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Child asylum seekers support rates to rise

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Daily rates paid to councils for looking after unaccompanied asylum-seeking children will rise, following the completion of delayed Home Office review.

The current levels of funding covered only up to half the costs of looking after these children, according to organisations such as the Local Government Association and the Association of Directors of Children’s Services.

This led to the national transfer scheme (NTS), designed to ensure the responsibility for looking after children was shared between councils and reduce pressure on areas with high levels of children arriving, to falter.

Current Home Office data shows that the number of children transferred under the scheme fell from 71 in the last three months of 2017 to 54 in the last three months of 2018.

LGC understands the numbers transferred have continued to fall since then, with no children moved out of London, which is the region that looks after the most children, this year.

In a written ministerial statement on Wednesday, immigration minister Caroline Noakes announced current daily rates which are reimbursed to councils will be increased from last month.

Currently payments are made in four categories based on age and when the child entered the country.

Rates for three of these categories will rise from £71, £91, £95 to match the highest £114 rate currently paid to councils to support children under 16, who either entered the country on or before 1 July 2016 and were transferred under the NTS.

ADCS president Rachel Dickinson said she gave the announcement a cautious welcome.

She added: “It is step in the right direction and acknowledges the fact that the costs of caring for and supporting 16 and 17-year-olds are the same as for under 16s.

“This is important because the majority of unaccompanied minors who arrive spontaneously are in the 16-17-year-old age group.”

Chair of the LGA’s asylum, migration and refugee task group David Simmonds (Con) said the amount of money spent by councils supporting unaccompanied asylum-seeking children had doubled in the last four years and welcomed the government announcement.

But he warned growing numbers of these children have now turned 18, when government funding for support drops significantly.

Cllr Simmonds added: ““With the vast majority of refugee children aged 16 or 17, this change in funding needs to be followed through so that care leaving costs, which are equal to or greater than those of non-UASC, are fully funded, as this remains the main barrier to councils taking on responsibility for ever-growing numbers.”

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