Children asylum seekers put strain on social services

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, writes Lauren

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

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

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, with the
survey finding 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 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 are not adequately meeting the young people’s

The report calls for more joined up thinking at government and
local authority level, and specifically for the introduction of
“minimum acceptable standards of care and service provision” for
these young people and “adequate financial resources” to ensure
these standards are met.

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”.

Peter Gilroy, ADSS asylum spokesperson and Kent council’s
director of social services, added: “There are excellent services
that have been developed around the country, but there is –
as the report highlights – difficulties regarding the status
and services to some young people.”

Copies of ‘Cold Comfort’ are available from 01752 202301.



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