The government’s plans to reform services for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children faced a backlash from councils it was alleged this week. Some local authorities were reported to be reluctant to take on responsibility for the group due to potential leaving care costs.
Under last week’s plans, 50 to 60 authorities would care for the children to relieve pressure on councils in London and the South East, which currently care for most of them.
But a source close to the proposals said the Home Office has found it difficult to get councils to come forward as potential specialist areas due to concerns about the cost of providing leaving care services to unaccompanied minors once they reach 18. The government estimates there are 6,000 unaccompanied young people receiving leaving care support.
The source said the proposals, under which unaccompanied asylym-seeking children whose claims failed would routinely be returned to their country of origin before they turn 18, were designed to try to appease the councils by reducing the numbers of children entitled to leaving care support.
Lisa Nandy, policy adviser for young refugees at The Children’s Society, said the plans would lead to the creation of a second-rate system for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, compared with services for looked-after children, especially given the proposals in last year’s Care Matters green paper.
“If you look at all the stuff in Care Matters saying looked-after children remain very vulnerable even when they are 18, [this is] completely the opposite,” she added.
Adrian Matthews, adviser on asylum to England’s children’s commissioner, said once unaccompanied asylum-seeking children discovered they would be removed at 18 “they are going to disappear and that’s extremely dangerous”.
A Home Office spokesperson said it was unable to speak for the councils and denied the plans would create an inferior system for the group.
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