Children have been in the news a lot recently.
Covid-19 has made me think hard about the importance of family, safety and health – and despite a difficult six months, I know that my family are among the lucky ones.
So, when I saw the pictures of people crowded into inflatable boats, many of them children, I started to imagine about what it must be like to be a child running away from persecution and war, alone.
I wondered what terrible sights they may have seen and thought: “What if that was my daughter or my nephew?”
Brighton is proud to be a City of Sanctuary – a place of refuge to any in need and which supports significant numbers of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children – those most vulnerable to being abused and exploited.
Brighton and Hove has already signed up for the voluntary National Transfer Scheme, committing to take 10 unaccompanied children from other local authorities each year.
This is in addition to our responsibilities to any child refugee who arrives here under their own steam.
Despite repeated requests, the Home Office has refused to make it mandatory for every local authority to accept a share of these children arriving and insists that the voluntary National Transfer Scheme is enough. This is not the case.
Kent County Council recently said that it no longer has capacity to care for any more child refugees, having taken care of 400 extra over the summer.
These children are now at risk of being placed under the care of the Border Force who are neither appropriately trained nor resourced to care for such vulnerable children.
Our Children’s Services have a highly skilled team with a wealth of specialist knowledge.
They have piloted a project to improve mental health assessments, already resulting in significant successes and enabling many young people to go on to fulfil their potential.
As a City of Sanctuary, we should continue to do everything we can to help some of the most vulnerable members of our society.
The Labour group have asked the council to make an urgent offer to accept additional unaccompanied children from Kent and to continue lobbying Home Secretary Priti Patel to provide additional funds to councils who voluntarily accept child migrants – and to make the scheme mandatory.
Councillor John Allcock is the deputy leader of the Labour opposition on Brighton and Hove City Council.
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