County strug­gling with young asy­lum seek­ers

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Night Lights - By Paul Fran­cis Po­lit­i­cal Editor

The gov­ern­ment is fac­ing a call from Kent County Coun­cil to bring in a na­tional dis­per­sal sys­tem for young asy­lum seek­ers af­ter a warn­ing the county was be­yond sat­u­ra­tion point.

Con­ser­va­tive leader Paul Carter said the cri­sis was con­tin­u­ing to put pres­sure on Kent and the strains were in dan­ger of af­fect­ing the ca­pac­ity of so­cial ser­vices to look af­ter its own vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren. He re­vealed the to­tal num­ber of young­sters in the county now stood at 1,122.

That in­cludes asy­lum seek­ers who have turned 18 but ar­rived in the county when younger and re­main un­der the statu­tory care of so­cial ser­vices.

He warned the strains of cop­ing with the ris­ing in­flux was be­gin­ning to im­pact on how the coun­cil dealt with its own vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren.

In fur­ther in­di­ca­tions of the im­pact the refugee cri­sis is hav­ing, it emerged so­cial ser­vices chiefs had con­sid­ered us­ing army bar­racks as ac­com­mo­da­tion and that KCC had been forced to take on 18 agency so­cial work­ers to cope with the work­load.

The county coun­cil leader said he had writ­ten to the Home Sec­re­tary Theresa May call­ing for a scheme to lift the pres­sure.

The coun­cil has three cen­tres open for young asy­lum seek­ers, two of which were re­cently opened to cope with a surge of ar­rivals.

Cllr Carter told a meet­ing of the full coun­cil last week: “We have had in nor­mal times up un­til about nine months ago 250-300 asy­lum seeker chil­dren. That has now gone up to 1,122 young­sters to whom we have a duty of care.”

He said he had reser­va­tions a vol­un­tary sys­tem in which coun­cils of­fered to take young asy­lum seek­ers based on the gov­ern­ment’s pledge to meet all rea­son­able costs went far enough.

“To date, we have only been able to place 33 of those young­sters with other coun­cils and we have had to place 196 of those we are look­ing af­ter our­selves out of the county.”

“I have writ­ten to the Home Sec­re­tary to say that it has be­come im­pos­si­ble to man­age the on-go­ing re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of that num­ber of asy­lum seek­ers and the vol­un­tary sys­tem has not worked.”

“We need ur­gently to get man­aged dis­tri­bu­tion be­cause it will start to dis­rupt the place­ment of our own vul­ner­a­ble young­sters chil­dren with foster par­ents and into care be­cause we are more than sat­u­rated.”

KCC es­ti­mates it faces a huge short­fall of about £5 to £6m be­cause although the gov­ern­ment re­im­burses most costs, it does not cover the full ex­penses.

What do you think? Write to Ken­tish Ex­press, 34-36 North Street, Ash­ford, TN24 8JR or email ken­tish­ex­press@thek­m­

Pic­ture: SWNS.COM/Adam Gray

Num­bers of chil­dren are in­creas­ing

Paul Carter says the county is un­der pres­sure

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