Published: 13:55, 05 August 2021
| Updated: 15:58, 05 August 2021
Kent County Council has renewed its call for a national scheme requiring other councils to take in child asylum seekers amid concerns over the use of unregulated hotels as accommodation.
The council says that the fact that the Home Office has had to resort to using hotels - including one in Kent - is further evidence that a revised voluntary scheme, in which councils can choose whether to accept vulnerable children is not working.
In a statement, the council said: “Children’s services remain under pressure as the council continues to care for well above the recommended number of Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC) whilst seeking voluntary placements with other local authorities under the National Transfer Scheme (NTS) to bring numbers back to safe levels.
“The recent news that the Home Office has taken the decision to accommodate new arrivals of UASC in unregulated hotels would suggest the revised voluntary scheme continues to be unsuccessful in providing timely transfers.”
KCC stopped accepting child migrants in June, saying that the numbers had reached a point where it could no longer fulfil its statutory responsibilities for safeguarding.
The council said the solution was a compulsory scheme - something the government had ruled out.
“Whilst some placements have been made since KCC stopped taking further new UASC arrivals on 14 June 2021, the revised scheme continues to fail to keep pace with the rate of arrivals.”
The Home Office announced in June there was to be a voluntary rota to encourage more local authorities to take in unaccompanied children, relieving pressure on Kent.
However, the reliance on hotels has led to questions about the welfare of vulnerable children.
The Home Office has defended using hotels and insisted the welfare of children was not compromised.
“We have had to use temporary accommodation to manage demand but we are determined to end the use of hotels as soon as possible and our Nationality and Borders bill will fix the broken asylum system.
“The Department for Education and Home Office are working closely together to ensure that the needs of newly arriving unaccompanied asylum-seeking children are met and that permanent placements are secured for them at the earliest opportunity.
“We are working with local public health bodies to ensure appropriate health requirements are in place and all hotels have staff on-site 24/7 to keep unaccompanied asylum-seeking children safe.”
Record numbers of would-be asylum seekers have crossed the Channel this year. Yesterday, almost 500 asylum seekers reached the UK from France in a new record for daily crossings.