Local authorities' spending on supporting unaccompanied asylum seeking children has risen by 95 per cent in four years, according to the latest figures.
Councils spent £77 million supporting unaccompanied asylum seeking children in 2014/15 and this rose by 95 per cent to more than £152 million in 2017/18. The figures also reveal that the number of asylum-seeking children and young people in care in England under 18 rose from 2,760 in 2014/15 to 4,480 in 2017/18.
Councils have also seen an increase of more than 50 per cent in two years in unaccompanied children leaving care when they turn 18, but remaining the responsibility of the local authority.
There were 4,660 unaccompanied children leaving care in 2016, which went up to 7,130 in 2018.
The costs relate to children’s social care costs for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children which includes assessment and care management, the cost of finding accommodation, ensuring education including costs of peripatetic support workers and grants to voluntary organisations that support unaccompanied children.
These figures do not include the cost of a child’s care placement, meaning overall care costs are likely to be much higher.
The Local Government Association says councils are eager to build on their strong track record of supporting those resettling in new communities, including lone children seeking asylum. However unprecedented funding pressures and growing demand for help are challenging their ambitions to provide the best support possible.
The LGA, which represents 370 councils in England and Wales, is urging the government to complete its long-awaited review of the cost to councils of supporting unaccompanied children, and for this to provide the long-term funding arrangements that give councils the resources required to offer the care and support that children in their care, and those leaving that care, deserve.
There are already significant pressures on children's services which face a £3.1 billion funding gap by 2025 just to continue operating at current levels, the LGA warns.
The government needs to plug this shortfall in this year’s Spending Review, the LGA states.
Cllr David Simmonds, Chairman of the LGA’s Asylum, Migration and Refugee Task Group, said:
“Councils have a strong track record supporting those resettling in the UK and are committed to providing the best support possible. However given the significant financial pressures councils are under as they set local budgets and council tax in the coming weeks, achieving the level of support new arrivals are legally entitled to is becoming more and more challenging.
“Councils want to make sure every child in their care gets the very best support which keeps them safe from harm, and enables them to go on and live fulfilling, happy and healthy lives.
“This is why the government needs to announce the findings of its long overdue review into the funding of support provided by councils for unaccompanied children.
“It is vital this includes a pledge to properly fund the joint commitment to support unaccompanied children, young people and families starting a new life in the UK. We also need to see the government tackle the wider funding shortfall facing children’s services in the forthcoming Spending Review," he concluded.