The huge numbers of unaccompanied asylum seeking children arriving in Kent are being dispersed to councils across England, amidst warnings of the pressure they will place on already stretched children’s services budgets.
Kent County Council is currently caring for 605 children under the age of 18 and has said it is facing a shortfall of £5.5million in costs to care for them.
The increase is the result of huge numbers of asylum seekers arriving in Europe, from conflict zones such as Syria and Afghanistan, with many massing at Calais to try and gain entrance to the UK.
Leader of Kent County Council Paul Carter said it was working with the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) on a dispersal arrangement after children had been assessed.
“Staff are working flat out to support these vulnerable young people through our reception centres and we are urgently looking at new premises in order to expand the facilities.”
Alison O’Sullivan, President of the ADCS, said the situation in Kent was now critical.
“Because of the unprecedented pressure on London and the south east we are also asking authorities from across the country if they can help.
“These children, some as young as 12, are extremely vulnerable and in need of our help and support. Our sole focus needs to be on the best interests of the children and ensuring they are properly supported and cared for.”
She said the ADCS was also working with the Department for Education and Home Office on a sustainable national response.
Already stretched services
Cllr David Simmonds, deputy chair of the Local Government Association, said a third of all migrants entering the country were under 18 and called on the government to commit to reimburse the costs in full as the strain on already stretched children’s services budgets risked becoming unsustainable.
“In time of particularly high demand, councils work together to ensure that no young person is left with nowhere to go, but the current situation is placing unprecedented pressure on an already overburdened system.”
He said long-term solutions were needed to ensure local communities did not have to cope with all of the pressures caused by an international problem.
Government offers support
In response, communities secretary Greg Clark said: “My department will stand side by side with all local authorities across the UK facing increased pressures as a result of the situation in Calais, including those helping out by taking on responsibility for unaccompanied children in order to reduce pressure on Kent.
“The government will do everything necessary to support local authorities, with all reasonable additional costs met to ensure they get the assistance needed.”