Children’s commissioner Al Aynsley-Green has accused a London council of unlawfully depriving unaccompanied asylum-seeking children of support in order to save money.
Aynsley-Greeen (pictured) has written to Hillingdon Council charging it with prematurely moving all unaccompanied asylum-seeking children from the looked-after to the leaving care system, where they have fewer rights. He points out that the council does not apply the same policy to other children in care, who remain in care up to the age of 18.
Hillingdon, which looks after about 900 unaccompanied minors due to its proximity to Heathrow, refused to comment on the claim. But deputy director of children and families services Cathy Bambrough emphasised that it was disputing funding levels with the Department for Education and Skills, which “did not fully fund us to care for these vulnerable young people in the way we would wish”.
Aynsley-Green’s office has alleged that the council is removing all unaccompanied asylum-seeking children over 16 from the care system after 13 weeks, the minimum period young people must spend in care to qualify for leaving care services. Unaccompanied minors who enter the council’s care system at a younger age are being transferred to the leaving care system when they turn 16.
The commissioner’s policy adviser on asylum, Adrian Matthews, said the council was acting unlawfully by applying its policy to all unaccompanied asylum-seeking children as this meant it was not carrying out assessments on the basis of each child’s needs, as required by the Children Act 1989.
“It means that local authorities cease to be the corporate parent and they provide a much lesser level of service,” said
Matthews, adding that the council was not applying its “deaccommodation” policy to looked-after children from the UK, making it highly discriminatory.
He said the children’s commissioner’s office was aware of other London councils operating similar policies to Hillingdon, and feared the practice might spread further due to Hillingdon’s influential position in relation to the treatment for unaccompanied minors.
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