Foster care leaders offer to house migrant children under care of Border Force
Friday, August 21, 2020
Foster care leaders have offered to house unaccompanied asylum seeking children (UASC) currently under the care of Border Force after Kent County Council “reached capacity” to safely take on any more.
The Fairer Fostering Partnership, whose members include Tact Fostering and Adoption, Barnardo’s and Action for Children, wrote to children’s minister Vicky Ford saying it was “unacceptable” for children to be looked-after by Border Force.
The letter comes after the Home Office confirmed UASC were being housed at the Kent Intake Unit, an asylum processing centre in Dover, after Kent Council became unable to “safely accept” new arrivals.
A statement from council leader Roger Gough revealed that Kent has received 430 new unaccompanied children since January, more than 275 of whom had arrived since May.
The arrival of 13 more children last weekend “tipped the balance and the council simply cannot safely accommodate any more new arrivals at this time”, he said.
Kent had warned of the crisis for weeks, calling on the government to make the National Transfer Scheme, designed to disperse UASC across the country, mandatory.
In the letter to Ford, Andy Elvin, chair of the Fairer Fostering Partnership and chief executive of Tact Fostering and Adoption, said members had “foster homes available for these children”, adding: “As we can fix this today it is beholden on us all to do so.”
He wrote: “It is not acceptable that they are accommodated by the Border Force. I am aware that the ineffective application of the dispersal scheme is the issue here. However, that cannot be used as an excuse for vulnerable children to be accommodated in such a manner.
“The children would be distributed across many local authorities if you take up our offer and no local authority will be disproportionately affected. I am sure that your counterpart in the Home Office would also welcome a swift resolution to this issue.”
Meanwhile, the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) branded the situation an “emergency”.
The ADCS has been working with Kent to raise the issue with the Home Office and Department for Education, it said.
Jenny Coles, ADCS President, added: “Local authorities want to play their part in responding to this humanitarian crisis, but in order to do so we need the government’s help and support. “Many children have already been settled across the country via the national transfer scheme, however, the challenges we all face, from not being fully funded for our important work in this area and a shortage of suitable placements to the dearth of mental health support, are still the same as in 2016 when the French authorities cleared the camps in Calais.
“We need to work together to ensure that children’s best interests remain at the heart of all arrangements and that local services are safely able to meet any additional demand; children’s lives and futures are at stake.”
The Home Office confirmed that 53 councils had offered to take 210 children over the past week.
A spokesperson said: “This is an unprecedented situation. We continue to provide Kent County Council with support, including significant increases in funding, but the burden being placed on them is unacceptable and cannot continue.
“We are grateful to the 53 local authorities who have pledged more than 210 places to support our National Transfer Scheme, but we need more to come forward and do their bit for vulnerable children.
“The Home Office, Department for Education and MHCLG are writing to all local authorities, urging them to come forward, play their part and take responsibility.”