1. The Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Education, Roger Gough, gave a verbal update on the following issues:-
Update on Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children (UASC) – there were currently 315 UASC under 18, more than the same time one year ago, and 893 over-18 UASC care leavers. The National Transfer Scheme was based on the principle of no local authority having any more than its share of the UASC in the country, which was set at 0.07% of its population of children and young people. Kent’s share on this basis would be 231 UASC. 137 UASC had arrived in the county so far in 2019, compared with 172 arrivals for the whole of 2018. Changes to the financial support available had been reviewed, which would help the rates of support available for 16-17-year olds but leave a shortfall of funding for care leavers, so the County Council would continue to press for a review of this area of funding. Government funding of £407,000 had been allocated to Kent from the Controlling Migration Fund. This could be spent on housing, emotional health and welfare services and language support for UASC.
Housing-Related Support for young people – the Council’s policy on this had been reviewed early in 2019, to target key groups; children in care, care leavers and 16- and 17-year olds at risk of becoming homeless, who would previously have been housed in unregulated accommodation. New accommodation providers were being commissioned. Although there had been some problems, for example, Trinity Foyer closing, many issues were now resolved, and recent discussions with borough and district councils had been positive.
2. Mr Gough, Sarah Hammond (Director of Integrated Children’s Services, East) and Mr Dunkley then responded to comments and questions, including the following:-
a) asked what proportion of UASC care leavers stayed in Kent after leaving care, and with how many the Council was still in contact, Ms Hammond advised that the Council was in touch with 85.2% of UASC care leavers who had ever been in the care of the county. This figure would be reported to the Department for Education in the regular return. Of the 893 UASC care leavers, 345 were living outside the County Council’s administrative area, but 254 of these were living in Medway. Because many UASC care leavers lived in Medway and the Canterbury area, money from the Controlling Migration Fund would be focussed on these areas. Mr Gough added that the services which the County Council was obliged to provide for care leavers up to the age of 25 had a take-up rate of 50% among citizen children but 100% among UASC care leavers;
b) Nancy Sayer (Designated Consultant Nurse for Looked After Children) added that any increase in the number of UASC in the county also had an impact on NHS resources and its ability to meet its targets, for example, for initial health assessments. The East of Kent in particular had higher numbers of UASC. The NHS did not receive any additional Government funding to cope with increases in UASC numbers, and whenever the Council lobbied the Government for additional funding it would always be helpful to highlight this fact. Mr Gough undertook to address this issue with the new Immigration Minister, to seek to continue the progress which had previously been made in this area; and
c) Mr Dunkley suggested that he write to the new Secretary of State for Education and the Children’s Minister and invite them to attend a future meeting to see how the Panel engaged and worked with young people.
3. Mr Dunkley reported on a recent event on Lifelong Links which he and Chelsea Goodwin (Apprentice Participation Worker) had attended and the work Chelsea had undertaken to ensure that the language used in the literature was as clear as possible for children and young people to understand. The Panel thanked and congratulated Chelsea on her commitment to this work and for her contribution to making the Lifelong Links project as easy as possible for young people to understand and relate to.
4. It was RESOLVED that the verbal update be noted, with thanks, and Chelsea Goodwin be thanked and congratulated on her commitment to this work and for her contribution to making the Lifelong Links project as easy as possible for young people to understand and relate to.