The number of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in care rose 29% last year, government data has revealed.
Unaccompanied asylum-seeking children as a proportion of the care population had been decreasing steadily since 2009, but this has risen in the past two years, and did so dramatically in 2014-15, figures published today by the Department for Education show.
The majority of looked-after children in this category are over 16 years old, male and placed in care because of absent parenting. Currently, 4% of looked-after children in England are unaccompanied asylum-seeking children.
African children were the largest group with a defined ethnic origin, with 530 looked after at 31 March 2015, but children of ‘any other White background’ (580) and ‘any other ethnic group’ (850) made up the majority in care.
Barnardo’s chief executive Javed Khan pointed out that the figures would not have included “many more children who came into Kent over the summer”.
“The government must ensure that funds are available to local authorities to support these very vulnerable children,” he said. “Many have experienced unimaginable trauma. They need specialist foster carers who understand their complex needs.”
Alison O’Sullivan, president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, said children’s services were “determined to play their part in the light of the necessary response to the Syrian crisis but our systems are under tremendous strain as they stand.
“We must recognise that every child and every young person in care has their own story to tell and going forward we must consider the best way to secure better outcomes for all children in our care.”
The rise matches an ongoing trend in government immigration figures, with statistics published in August showing a 46% increase in asylum applications from unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in 2014-15.