Lone child plan in tatters
Since the government floated plans to divert lone child asylum seekers away to a number of specialist authorities outside of London and the South East last year, councils have been wary.
Questions over whether adequate funding will be provided have persisted and now threaten to put the timetable for reforms into disarray. The government hoped to start negotiations with councils in spring with the aim of getting the first authorities in place by the autumn.
But in April, the 10 councils supporting the majority of asylum-seeking children claimed they – and authorities across the country – were owed millions of pounds in unmet costs. The UK Border Agency has now agreed to negotiate historic settlements, which are understood to be trickling through, but until these are completed to councils’ satisfaction it looks unlikely that the reforms can gain momentum.
Mark Rogers, chief executive of Solihull Council, which is among those in talks over becoming a specialist authority, says councils will “happily re-engage” with the reform process but only on the condition that demands are met. He says councils need time to plan properly for the changes ahead if these vulnerable children are to receive the improved services they need.
Both sides must reach an agreement quickly to ensure that the burden carried by over-stretched councils in London and the South East is not simply shifted.