Government move to slash funding for minors alarms local authorities

Councils have warned they will be left hundreds of thousands of
pounds out of pocket thanks to a government decision to refuse to
fully fund the care and accommodation costs of unaccompanied

Rules on the allocation of the £11m fund set up to help
councils meet their extended duties towards unaccompanied asylum
seekers following a High Court ruling last year will mean some
local authorities receive no funding at all.

A letter sent to the London Borough of Hillingdon by the Department
for Education and Skills reveals the weekly rate paid to councils
for care leavers will be £130. This is a reduction of at least
£35 per week on existing funding which covers all
unaccompanied children. Under the new system no payment will be
made at all for the first 44 unaccompanied minors in each area.

Council leader Ray Puddifoot said the council was looking after 700
unaccompanied minors, and estimated it needed £5m a year to
cover the cost of their care. However, the DfES has allocated the
council just £1.4m, plus an unspecified sum from a £6m
contingency fund.

Puddifoot said the “woefully inadequate sum” had been calculated on
the current number of minors, but 550 who had passed through the
council’s care might return for help.

He said the council had already received dozens of letters from
solicitors representing unaccompanied minors who had left council
care arguing that it had a duty to provide help until the age of

Cash from the contingency pot will be used to pay for people in
this situation but Puddifoot said it was likely to be

Kent social services director and asylum spokesperson for the
Association of Directors of Social Services Peter Gilroy described
the proposed allocation guidelines as “ill-considered”. He said it
made no sense for the DfES to reduce the amount paid per minor at a
time when the Department of Health was to begin checking that
councils were providing minors with additional services.

Last August, the High Court ruled that Hillingdon Council had a
duty to provide care and support for unaccompanied minors until
they were 21, and in some cases 24.

Puddifoot and Gilroy will meet children’s minister Margaret Hodge
this week to discuss the allocations.

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