Kent strug­gling to cope with in­flux of young refugees

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Refugee Crisis - By Paul Fran­cis

Kent has reached sat­u­ra­tion point for deal­ing with young asy­lum seek­ers, say so­cial ser­vices chiefs.

Kent County Coun­cil re-opened a re­cep­tion cen­tre in Cran­brook this week and has al­ready trans- ferred 28 teenage boys there from its other re­cep­tion cen­tre in Ash­ford, the Mil­bank cen­tre.

That has been deal­ing with close to twice as many chil­dren as it has space for.

An­drew Ire­land, the au­thor­ity’s di­rec­tor of so­cial ser­vices, said the coun­cil had been un­der a huge strain be­cause of the es­ca­lat­ing refugee cri­sis.

While it had met is statu­tory obli­ga­tion to find a place for ev­ery young asy­lum seeker, it had only done so with the help of other coun­cils and plac­ing some with foster fam­i­lies out­side Kent.

Mr Ire­land told a cross-party back­bench meet­ing: “This has put a huge strain on the ser­vice, par­tic­u­larly on se­nior man­agers and on our place­ment find­ing staff, all of whom have done a ster­ling job.

“We have to date had 33 young peo­ple taken by other coun­cils, which we are very grate­ful for.”

The coun­cils in­clude Bath and Hartle­pool.

Mr Ire­land went on: “We have reached, in terms of our abil­ity to place young­sters in the county, reached sat­u­ra­tion point.”

The open­ing of the cen­tre in Cran­brook had eased the sit­u­a­tion greatly, along with a lull in the num­bers ar­riv­ing in the UK, he added.

Another cen­tre in Whit­stable, in­volv­ing the con­ver­sion of a for­mer old peo­ple’s home, is due to open shortly.

De­spite the pres­sures, the pub­lic­ity given to the death of the three-year-old Syr­ian tod­dler has seen KCC in­un­dated with of­fers to help.

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