Social care workers are today protesting against “racist” government cuts to services supporting child asylum seekers.
A protest, organised by the Social Work Action Network (SWAN) and supported by UNISON, took place outside the UK Border Agency’s offices in Solihull this morning. It follows cuts to a Home Office-funded grant which the organisations claim has left councils, including Solihull and Croydon, struggling to fund services for asylum seeking children.
In a statement, SWAN and UNISON said the Home Office had confirmed that cuts to services supporting asylum seekers were disproportionately greater than to other departmental areas, resulting in changes to the grant structure for UKBA-funded services.
Solihull Council’s unaccompanied asylum seeking children (UASC) service has consequently received the largest cut of £1.2m, a 15% reduction, the statement said.
SWAN and UNISON claim Solihull Council has conducted a review that accepted there would need to be a reduction of services for child asylum seekers and this would mean “differential and less favourable treatment for unaccompanied children in care and care leavers compared to local citizen children”.
The bodies claim Solihull is planning to move child asylum seekers aged 16 and above from foster care into independent accommodation, and reduce the staffing level of the UASC team, including replacing social workers working with care leavers with support workers.
Jolyon Jones, branch secretary for UNISON Solihull Local Government Branch, said: “This is a complicated issue but at its kernel is the issue of racism. The government does not believe that the full costs of care for child asylum seekers should be met – this is a racist evaluation. There is no evidence that the needs of unaccompanied young people are any the less than UK-born young people.”
UNISON has written to Solihull’s chief executive expressing its concern that resource management may “interfere in professional social work decision-making in regard to the assessment of need” and seeking safeguards to prevent this from happening.
The Social Work Action Network is calling for the grant to be restored and for the full costs of aftercare for child asylum seekers to be met by the UKBA.
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