Council spending on lone child asylum-seekers ‘doubles in four years’, LGA

Council spending on care for child asylum-seekers has almost doubled in four years, according to the Local Government Association.

It said figures show councils in England spent £152.4 million in 2017/18, compared with £77.8 million in 2014/15.

Local authorities are required by law to accommodate and care for under-18s who have no relative or guardian in the UK and who apply for asylum in their own right.

The number of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC) being looked after increased sharply after the international migration crisis in 2015.

Since then it has remained broadly flat, standing at 4,480 at the end of March last year.

This was a slight drop compared with the previous year, but the LGA pointed out that the number has risen from 2,760 in 2015.

The body claims the costs and challenges are contributing to “soaring” demand on councils’ children’s services.

David Simmonds (pictured), chairman of the LGA’s asylum, migration and refugee task group, said: “Councils have a strong track record supporting those resettling in the UK and are committed to providing the best support possible.

“However, given the significant financial pressures councils are under as they set local budgets and council tax in the coming weeks, achieving the level of support new arrivals are legally entitled to is becoming more and more challenging.

“Councils want to make sure every child in their care gets the very best support which keeps them safe from harm, and enables them to go on and live fulfilling, happy and healthy lives.”

He called for a Government commitment to “properly fund the joint commitment to support unaccompanied children”.

Last year an inspection report on the arrangements found funding “was an issue”.

It said an unaccompanied asylum-seeking child costs a local authority approximately £55,000 a year, of which the Home Office provides £41,610 for children under the age of 16, and £33,215 for those aged 16 or 17.

The latest official figures show the number of UASC applications in the UK fell by 10% to 2,635 in the year to September.

A Home Office spokesman said: “We are very grateful to local authorities who provide care for a significant number of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children.

“We are currently reviewing the funding arrangements and over 50 local authorities have taken part. We hope to reach a conclusion soon, but it is right that we take time to thoroughly assess the evidence.

“We are committed to putting in place arrangements which work as well as possible for both the unaccompanied children and local authorities.”

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