Government money to help local authorities support an influx of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children will cover “no more than 50%” of the full cost to children’s services, directors have said.
In a report published today on the pressure the refugee crisis and rapidly increasing numbers of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC) in care is placing on children’s services, it was projected that the shortfall faced by local authorities would be £3.4 million per year per 100 children.
The publication, by the Association of Directors of Children’s services, said there needed to be a “strategic, operational and resource response that is realistic and achievable and one that takes into account the dual and longitudinal pressures of supporting UASC when they become care leavers”.
The government has provided councils with enhanced funding rates for unaccompanied children taken into care between July 2016 and March 2016, worth roughly £20 a day above the standard rate.
“The enhanced funding rates made available to councils covers the cost of some types of placements but not social work time and translators,” sad the report. “To date, the gap in funding has been filled by individual councils but this is not sustainable.”
The publication used information returns from over 100 local authorities. The report also warned that social workers and other frontline professionals needed to know about “entitlements” for the young people in the early stages of their time in the system.
“As most of the current cohort of UASC is over the age of 15, a key task for social workers is also to prepare these young people for transitions to adulthood in the context of the uncertainty of their immigration status,” the report said.
The report also found that since the summer, where local authorities were supporting an estimated 4,689 UASC, there had been a “sharp increase” in the arrivals of unaccompanied children.
Dave Hill, president of the ADCS, praised how local authorities had responded to the crisis, but said current funding levels were unsustainable.
“Finding a safe, suitable placement is the main priority for us but it is getting increasingly difficult due to the ongoing national shortage of foster carers,” he said. “Earlier this year the Fostering Network suggested that an extra 7,600 foster carers were needed in England, this figure is now much greater as we prepare for the arrival of more unaccompanied children and young people in the coming weeks.”
He added the crisis is increasing the use of independent fostering agencies which was “driving up costs and draining already stretched council budgets”.