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: email@example.com”