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Council leader welcomes financial aid to support asylum-seeking children

Cllr Damian White wants local authorities across the UK to do their fair share 

The leader of Havering Council has welcomed changes that will spread responsibility for unaccompanied children seeking asylum across more local authorities in the UK. 

The government has announced councils will receive an additional £20 million to ensure they can properly support unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC). 

A rota will also be set up to tell them how many kids they should expect to receive and when. 

Cllr Damian White, the leader of Havering Council, said: “London boroughs have a long and proud history of looking after vulnerable children fleeing difficult and traumatic circumstances.

“We are pleased that today’s announcement recognises the need for more funding in this area. This is an important improvement in the overall package of support.” 

There were roughly 1,500 UASCs  being looked after by London boroughs in March 2018. That is roughly one third of all UASCs who were in the UK at the time. 

The government has announced the changes shortly after Kent Council said it would not accept any more UASCs. 

The council has warned its services are at a breaking point for the second time in less than a year and it is caring for double the amount of children regulations state it is safe to. 

Cllr White also raised concerns that the scheme is voluntary meaning some councils will continue to bear more of the burden than others. 

“The previous voluntary scheme did not succeed in creating a fair and equitable national process, putting significant pressure on many councils – in particular, but not solely, in areas where UASC are most likely to present themselves, including several London boroughs,” he explained. 

“There is an urgent need for the new scheme to show that it can work.”

The government has also revealed a pilot team of expert social workers will help local councils with age assessments, ahead of broader age assessment reforms under the New Plan for Immigration.

More than 50 local authorities that are particularly struggling to care for UASCs will also receive a share of £6 million in funding from the Department for Education. 

Minister for immigration compliance and justice, Chris Philp, said: “I am grateful for the many local authorities that support a significant number of vulnerable young asylum seekers.

“But the current system has not been working as intended with significant pressures being placed on particular areas.

“Caring for unaccompanied asylum seeking children is a national responsibility, which is why we are introducing a system that will ensure that these children and young people continue to receive the support they need whilst also ensuring a fairer distribution across the UK.”

The changes to the National Transfer Scheme will come into effect “as soon as possible”.  

For more on this story, and the latest on our other local and national news, listen to Time 107.5FM

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