£9.5m Cost Of Caring For Asylum Youngsters

More than £9.5million a year is being spent looking after asylum seeker children in Cambridgeshire. There are currently 122 unaccompanied asylum seeker children in Cambridgeshire, most of whom live in the city, and the county council pays £1,500 per week to look after each child. Children as young as 12 escaping war and torture across the world end up here after being sent to Oakington Reception Centre before officials realise they are too young to be detained. Social services are then called in to find them homes and arrange education, counselling and health care.

The council claims the Government is currently underfunding it by £500,000 for the cost of looking after the youngsters who turn up on its doorstep but staff say they are in talks with the Home Office and hope the situation will be resolved.

The council receives £100 a day per child from the Government for residential costs. The cost of housing a child over the age of 16 in a residential unit for a week is £1,500.

This is more than a stay in the premier room at Cambridge’s swanky Hotel Felix would cost for a week.

Some get free television licences to help learn English and they are helped to make contact with suitable faith communities including being given prayer mats, going to religious services in London and being shown where to buy halal food.

The weekly bill covers appropriate accommodation, 24-hour care and support, clothing, food, access to health care and education, appropriate social and leisure opportunities and provision of legal advice where necessary.

But officials stress they are treated – and cost – just the same as any other child.