Nottinghamshire County Council has said that it can’t meet the shortfall in funding needed to support voluntary schemes that help care for unaccompanied asylum seeking children – which it says is currently £14,000 per child. Labour’s Liz Plant says the council is ‘turning its back’ on ‘some of the world’s most vulnerable children.’
During a meeting of Nottinghamshire County Council’s Children & Young People’s Committee today (Monday, 17 July), a decision was made to suspend the council’s involvement in the voluntary schemes which were set up last summer for placing unaccompanied asylum seeking children (UASCs) across various areas of the country following unprecedented numbers of migrants and asylum seekers arriving in Europe, including the UK via Northern France.
Committee chairman, Councillor Philip Owen said: “For many years, UASCs have spontaneously arrived in Nottinghamshire claiming asylum. We have a statutory duty to look after these children and will continue to do so. Over the last five years, we have looked after around 40 such asylum seekers. This has been at a cost to Nottinghamshire County Council taxpayers of more than half a million pounds.
“These other schemes however are voluntary and our decision to suspend Nottinghamshire’s participation in them has been made to protect our budget. We are already under significant financial pressure to protect services across the board and not least the interests of vulnerable children and young people across Nottinghamshire who are and will remain our priority.
“The average extra cost to Nottinghamshire for a UASC is estimated to be around £44,000 per child in terms of social work, placement and education costs. However, we are only reimbursed £30,000 per child by the Government, which leaves us with a calculated average shortfall of £14,000 per child – something which is unsustainable in the current climate.
“It is incumbent on the Government to fully fund this policy rather than it falling to the Nottinghamshire taxpayer and we are writing to the minister of state for immigration requesting that funding be made available to meet this shortfall. We would, of course, reconsider participation in the schemes if they were fully funded centrally.
Councillor Liz Plant – Labour’s Lead Spokesperson for Children and Young People’s at Nottinghamshire County Council –
‘When Labour was the administration at Nottinghamshire County Council it was our policy to support this scheme, we are aware that the Government should be funding this scheme adequately, so why are the Conservatives not asking their own Government for adequate funding?
These children are fleeing war torn areas, persecution and in some cases death. These children are on their own, frightened and often very traumatised. It is appalling that out of all the policies a new governing administration could chose to implement, the Conservatives at Nottinghamshire County Council chose to target the most vulnerable children. Their decision means that Nottinghamshire turns their back on some of the world’s most vulnerable children’
Nottinghamshire Labour believes that the Council should receive adequate funding and that the council should take direct action and lobby the Government for this funding. At this stage the Conservatives have not contacted officials at the Government, they have not asked for any additional funding. We believe that we need to put the pressure on the Government. Whilst pressure is put on the Government to give proper funding, we strongly disagree with the proposal that we should withdraw from the East Midlands scheme.
“Of the nine local authorities in the East Midlands with responsibility for looking after vulnerable children, four others are not participating in these voluntary schemes. They are: Northamptonshire, which has a significant number of statutory looked after UASCs and therefore is not required to do so; and Derby City, Lincolnshire and Leicestershire which have chosen not to participate
“If we hadn’t taken the decision to suspend our involvement, the decisions to pull out by other local authorities could well have put further pressure on our finances with more UASCs being sent to us from other parts of the country.”