Citizenship programmes boosted but Blunkett queries children’s services

Home secretary David Blunkett has announced
that an extra £500,000 from the government’s challenge fund
will be spent on funding refugee integration projects across the
country from next April.

Speaking at the Refugee Council’s annual
general meeting last week, Blunkett announced new proposals he
described as “more robust and less socially divisive”. He said:
“There is a great deal more to be done for refugees. This will
double to £1m the amount being spent so we can improve the
process of what we do.”

He added that the funding would be used to
boost citizenship programmes and spent on projects to improve
refugee involvement in life in the UK, such as helping them to
learn English and befriending schemes, as well as health, housing,
education, and employment projects.

In response to a question about the provision
of services for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, Blunkett
said he was not “entirely convinced” that every penny of the
£95m the government allocated to them was well spent.

He said: “We all need to think about how we
can provide legitimate access and support to unaccompanied
asylum-seeking children. Once they have arrived we need to have a
much more streamlined and supportive system.”

Refugee Council chief executive Nick Hardwick
told the conference that he was concerned that unaccompanied
asylum-seeking children were not mentioned in the government’s
proposals for change. He said: “Our major worry is that some of
these children are slipping through local authority safety nets.
There is a view that some local authorities are only acting as

He added the government’s decision to abolish
vouchers for asylum seekers was a u-turn, brought about in part by
pressure from his organisation’s work. He described the move as “a
triple somersault with a backwards flip”.

He added the Refugee Council wanted to work
constructively with the government. “There is no future in sitting
carping on the sidelines, winning most of the arguments, and being

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