Thursday 25 July 2024
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Nottingham

40 children under council care are unaccompanied asylum seekers

More than 40 children looked after by Nottingham City Council are unaccompanied asylum seekers, figures show.

They include children and young people who have been separated from their parents and carers and are seeking asylum in the UK.

While their claims are processed, they are cared for by a local authority.

The number of children in care in Nottingham has increased over the last four years by 14 per cent, compared to five per cent in England overall.

As of March 2023, the Labour-run council was looking after 721 children and young people.

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Of these children, six per cent, roughly 43, were unaccompanied asylum seekers.

The figures are due to be discussed during a Children and Young People Scrutiny Committee on Thursday, March 28.

The council will be discussing the sufficiency of placements for children in care, including the rising costs.

“Local authorities have a statutory duty to ensure sufficient accommodation for their looked-after children and young people,” documents say.

“This duty requires local authorities to take steps that secure, so far as reasonably practicable, sufficient accommodation within the authority’s area which meets the needs of children that the local authority is looking after, and whose circumstances are such that it would be consistent with their welfare for them to be provided with accommodation that is in the local authority’s
area.

“Sufficiency of placements remains a major local challenge within an
increasingly difficult national context.”

The council says around 60 per cent of children and young people are looked after by a foster carer, however, there has been a steep increase in the need for residential and supported accommodation placements.

Many of these placements are commissioned by the private sector, where costs are increasing.

“The steep increase in external residential placements over the last 24 months has been the result of a lack of fostering placements to meet demand,” documents add.

“This means more children where fostering would have been a suitable option, are being placed in residential homes, impacting further on the availability of residential placements for young people with complex and challenging behaviours.”

The overall spend on placements in 2022/23 was £57m, an increase of 27 per cent on the previous year.

This was largely put down to an increase in spending on all external residential placements, such as secure provision and residential homes.

A recent response to a Freedom of Information request, submitted by the Local Democracy Reporting Service, revealed private care providers alone were paid a total of £44.990m by the council, or around £3.7m every month.

Work to put in place critical changes in the council’s children’s services is ongoing after they were rated ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted in 2022, the lowest possible rating.

Progress on an action plan will also be discussed on March 28.

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