Local authorities in London and the South East are caring for more
than 80 per cent of the asylum-seeking children in England who need
social services, new figures have revealed.
The Department of Health’s revised Children in Need
statistics published last week show that, out of 12,080
asylum-seeking children in need in England during one week last
year, 10,255 were being provided with services by councils in the
South East and the capital.
In London alone, nearly 8,500 asylum-seeking children were either
being looked after by social services or provided with assistance
and support to enable them to live with their family or
London boroughs caring for the highest number of children include
Haringey, Enfield, Islington, Westminster and Barnet. In the south
east, Kent, Slough and Oxfordshire Councils were most affected.
The figures – the result of a census in September 2001 looking at
the number of children in need cared for by social services
departments in a normal week – reveals that the weekly cost to
Haringey Council of providing services to asylum seeking children
was £630,000, based on the average child in need costing
social services £230 a week. This accounted for more than
two-thirds of its overall weekly bill for children in need.
Kent Council’s 500 asylum-seeking children cost it £115,000 a
week, or nearly £6m a year. This is likely to be significantly
higher now, as the number of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children
the council cares for has quadrupled over the past year.
Mary Blanche, head of Kent’s asylum seeker unit, said the council
had to place some children out of the county because it didn’t have
enough resources to cope.
“We’re struggling because there’s only so many social workers,
interpreters and specialist foster carers to go round. We’re
calling for a move to a ‘safe case’ transfer to other local
authorities,” she said.
Unlike adult asylum seekers, who are distributed evenly across the
country, unaccompanied children have to be looked after by the
council where they claim asylum.
The extent of the concentration of asylum-seeking children in the
South East surprised DoH officials. The report says: “As might be
expected, there is significant clustering of the figures, though
the actual distribution is rather more uneven than might have been
– Children in Need in England at www.doh.gov.uk/cin/cin2001results.htm