Ms J Williams, UASC Strategic Manager, was in attendance for this item.
1. Ms Williams and Mr Segurola introduced the report and responded to comments and questions from the Panel, as follows:-
a) the deadline for local authorities to commit to take part in the National Transfer Scheme (NTS) was 22 September 2016, so the final level of take-up could not yet been identified. However, 38 local authorities were known to have signed up to take part;
b) responsibility for assessing the age and health status of a new arrival would fall upon the authority taking over responsibility for them via the national transfer scheme. However, if there was any suspicion that they were older than they purported to be, the County Council would investigate this upon their arrival in Kent;
c) the duties which would arise when a young person turned 18, and the associated costs, may deter other local authorities from taking over responsibility for them in a dispersal scheme. Mr Segurola confirmed that this was a huge concern for many local authorities. In Kent, the 18+ accommodation funding available was adequate to cover the costs of in-house foster carer placements but not adequate for independent foster carer placements. Kent’s shortfall in Home Office grant funding for this in the current year was expected to be approximately £2million. In addition, the County Council was the ‘anchor’ authority for the NTS and should be adequately funded for undertaking this administrative role;
d) Mr Segurola referred to a new but increasing trend for young arrivals not to claim asylum, and hence not be part of the cohort for which the County Council could claim Home Office UASC funding. Those who were accompanied but whose companions later left them also did not qualify as UASC and hence would not attract funding, although their status as children in care required the County Council to take responsibility for them. Those over 18 whose rights to remain had been exhausted had to be accommodated in the county at the County Council’s expense, while Human Rights assessments were completed;
e) the youngest UASC to arrive in Kent was 6, travelling with a sibling of 8, although the main cohort was aged between 15 to 17, with a few aged 11 or 12;
f) the pressures previously placed on accommodation services had eased since 2015. Young people aged over 18 would be supported via shared accommodation services, which were currently being re-commissioned;
g) the provision of education placements for UASC was another pressure for the County Council, and finding suitable placements was a challenge for foster carers looking after them. Secondary education for UASC was a big issue as there was a dis-incentive for colleges to offer sufficient entry-level courses for them. UASC would arrive and want to enter college throughout the year, so were often not on roll at the start of the academic year, when funding was allocated for the number of students then enrolled. In addition, provision of good English as a Second Language (ESOL) courses was inconsistent across the county. These issues were similar to those experienced by special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) students, and colleges were often reluctant to look beyond a student’s basic English and maths skills. What was required for UASC students was a more bespoke programme of courses; and
h) some schools seemed to be reluctant to enter UASC students for GCSEs as they feared that it would harm their performance figures. Mr Doran undertook to look into this issue.
2. RESOLVED that the information set out in the report and given in response to comments and questions be noted, with thanks.