Funding for migrant children support wholly inadequate says ADCS

3 Nov 16

Central government funding to support the resettlement of unaccompanied migrant children by local councils is “wholly inadequate”, according to the president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services.

Dave Hill was commenting on the findings of a new report into the nature and needs of unaccompanied asylum-seeking and refugee children, and the services available to meet those needs. 

The report was published today by ADCS, and draws on data from 100 local authorities in England, national data and a literature review.

ADCS calculated that the grant funding provided by the Home Office covers around 50% of the costs of caring for the children. According to the report, the enhanced funding rates made available to councils covers the cost of some types of placements, but not social work time and translators.

Hill said that to date, the gap in funding has been filled by individual councils but this was not sustainable. “We are increasingly concerned that our ability to meet the needs and wishes of these children and young people could be compromised as a result of this.”

Figures from the report show that over the summer, local authorities were supporting 4,689 unaccompanied asylum-seeking and refugee children, but that number has risen sharply recently. Reasons for this rise were cited as the clearance of the Calais migrant camp, the Dubs Amendment to the Immigration Act, and children being transferred under Dublin III arrangements. As such the number of these children is likely to rise substantially.

Around 76% of unaccompanied children and young people arriving in the UK were aged 16-17 and over 90% were male. The most common countries of origin for UASC arriving in the UK were Afghanistan, Eritrea, Albania, Iran, Vietnam, Iraq and Syria – regions with long-running conflicts, political instability and a poor record on human rights.

The research also revealed a growing concern about finding a suitable placement for the children, with over 75% of local authorities reporting a “struggle to find placements”. With most of the unaccompanied asylum-seeking and refugee children placed in foster care, the national shortage of foster placements was cited as the main challenge for most authorities.

Hill said it was unacceptable that certain independent foster care agencies were reaping substantial profits as a consequence. This was “driving up costs and draining already stretched council budgets”, he added.

Responding to the report, David Simmonds, chairman of the Local Government Association's asylum, migration and refugee task group, agreed councils have long faced difficulties in recruiting more foster carers. They are, he said, increasingly having to rely on placements provided by commercially driven private and independent foster care agencies.

“It is simply not right that the government funding rate will not even cover the initial cost of the placement in these cases, let alone the wider care costs to councils,” he stated.

“Having made a national commitment to support young asylum seekers, government must provide the funding to ensure council budgets are able to meet these vulnerable children's needs.”

The mental and physical wellbeing of children being settled was a concern for local authorities, with many UASC exhibiting psychological symptoms, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, flashbacks and depression.

Hill maintained that in this light, “we must put aside politics and remember that each and every child has their own story and their needs must be at the forefront of every decision we take from now on.”

He added the response to the crisis from local authorities and social workers so far had been “truly commendable”, but called on government to act swiftly to address the shortfall in funding and placement options that councils face.

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