Stretched and underfunded services place refugee children in jeopardy

Social services departments across the UK are in contact with an
estimated 23,000 children of asylum seekers and 6,000 unaccompanied
minors, a new survey by the Association of Directors of Social
Services reveals.

In the year to April 2001, this added pressure on children’s
services cost social services departments an estimated £87.5m.
Only a third of departments said their extra expenditure had been
fully refunded.

To cope with demand from asylum-seeking children, a quarter of
social services departments had commissioned more social workers,
and additional in-house and external foster placements. Almost half
of the departments required extra interpreters, and more than a
third needed the help of extra support and administrative

The issue of asylum seeker children also took up “significant
amounts of management time” in 43 per cent of departments. Just
under a third of departments had created dedicated teams of social
workers to meet the special circumstances, and 42 per cent had
introduced additional staff training.

Earlier fears among directors of the potential for widespread
abuse of these children seem at least partially founded. The survey
found that nearly a quarter of authorities had recorded incidents
of physical abuse, a quarter were aware of cases of neglect, and
nearly 12 per cent reported cases of sexual abuse.

The survey, sent out to every social services and social work
department in the UK in July and returned by half, also shows that
levels of racist activity were high in some areas, although others
were not aware of any racist incidents at all.

Overall, though, social services departments believed they were
maintaining Children Act 1989 standards in respect of protecting
asylum-seeking children – although a small proportion were not
applying the act’s standards in respect of vetting adult

However, a separate report published this week by Save the
Children into unaccompanied young asylum seekers and refugees
describes the services and care provided for these vulnerable
children as a “lottery”.

The charity’s findings show that many of the 16 and 17-year-olds
interviewed were placed alone in private accommodation with little
or no monitoring and support, and that some private providers
contracted to take responsibility for care and support provision
were not adequately meeting the young people’s needs.

The ADSS welcomed the charity’s findings but stressed that many
of the concerns were already being dealt with in consultation with
the Department of Health and the Home Office, with guidance due out
“very soon”.

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