Agenda item

Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC) - update report

Minutes:

1.            Mrs Hammond introduced the report and updated the Panel on activity since the issue had last been reported to the Panel in September:

 

·         social workers from Kent were currently in France, assisting French authorities to place the children from the Calais ‘jungle’.  

·         since the start of the National Transfer Scheme (NTS) in July 2016, 117 of the 152 UASC who had arrived in Kent since July had been moved on to other local authorities in the UK.

·         the County Council would continue to lobby the Home Office about the challenges of coping with large numbers of UASC and the inadequacy of government funding to cover the demands of caring for them, particularly those over 18, for which funding did not cover the costs of providing leaving care services. 

·         an ongoing challenge for UASC in Kent was access to suitable school and college courses, including English as a Second Language (ESOL).

 

2.            Mrs Hammond and Mr Segurola responded to comments and questions from the Panel, as follows:-

 

a)    Kent would have the costs of placing four social workers and two team managers in France refunded by the Home Office. This work had been progressing well and was helping the County Council’s relationship with the Home Office, which now seemed to be understanding the challenge facing Kent and the legacy of long-standing UASC cases upon which the NTS would have no impact;

 

b)    it was confirmed that the staff in France were from the central UASC service which has been set up in 2015. Their absence from their usual posts in Kent would not impact on the support and services available to Kent’s own children in care and those facing the challenges of leaving care, which continue to be a struggle for young people and the foster carers supporting them;

 

a)    the central UASC team had been set up to support and look after the high numbers of unaccompanied children who entered Kent’s care last year, who would otherwise have been supported by the mainstream children in care services (already looking after 1,400 children in care from across the county). As the majority of UASC who entered Kent’s care in 2015 were older teenagers, and were now passing their 18th birthdays and becoming eligible for leaving care services, the County Council was seeing the impact on the 18plus service. The number of UASC care leavers was gradually increasing from a baseline of 300 to the present 600, and would reach 1,000 by the end of 2017. The structure and capacity of the 18plus service was being reviewed to meet this increased demand, to avoid detriment to Kent’s citizen care leavers;

 

c)    if all local authorities in England, except London Boroughs, were to take a share of UASC so that no one local authority had more than the Home Office’s calculated minimum of 0.07% of the population, there should be places for 11,000 UASC.  However, currently only 4,000 UASC had been placed out of Kent; 

 

d)    concern was expressed about the County Council’s scope to support care leavers wishing to continue their education at university, in terms of helping them to pay fees or find accommodation; and

 

e)    more detail was requested of the number of UASC over 16 in education or training, and Mrs Hammond undertook to provide this information to the Panel via the Democratic Services Officer.

 

3.            The Chairman thanked Mrs Hammond and her team for their work in the pressured and trying field they worked in and acknowledged the much extra work they undertook to help and support UASC arriving in Kent. 

 

4.            RESOLVED that the information set out in the report and given in response to comments and questions be noted, with thanks.

 

  

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