Author: JASON GROVES POLITICAL EDITOR FOR THE DAILY MAIL
Millions of pounds of British aid money could be diverted to ease the pressure on cash-strapped local councils, under plans being put forward by the International Development Secretary.
Penny Mordaunt is pushing to divert a chunk of the £14.5billion foreign aid budget to help pick up part of the costs councils face in coping with refugees.
At present, aid money can be used only to help support a refugee’s first 12 months in the UK.
In the case of children, this can leave councils to pick up the bill for many years. Official figures show councils spent £152million looking after unaccompanied child asylum seekers last year – almost double the figure three years earlier.
This year the Local Government Association warned the soaring costs were forcing councils to choose between caring for refugee children and other services, such as support for the elderly.
Under Miss Mordaunt’s plans, the Department for International Development (Dfid) could help pay the long-term costs for disabled child refugees, provided they come from countries that qualify for foreign aid.
Miss Mordaunt is also looking at using the aid budget to pay the capital costs of facilities such as community centres for refugees and others and to help fund the training and salaries of therapists needed to assist them.
A Dfid source said the proposal could be worth ‘hundreds of millions’ over the next few years, freeing councils to spend more on services for local people.
Miss Mordaunt said: ‘The British public have been hugely sympathetic to bringing the most vulnerable people, especially unaccompanied children, to the UK, but the costs to local authorities is huge… We need to look at ways to make that possible, and ideally allow more to also be done to bolster living support, therapy and other services for local people too.’