Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children in Cornwall

I am sure you are aware there has been a lot of media interest concerning Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children. Following the announcement over the weekend that the Government is placing 70 Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children at a hostel in North Devon we have been asked about the situation in Cornwall.

Here at Cornwall Council, we are supporting the humanitarian policy to provide support for Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children and is part of the South West Councils’ scheme, which has been set up to co-ordinate this work in the region.

We are currently best placed to support children aged 16-17 years and have already welcomed a small number of children to Cornwall under the scheme.  We have set up a multi-agency steering group, including representatives from health, education, the police and the voluntary and community sector, to ensure a co-ordinated response to meet the needs and risks of these young people.  

We are doing what we can to ensure that the scheme is implemented in such a way that we can meet the needs of these children and to keep them safe.  The safety and wellbeing of any child or young person, especially if they are vulnerable, is our utmost priority and we need a sound assessment of their needs and risks before accepting transfer.

We do have reservations about the way the scheme is being implemented by the Government  and concerns that this could create an unsustainable pressure on diminishing local authority budgets. The current funding arrangements do not cover the full costs and the Government’s commitment to funding is only clear until April 2017. The shortfall in the Government funding is being met within the Council’s existing budget.

We have initially agreed to provide support for up to 10 children and young people aged 16 to 17 years up to April 2017 and are continuing to talk to the Home Office about the level of resources and financial support we need to deliver this, as well as arrangements for welcoming further children and young people in future years.

We were not consulted about the Government’s decision to place 70 young people with a private provider in the hostel in Great Torrington and are currently seeking more information about these arrangements and the implications for Cornwall.

The children who come to Cornwall will be placed either with foster carers or with supported lodgings providers, depending on their age and individual needs.  We have invited expressions of interest from existing foster carers and supported lodgings providers, as well as from members of the public in joining one of our placement schemes.  If you are interested in helping, please contact our fostering recruitment team by phone: 01872 323638 or email: fostering@cornwall.gov.uk



Cornwall is set to receive unaccompanied asylum seeking children

Unaccompanied asylum seeking children and refugees in general have rarely been out of the news. Following the Government’s recent change in position on whether England will receive unaccompanied asylum seeking children and the amendment to the Immigration Act. A lot of work has been happening within Children’s Services and the Council on unaccompanied asylum seeking children and the amendment to the Immigration Act.

This is because the Government has agreed to resettle unaccompanied child refugees who are currently in Europe or the UK. Many will be transferred from other local authorities. The Government said it would consult with local authorities before specifying the number of children it will seek to resettle from within the UK and Europe.  The proposals have moved on since the last Council statement on this important matter, with regions working together under the oversight of the Home Office and Department for Education to determine the best way of providing this humanitarian aid across local authorities.

Cornwall has deep empathy for unaccompanied children fleeing from the humanitarian disaster in their country of origin and is fully committed to doing everything it can within the resources available to play its part in providing care and support.

Cornwall Council have been informed that the main countries of origin a for unaccompanied asylum seeking children is currently, Albania, Eritrea, Afghanistan and Arab countries in the Middle East and North Africa affected by war.  Nearly three quarters of these children are male and have been ‘age-assessed’ as 16-17 years old.

Cornwall has already supported younger children, within the families resettled in Cornwall, through the existing Syrian Refugee Resettlement Scheme. We are also committed to providing support to unaccompanied asylum seeking children and are already talking to foster carers and supported lodgings providers to make sure we are ready if/when we are asked to provide help.  It is crucial for the welfare and wellbeing of these children that local authorities are well prepared for them, including the ability to respond to emotional wellbeing and mental health issues arising from trauma.  It is also important that known risks, such as child trafficking, modern slavery and radicalisation are also understood and carefully considered if we are to keep these young people safe and well in Cornwall.

Most importantly, it is crucial for the wellbeing of these children that their individual needs and wishes are taken into account when sending them to be supported and cared for in different parts of the country.  It is important that their views and wishes are taken into account when identifying where they live. Many already have family and friends in the UK and would prefer to be near them or at least to established communities that share their language, heritage and culture.  The ability to provide things like interpreters, opportunities for religious observance and special diet are crucial to getting this right for them.  This will be a fundamental factor in accepting children to Cornwall, which does not have the level of experience or facilities more readily available in more multi-cultural areas of the country.

However, Cornwall has a good track record of making people from different backgrounds welcome and this is no different.  We will be working with health partners and schools to make sure that we work together to meet the needs of these children.  In the first instance Cornwall is on the Regional Rota to receive young people aged 16-17 years, who represent the majority of children seeking asylum in the UK.

The allocation of unaccompanied asylum seeking children to local authorities has been made on the basis of the child population of each local authority area alone.  On this basis the view of Government is that Cornwall should take 73 children in the first phase, over the next two years.  Whilst this approach does not take into account the different resources available to local authorities to care for the children, we at the Council do everything we can to manage within the resources available to us and to mitigate the impact on the capacity of our children’s services. Additional Government funding for the accommodation costs does not cover the full cost of providing care and support for these young people

I am confident that the residents of Cornwall will come together to welcome and care for unaccompanied asylum seeking children.

If you want to help and would be interested in providing foster placements or supported lodgings for unaccompanied asylum seeking children, please get in touch with our Recruitment Team. It is important to note that a fostering assessment can take 4-6 months. The assessment to be a supported lodgings provider for older children 16-17 is shorter.   Please contact the team by email: fostering@cornwall.gov.uk or phone: 01872 323638.