Kent County Council is undertaking the refurbishment of the former care home, Ladesfield in Whitstable into a temporary reception centre for Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC) who have recently entered the UK.
The centre will care for 16-17 years old boys and the maximum held at any one time is 40.
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 6-8 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.
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Why does Kent County Council have responsibility for these children?
Kent County Council has a legal duty of care (The Children’s Act 1989) for all UASC who arrive in Kent.
How do you know that they are not over 18?
Unless a young person is clearly over the age of 18, KCC Children’s Services have a duty to provide accommodation for and assume (corporate) parental responsibility for the child.
In cases where children do not have documentation to prove their age, rigorous assessments are then undertaken to ascertain their correct age and if they are found to be 18 or over their asylum claim is processed under adult procedures.
Why was Ladesfield chosen?
A full option appraisal of all buildings held within KCC’s ownership was carried out and Ladesfield was considered to be the building that is most suitable for temporary use and can be brought into operation quickly.
Why can these young people not be supported in accommodation already available?
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 but have now reached full capacity.
What about the existing plans for the site?
The use of Ladesfield as a temporary reception centre during the current upturn in numbers of unaccompanied asylum seeking children does not alter the council’s long term plans for the site or its commitment to the school expansion in 2016.
The planning application for the school expansion will still be submitted with the build programme going ahead in 2016.
Do you not need special planning permission for the site?
No change in usage or additional planning permission is required. The use of the building as a reception centre falls within the current planning classification Class C2 (Residential Institutions).
When will the building be ready?
It is expected that the building will be ready for use in early September.
Why we were not consulted?
A public consultation was not required because this is a temporary arrangement and the building is only to be used for a short period of time before being demolished as part of the expansion of Joy Lane Primary School.
Although a consultation was not required the sheer urgency of this situation meant that KCC was not able to communicate its plans as it would have wished to.
Why was this money not spent on improvements to the care home?
The care home was closed in 2011 because it no longer met the national minimum care standards.
Unfortunately the high cost of refurbishment along with the resultant loss of beds meant it was not practical on a financial or an operational level to continue. It has remained empty since that time.
How much will it cost to run the building?
The amount is not yet confirmed but we fully expect the cost to be met by Central Government rather than Kent residents.
Who pays for Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children?
Kent County Council receives funding from the Home Office to provide care and accommodation for unaccompanied asylum seeking children.
Where will staff and visitors park?
Parking will be available for staff and visitors within the Ladesfield site.
How will this impact on health and education facilities in the area?
There will be very limited impact on health and other facilities. Young people in the centre will not be in schooling and arrangements for health assessments are in place.
What happens after the 6-8 weeks?
After this time the young people will be moved to more permanent supported accommodation units which are situated across Kent.
What security measures will be in place?
The reception centre will be staffed 24 hours a day.
KCC is installing boundary fencing to provide privacy to both the residents of the reception centre and their neighbours. The nursery and Age UK are also being provided with some fencing for their perimeters.
Although these measures are being put in place they are not a requirement for a reception centre.
How many staff will there be at the centre?
The reception centre will be staffed 24 hours a day. Between the hours of 8am-10pm, there will be a minimum of five 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 9am-5pm undertaking assessments and working with the young people.
Support staff will also be in the centre during those hours. Between 10pm-8am 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, if necessary.
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. Recreational facilities will also available on site.
What are the Government doing?
We are working closely with the Home Office and Department for Education to identify both short term and longer term solutions within Kent and national.