Published: 18:55, 07 June 2021
| Updated: 19:49, 07 June 2021
Social workers' caseloads in some parts of the county are close to twice the average because of the pressures caused by dealing with escalating numbers of child asylum seekers.
This year 242 unaccompanied minors have arrived in Dover and only 52 are being looked after by other councils, which means Kent County Council's social workers are now responsible for nearly double the number deemed safe.
KMTV reports on the pressure on social services
Kent County Council Conservative leader Roger Gough said: "There is a rough rule of thumb that average caseloads are about 15 per social worker; we are now seeing social workers’ caseloads in the mid-to-late 20s, so heading to close to twice what we view as an acceptable level.
“In the long run if we end up with large numbers of people coming into our care, that creates significant additional pressures. Because we have increasing numbers of children under 16, that means more requirements for foster carers.
“Some of that is sourced from outside the county, which is not a good place to be because social workers have to travel more.”
The council is set on suing the government, claiming that it has acted 'unreasonably' in refusing to use its powers to compel local councils to accept placements of young children to ease the pressure on Kent.
Mr Gough sounded a note of caution over the government's plans to reform the dispersal scheme under which other authorities would be required to accept vulnerable children who had arrived in Kent.
He said he was not optimistic that it would go far enough in compelling other local authorities to accept young children.
Cllr Gough explained: “This is not where we would want to be. We do not relish it. We believe it can be fixed but only through a robust national transfer system.
“We believe the Home Office is bringing forward the publication of its dispersal scheme this week; we believe that it does not address the issue of some councils being free riders and not accepting any children at a time when we have to and other authorities will have to.”
Cllr Antony Hook, the leader of the the liberal Democrat opposition group on KCC, supported the move to challenge the Home Secretary in court.
“We have been calling on the council to take a tougher line with government; it has been taking people in Kent for a ride. Looking after vulnerable refugee children is a national responsibility and is a small burden if it is spread across the country.”
Opposition Labour leader on KCC Dr Lauren Sullivan said: "Once again, these vulnerable children and young people are caught in the middle of a political row between the Government providing enough money to support these young people and Kent County Council that want to pass these young people on across the country."