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‘Urgent action’ needed to impose transfer scheme for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, says KCC

PUBLISHED: 16:59 07 September 2016 | UPDATED: 16:59 07 September 2016

Child asylum seeker

Child asylum seeker

Archant

Kent County Council is calling for the scheme to be made mandatory

A government scheme to take in unaccompanied children from overseas is ‘not working’ according to a senior councillor.

Kent County Council is calling on the government to enforce a national transfer scheme to help evenly spread the number of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children across the country.

Kent is currently caring for more than 1,400 young migrants.

Two months ago, the government launched the National Transfer Scheme, to help relieve some of the pressure the local authority was facing.

Since then, just 48 under-18s have been permanently transferred from Kent to other local authorities.

But in the same time period, there have been 90 new arrivals in the county, according to KCC.

Peter Oakford is the council’s cabinet member for specialist children’s services.

He said: “The voluntary scheme is not working and Kent is continuing to care for a hugely disproportionate number of these young people.

While we are very grateful to those authorities who have signed up to this scheme, the vast majority have not stepped up and accepted their responsibilities. We need government to make national dispersal mandatory as a matter of urgency.

“We are also concerned about the organisation of the national dispersal scheme alongside other schemes, such as the resettlement of Syrian refugee families and the ‘Dubs’ amendment bringing vulnerable children straight from camps in Europe.

“There is a lack of clarity and direction from government as to the responsibilities and priorities of councils under these arrangements. We urge Government to make it clear that supporting the unaccompanied young people we already have in the UK is an urgent priority.

“We do the best we can in Kent but such high numbers place huge pressures on our services, such as foster carers, social workers, school places, accommodation, healthcare and tutoring in English as a second language. The transfer scheme must be made mandatory so that the numbers are shared fairly across the county. This will improve the level of support offered to these vulnerable young people, rather than placing unsustainable pressures on a few authorities.”

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