More funding has been made available to local authorities to support unaccompanied asylum seeking children.
Immigration minister Caroline Nokes announced that, following a review of existing funding arrangements, rates currently paid at £71, £91 and £95 should be uplifted to £114 per UASC per night from 1 April 2019 onwards.
"Home Office funding for local authorities supporting UASC provides a contribution to their costs. The decision to increase these rates reflects the incredibly valuable work local authorities undertake with vulnerable UASC, and the Home Office commitment to supporting this," said Ms Nokes.
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.
Rachel Dickinson, President of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, said“Unaccompanied asylum-seeking children and young people can be very vulnerable; they’ve fled their home countries and risked their lives in search of safety. As local authorities we take our duty to care for all children seriously and we give a cautious welcome to the long-awaited news of this uplift in funding as some recognition of the financial pressures we face. It is step in the right direction and acknowledges the fact that the costs of caring for and supporting 16- and 17-year olds are the same as for under 16s. This is important because the majority of unaccompanied minors who arrive spontaneously are in the 16/17 year old age group.
“Without their own family around to help them to transition to adulthood, unaccompanied children and young people leaving care at 18 years old require extra help to prepare for further study or employment and to find their own place to live. We are supporting growing numbers of care leavers and will continue to discuss an uplift in this rate with the Home Office as well.”
Cllr David Simmonds, Chairman of the Local Government Association’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.
“The amount of money spent by councils on providing vital care and support for unaccompanied children seeking asylum has almost doubled in four years as a result of a sharp increase in numbers. We are pleased that the government has listened to councils by announcing new funding to help tackle some of this rising cost pressure and to help meet joint commitments to support children starting a new life in the UK.
“Given that councils have seen an increase of more than 50 per cent in two years in unaccompanied children leaving care when they turn 18, we hope the government’s ongoing review of support for care leavers addresses this remaining cost pressure.
“With the vast majority of refugee children aged 16 or 17, this change in funding needs to be followed through so that care leaving costs, which are equal to or greater than those of non-UASC, are fully funded, as this remains the main barrier to councils taking on responsibility for ever-growing numbers.
“Councils are already under massive financial pressure supporting children in care, with children’s services in England facing a £3.1 billion funding gap by 2025. It is vital the government uses the Spending Review both to plug this gap and to fully fund councils’ support of unaccompanied children, young people and families," he added.