Government provides £20m for councils supporting child refugees

A total of £20m will be shared between all local authorities currently supporting more than 10 asylum-seeking children, the government has said.

The Department for Communities and Local Government said the funding will enable councils to provide homes for asylum-seeking children that are currently resident in other local authorities that are operating at full capacity.

So-called "gateway authorities" where there is an airport or seaport, such as Kent County Council, have faced major pressure in recent years due to increased numbers of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children presenting in their areas.

A voluntary national transfer scheme was launched in July 2016 in England to relieve pressure on areas with high numbers of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. Since the scheme was introduced, more than 550 children have been transferred between English councils, however, a number of local authorities have withdrawn from it amid criticism of the level of funding the Home Office is making available for those taking part.

Communities minister Lord Bourne said: "We have a proud history of hosting, supporting and protecting those in need, including some of the most vulnerable children. This new funding will enable more councils across England to provide support to those children who need a place to call home.

"The funds will also bring a range of benefits to the whole community by increasing the number of foster carers available and reducing pressures on existing services.

"We are grateful to councils who continue to provide care and support to vulnerable children, and it's encouraging to hear of the enthusiasm among councils in welcoming more children to their areas, especially where they haven't had an opportunity to do so previously."

The government published a safeguarding strategy for UASC in November, which included a pledge to review funding levels councils receive. The funding review is due to conclude by April.

Local authorities are currently able to claim £41,610 a year for unaccompanied children under 16 and £33,215 a year for unaccompanied children aged between 16 and 17, but many claim it does not cover the true cost of support.

The DCLG also said that £9m has been allocated today towards specific projects from the Controlling Migration Fund.

Shropshire will use £170,000 of funding to develop specialist support so it can take more children on, including training for foster carers and expanding English language teaching across the county.

And North Yorkshire will establish an intensive 12-week programme for young asylum seekers involving introductions to the region and British culture, fast-track English language lessons and peer mentoring.

Meanwhile, Devon will use £145,000 to support community volunteers and local residents who want to help welcome child refugees to their communities.

And Croydon will provide specialist training and support for over 360 existing foster carers to help them understand cultural barriers and to promote the integration of vulnerable children into British society.

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