County struggling with young asylum seekers
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.
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Numbers of children are increasing
Paul Carter says the county is under pressure