Published: 16:25, 07 December 2020
| Updated: 16:27, 07 December 2020
County council chiefs say the authority is to resume looking after asylum seeker children arriving in Kent after crossing the English Channel in often unsafe boats and dinghies.
Kent County Council (KCC) had been forced to stop accommodating the vulnerable children - as the law requires - because of the huge numbers of them landing on the Kent coast over the summer.
The escalating numbers had put the council under strain as it ran out of appropriate accommodation for the youngsters.
It formally notified the government that it had reached its capacity for finding accommodation in August.
As a result, the job of caring for children was passed to the Border Force, which established a centre in Dover to provide immediate care and to process the unaccompanied asylum seeker children.
In a statement, KCC said it had today resumed receiving new arrivals of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC) into its care.
But the council issued a warning that a long term solution was still needed to avoid overwhelming social services Kent services again.
The council announced in August that, due to the escalating rise in arrivals and the failure of the National Transfer Scheme to redistribute UASC (unaccompanied asylum-seeking children) arrivals nationally, it had breached safe capacity to care for any further new arrivals.
Since August, more than 200 new arrivals have been directly transferred to other councils by the Home Office, alongside 186 young people already in Kent’s care.
The council said it had worked consistently with the Home Office to reduce numbers, with some success.
Data shows a reduction in the number of under 18-year-olds in KCC’s care from 612 on August 17 to 412 on December 7.
KCC said this number still placed the authority at almost double the national proportion of UASC in care when compared with other councils under the current voluntary National Transfer Scheme.
Despite this, KCC has taken the decision that it now has “sufficient resource capacity” to receive newly-arrived UASC without compromising its statutory duty to offer a safe standard of care to all children in its care - for the time being.
It also announced the government had accepted it would meet all the additional costs imposed on Kent as a result of looking after asylum children.
In a joint statement, KCC leader Cllr Roger Gough and Cllr Sue Chandler, cabinet member for children’s services said:
“We are extremely grateful for the ongoing dialogue and engagement we have with Chris Philp MP and Vicky Ford MP (Home Office) and the officials in their departments and are confident that we can once again safely provide care and support for new arrivals of vulnerable UASC on our shores.”
“We are continuing our work with the Home Office on short, medium and long term plans towards a sustainable and equitable national system for the care of UASC to avoid placing reception authorities such as Kent under unfair and intolerable burden in the future.”
The news comes as more children seeking asylum were among those to arrive in Dover today in close to freezing temperatures including a baby without socks or shoes.