Kent County Council has warned is has reached the limit of safe capacity to care for new arrivals of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC).
In an unusual move, the local authority has today (18 August) said it is unable to accept new arrivals until a solution can be found by the Home Office to fairly distribute the children to other local authorities.
The council said with the number of new UASC arrivals escalating sharply this year, an ‘impossible strain’ has been placed on finite social care resources such as social workers, independent reviewing officers, care workers, foster carers, accommodation and funding.
‘I am deeply disappointed and concerned that, despite our many efforts to avoid this unthinkable situation, it has been necessary to make this announcement today,’ said Kent County Council leader, Cllr Roger Gough.
‘This is a huge challenge for Kent, but a relatively small challenge to solve nationally, and should have been resolved before now.
‘Since the arrival of significant numbers of UASC at the port of Dover in 2014/15, KCC has cared for and found homes for over 1,500 UASC in Kent, and is currently responsible for 589 under 18 year-old and 945 (18-25 year-old) care leavers, whilst still sustaining our focus on delivering high-quality services to citizen children in care.
‘The stark reality today is that, despite my conversations with the Home Office alerting them that Kent expected to reach safe capacity to meet its statutory duty of care this weekend, 13 new arrivals in the last 2 days has now tipped the balance and the council simply cannot safely accommodate any more new arrivals at this time,’ added Cllr Gough.
Kent’s cabinet member for integrated children’s services, Cllr Sue Chandler, added: ‘Kent County Council will continue to review the situation and stay in contact with the Home Office and other UK local authorities for support.
‘If every other local authority in the UK were to immediately accept two or three (under 18 year-old) UASC from Kent into their care, Kent’s numbers would reduce to the council’s safe allocation as stated in the National Transfer Scheme (231 children) – Kent is currently caring for almost triple this amount.
‘We are grateful for the support some other local authorities have given recently but unfortunately, due to the continued high level of arrivals, it has not been enough to make a real difference to the numbers in Kent.
‘In the longer term, to ensure that any recurrence of this inconceivable situation is avoided in the future we are appealing to the Home Office to mandate the existing National Transfer Scheme, or provide alternative central government incentives, to guarantee that the future care of UASC is fairly distributed nationally,’ added Cllr Chandler.
In response, a Home Office spokesman said: ‘This is an unprecedented situation and we have been working incredibly closely with Kent County Council to urgently address their concerns.
‘We continue to provide Kent County Council with a high level of support, such as significantly increasing funding and reducing pressure on their services through a national transfer scheme.
‘We are also providing extra support with children’s services and we continue to work across the local government network on their provision for unaccompanied minors.’
Photo Credit – Geralt (Pixabay)