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.
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 730 by today (September 4).
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.
Although we receive government funding to provide care for these children, we currently face a shortfall of £5.5 million in costs to care for them.
These children have often experienced traumatic journeys and have fled from extremely distressing situations.
A reception centre is a place where newly arrived young people are supported for a maximum period of six to eight 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.
KCC Cabinet Member for Specialist Children’s Services Peter Oakford said: “What we have here is children from all around Europe and Asia and different African nations.
“They all get on famously well. They’ve got a smile on their face. But when you find out about their stories, their journey here, you wonder how they have such a bright outlook on life.
“One thing is clear, they’ve left war-torn zones, they’ve left behind horrific experiences and they’re here to start a new life. They all want to get on in life and have professional careers.
“These are very bright young people with some amazing career aspirations and we’re putting them on their first step to achieving that and reach their aspirations.”
Cllr Oakford added: “We all hear the stories about asylum seekers coming into the country but the positive atmosphere and the team spirit on display here has to come down to the staff working with them.
“There are English classes here, they’re being taught to do their laundry and learning about the culture of Great Britain. They’re going through health assessments and everything they need to do to live here.
“They’re not here to cause trouble. These are young people who have run away in fear of their lives. I hope the local community will support these young people and see what a fantastic bunch they are.”
Numbers of Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC) in Kent
|July 31, 2015:||629|
|September 4, 2015:||730|
The overall spend that Kent County Council is forecasting on UASC (including Care Leavers) in 2015/16 is £34m and are assuming £27.8m will be reimbursed by Home Office, leaving a shortfall of £6.2m.
Over the last five years the cost to Kent County Council over and above that which has been met by grant from the Home Office is as follows – effectively the shortfall that the county council has had to fund.
Kent County Council current average weekly costs for each age band of UASC against what the Home Office propose to pay us in grant can be seen in the graph below: