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ADCS thematic report on unaccompanied asylum seeking and refugee...

The Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) today publishes a special thematic report on unaccompanied asylum seeking and refugee children using data included in the ADCS Safeguarding Pressures Phase 5 research, which will be published towards the end of November.

This thematic report draws together returns from over 100 local authorities in England and supplements this with national data and a literature review to provide an insight into the characteristics and needs of unaccompanied asylum seeking and refugee children and the services available or being developed by councils to meet these needs.

This research shows that:

  • As at 31 March 2016 local authorities were supporting 4,689 unaccompanied asylum seeking children (UASC). However, in intervening months there has been a sharp increase in arrivals of unaccompanied children largely driven by the clearance of the Calais migrant camp, the Dubs Amendment to the Immigration Act and children being transferred under Dublin III arrangements which means that the total number of UASC to date is significantly larger today and is set to grow further in the coming weeks and months
  • 76% of unaccompanied children and young people arriving in the UK were aged 16-17 and over 90% were male, this picture is likely to change as more and more children are reunited in this country under Dublin III arrangements
  • The most prevalent countries of origin for UASC arriving in the UK were found to be Afghanistan, Eritrea, Albania, Iran, Vietnam, Iraq and Syria; regions with long-running conflicts, political instability, and a poor record on human rights
  • Local authorities highlighted the mental and physical health of UASCs arriving in the UK as a common concern, over a third of young people displayed psychological symptoms upon arrival, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, flashbacks and depression
  • A growing concern for local authorities is finding a suitable placement that meets the needs of each child or young person arriving in the UK, over 75% of respondents talked about the struggle to find placements. With the majority of UASC placed in foster care the national shortage of foster care placements was cited as the main challenge for most authorities
  • Using data provided by dozens of responding local authorities ADCS has calculated that the grant funding provided by the Home Office covers on average 50% of the costs of caring for a UASC.

Dave Hill, President of the ADCS, said: “These children have experienced so much in their short lives; they have faced unimaginable trauma and danger and have truly beat the odds to be here. They are extremely vulnerable and their needs are complex. But they, just like our own children, need and deserve love and support to help them overcome their experiences. In recent days and weeks local authorities have accommodated hundreds of unaccompanied children and young people, first from Kent and more recently from Calais. For this I must say a big thank you to my colleagues and all of the social workers and other support staff who have worked so hard on this huge task. The response of local government to this crisis has been truly commendable.

“Finding a safe, suitable placement is the main priority for us but it is getting increasingly difficult due to the ongoing national shortage of foster carers. Earlier this year the Fostering Network suggested that an extra 7,600 foster carers were needed in England, this figure is now much greater as we prepare for the arrival of more unaccompanied children and young people in the coming weeks. This crisis is driving up the usage of independent fostering agencies out of necessity and this in turn is driving up costs and draining already stretched council budgets. Sadly the foster care market has become just that, an opportunity for a small number of operators to make a huge profit from children and this is utterly unacceptable.

“Once they turn 18 UASCs understandably require further support as they do not have their own family around them to help them to prepare for higher study, find employment or their own place to live. Lots of authorities told us in this research that the children and young people they are supporting are finding it hard to understand why it takes the Home Office so long to process their claims for asylum with some cases taking up to three years. This delay adds further stresses and strains on young people who may find it hard to fully settle into their new life and embrace all of the opportunities open to them in this country with this uncertainty hanging over them. This must be an action point for central government.

“Every child and young person, irrespective of how they have arrived in this country, has a right to education or training to help them realise their ambitions. Yet this research highlights challenges in this area, not least accessing language courses when national funding has been cut, the national shortage of school places and the fact that many apprenticeships schemes are only open to those who have been in the country for three or more years. This highlights a tension between the government’s own policies which urgently need reviewing.

“As leaders of children’s services we are doing all that we can to respond to this humanitarian crisis but the ongoing lack of clarity about the exact numbers of children, young people and families expected to arrive through the various resettlement schemes is making it extremely difficult to plan. The will to help these vulnerable children is largely strong in local government, and in local communities, but as our research shows the funding provided by central government is wholly inadequate. As shown by the research the enhanced funding rates made available to councils covers the cost of some types of placements but not social work time and translators. To date, the gap in funding has been filled by individual councils but this is not sustainable. We are increasingly concerned that our ability to meet the needs and wishes of these children and young people could be compromised as a result of this. We must put aside politics and remember that each and every child has their own story their needs must be at the forefront of every decision we take from now on. Government must act swiftly to address the shortfall in funding and placement options that councils currently face to enable us to meet the needs of all those displaced.”

The full thematic report on unaccompanied and asylum seeking refugee children can be found on the ADCS website – www.adcs.org.uk

ENDS



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