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Medway Council leader says the authority cannot afford to take in any further children seeking asylum who arrive unaccompanied from overseas

A council leader says his authority cannot take on any more asylum-seeking children due to pressures on its children's services budget.

Medway Council leader Cllr Alan Jarrett attributed a share of the squeeze on finances on his council's duty to look after children who have arrived unaccompanied from abroad.

Medway Council leader Alan Jarrett
Medway Council leader Alan Jarrett

Kent County Council (KCC) is responsible for the vast majority of these children - known as Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASCs).

As of October, there were 43 UASCs under the age of 18 in Medway who had been placed there by other local authorities.

The majority, 34, were placed in Medway by KCC, which is responsible for allocating social workers and funding placements.

Medway was also responsible for 12 care leavers who are aged over 18.

Finance officers currently expect a pressure of £3.94 million on children's social services as a result of the pandemic.

People coming ashore at Kingsdown after leaving a small boat in the water. Picture Christian Thrale
People coming ashore at Kingsdown after leaving a small boat in the water. Picture Christian Thrale

A budget demand of over £245 million to fund children's and adults services by the next financial year was also reported in the council's Medium Finance Strategy which was discussed by cabinet members on Tuesday, November 17.

This has been adjusted from over £140 million in the predictions made last year.

During the virtual cabinet meeting, Cllr Jarrett (Con) said: "We have on several occasions told government that we are unable to take any more UASCs because all of our capacity is used up in terms of vulnerable children to such an extent we have to deal with expensive external placement of some of our own children because of that capacity being used up.

"Kent is an arrival point for many of these refugees and unsurprisingly, KCC picks up a big part of that burden but that has a knock-on effect to us because in their turn, KCC inevitably place some of those children in Medway and we go round and round on that subject. "

KCC announced in August it could no longer take on any more children arriving on the county's shores.

Kent County Council leader Roger Gough
Kent County Council leader Roger Gough

Its leader, Cllr Roger Gough (Con), told MPs in September that his social workers were overstretched.

It is thought more than 400 asylum-seeking children aged under 18 have made the journey to Kent this year alone.

Read more: All the latest news from Medway

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