Councils to receive rate rise for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children

By Nina Jacobs

| 09 May 2019

Councils supporting unaccompanied asylum-seeking children are to receive an increased day rate which for the first time does not take into account the child's age or when they entered the UK.

Councils will receive an improved rate for supporting unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. Picture: Nathan Clarke

Announcing the move, immigration minister Caroline Nokes MP, said the new rate of £114 per child per night - equivalent to £41,610 a year - reflected the "incredibly valuable work" local authorities carried out with vulnerable unaccompanied children and the Home Office's commitment in supporting them.

The rise, which applies to care provided from 1 April 2019, compares to the previous range of £71 to £95.

The calls for a boost were among a raft of key recommendations set out in a recent report of the housing, communities and local government committee which warned that £3.1bn more in funding was needed to stem a children's services crisis in England.

It follows figures published by the Local Government Association which revealed council spend on asylum-seeking children has almost doubled in four years.

More than £152m was spent on unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in 2017/19 - an increase of 95 per cent from the £77m spent in 2014/15.

The new rate will see current tiers of reimbursement scrapped and a single payment awarded to councils per child per day.

Previously, unaccompanied asylum-seeking children aged 16 to 17 assigned as "legacy" cases, were awarded a day rate of £71.

This meant that they had entered the UK on or before 30 June 2016 but had not been transferred to another local authority under the National Transfer Scheme.

For those "legacy" cases for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children under 16, the rate rose to £95 per day.

Rachel Dickinson, president of the Association of Directors of Children's Services, welcomed the increase in funding which she said was "recognition of the financial pressures" faced by councils.

"It is a step in the right direction and acknowledges the fact that the costs of caring for and supporting 16- and 17-year-olds are the same as for under-16s.

"This is important because the majority of unaccompanied minors who arrive spontaneously are in the 16/17-year-old age group."
 
Dickinson said local authorities were supporting increasing numbers of unaccompanied children and young people leaving care at 18.

"Without their own family around to help them to transition to adulthood, unaccompanied children and young people leaving care at 18 years old require extra help to prepare for further study or employment and to find their own place to live.

"We are supporting growing numbers of care leavers and will continue to discuss an uplift in this rate with the Home Office as well," she said.

David Simmonds, chair of the LGA's asylum, migration and refugee task group, said the increased funding would help councils continue their "strong track record" of supporting unaccompanied asylum-seeking children but called on the government to address remaining cost pressures for those leaving care.

"With the vast majority of refugee children aged 16 or 17, this change in funding needs to be followed through so that care leaving costs, which are equal to or greater than those of non-unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, are fully funded, as this remains the main barrier to councils taking on responsibility for ever-growing numbers.

"Councils are already under massive financial pressure supporting children in care, with children's services in England facing a £3.1bn funding gap by 2025.

"It is vital the government uses the Spending Review both to plug this gap and to fully fund councils' support of unaccompanied children, young people and families," he said.

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