longer term solutions within Kent and nationally to the significant increase in the number of UASC arriving in Kent.