As Kent says ‘no more’, Brighton and Hove keeps doors open to child refugees

Posted On 14 Jun 2021 at 10:48 pm

Child refugees will still be accepted in Brighton and Hove despite the financial challenges, the deputy leader of the council said today (Monday 14 June).

Councillor Hannah Clare spoke out after Kent County Council said that it could no longer support unaccompanied asylum-seeking children arriving in Britain.

Kent County Council leader Roger Gough said yesterday that 115 had arrived there in May alone.

The figure dwarfs the 34 children accepted by Brighton and Hove City Council last year but many councils have declined to accept any young refugees at all.

The financial cost in Brighton and Hove is about £500,000 a year – even after funding provided by the government.

But the council is also finding it hard to find the right fostering or adoption placements and can end up saddled with paying fees through private fostering and adoption agencies.

Today, Councillor Clare said: “This week is refugee week and today Kent County Council have stopped supporting unaccompanied asylum-seeking children who arrive at their ports.

“I wanted to reassure committee members of our commitment to take young people through the national transfer scheme and that we will continue to support them.

“Sadly, last week the government announced they would not make participation in the national transfer scheme mandatory so local councils who do not support refugees will continue to get away without doing so.

“As a ‘city of sanctuary’, we remain open.”

Yesterday, Politics South East broadcast an interview with Councillor Clare and Councillor Gough on BBC Television.

Councillor Clare said: “Brighton and Hove is a ‘city of sanctuary’ and so we pledged to take at least 10 young people a year through the national transfer scheme as well as our spontaneous arrivals.

“Last year we had 15 spontaneous arrivals and 16 through the national transfer scheme both from Kent and Portsmouth.

“This is about the broader picture of how care is funded and the sufficiency that we have in care overall. We don’t have the placements.

“We’re also seeing that the unaccompanied asylum-seeking children that are coming are more complex now. They’re younger. They have more complex needs.

“And local authorities are really struggling to support those young people.

“But what makes it worse is when the government does a consultation with us and says, ‘how do we make this better?’ and a lot of local authorities like us said we need a mandatory scheme.

“Because it’s local authorities perhaps like Brighton and Hove who have that city of sanctuary status and pledged we would do our bit who are taking these young people.

“But others are getting away without providing that support and I think it’s a real shame that the government has stopped short of offering that mandatory rota.

“There is a funding issue for councils. In Brighton and Hove we’ve had more than £110 million cut from our budget since 2010.

“And we do have a funding gap for the unaccompanied asylum-seeking children that we take to the tune of £500,000 a year.

“For many councils, those sorts of funding gaps are just too difficult for them to afford and have a real impact on other services.

“So you can understand perhaps why some councils might day they can’t afford to do so when they don’t have sufficiency of placements either or the funding.

“But actually we all need to do our bit and support these children and ensure they have the care that they need and sadly some local authorities have said no.”

  1. Chris Reply

    If you’re going to say that Brighton and Hove is a “city of sanctuary” then surely some planning/preparation needs to be done at a local level rather than just saying the Government needs to put a mandatory scheme in place. If there aren’t places or resources for the children then we can’t take them in a safe and controlled manner. If that means going back to central government and saying so then so be it. Don’t act in a wishy-washy manner and then try to shift the blame – govern properly at a local level and feed up to central government with definite requirements/statements..

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