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The government is providing too little support for councils struggling to cope with the sharp increase in the numbe...
The government is providing too little support for councils struggling to cope with the sharp increase in the number of asylum seekers.

The welter of issues that arise from people seeking asylum in this country are matters for government policy. Yet the government does not give councils anything like enough money to look after their asylum seekers.

This is starkly illustrated by the fact that Kent CC is having to raise its council tax to meet the expense. Asylum seekers' needs are immense. Contrary to the impression created by the Daily Mail and others, they are not all living comfortable lives buoyed by plentiful benefit handouts and fortunes from begging.

They need the help of social services to cope with the dislocation they have suffered. Victims of brutality and war in many cases, they have often lost their homes, possessions, language, culture and country. Where they have also lost their families, the dislocation is almost irreparable. Social services are vital to provide sensitive, appropriate care.

In the case of unaccompanied children, social services departments take on parental responsibilities. The mere presence of these children puts extra pressure on the education system, already a service mired in spending and performance controversies.

Then add to this mixture the fact that many of these children do not speak English.

It is almost unbelievable that so many of these costs have to be met through councils' own budgets.

The biggest expense is accommodation - the one area where the government provides something approaching reasonable funding. But the government takes months and years too long to process asylum claims, while the asylum seekers have to be put up in expensive temporary lodgings.

Where they are waiting up to seven years the expense to councils is enormous. The government has promised to get a more efficient system up and running, but there is widespread doubt it will happen.

It also looks as if the government will not get the regional consortia arrangements running any time soon. These would have taken some of the pressure off London and the south-east.

The knock-on effects of this situation are terrible. Asylum seekers often live a stigmatised life of poverty in the UK. Yet racism in the communities that house them is stoked by resentment at having to pay for even such a low standard of living as they enjoy.

Even when asylum seekers are sent to regional consortia, the present funding arrangements are unlikely to help them receive a warm reception.

In at least one shameful incident, local councillors made clear that asylum seekers decanted from the south-east were not welcome because they would not 'fit in'.

The government needs to sort its act out. It could start by ensuring the regional consortia arrangements work more effectively. It must cover all the cost of accommodation - as the Home Office will tell you it already does - and it must crack down on the bureaucracy and delay in processing claims for refugee status.

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