Author: May Bulman
Ministers have been accused of “paying lip service” to child refugees after it emerged local authorities have had to drastically increase spending on unaccompanied minors in their care amid a shortfall in funding from central government.
The Local Government Association (LGA) has warned that children who have made dangerous journeys to the UK are being left in limbo as councils struggle to provide support when faced with unprecedented funding pressures and growing demand.
Government figures show local authorities spent more than £152m on unaccompanied asylum seeking minors in 2017/18 – an increase of 95 per cent on the £77m spent in 2014/15. The number of asylum-seeking children and young people in care in England under 18 has meanwhile risen from 2,760 to 4,480.
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An inspection report last year found that an unaccompanied minor costs a local authority approximately £55,000 a year – of which the Home Office provides £41,610 for children under the age of 16, and £33,215 for those aged 16 or 17.
Cllr David Simmonds, chair of the LGA’s asylum, migration and refugee task group, said councils were being driven to a position of having to choose between providing for refugee children and other duties such as caring for the elderly.