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Ocean Heights Residential Home, Minster on Sheppey set to house asylum seekers

Plans to house asylum seeker children in a seaside care home have sparked anger.

Kent County Council is proposing to house 50 children in Ocean Heights Residential Home in Seaside Avenue in Minster, Sheppey.

Ocean Heights Residential Home in Seaside Avenue, Minster. Picture: Google Maps
Ocean Heights Residential Home in Seaside Avenue, Minster. Picture: Google Maps

It is understood the care home is currently empty and would be used to house asylum seekers aged 16 to 17.

There would be county council staff and security on the site at all times.

In a letter sent to residents, KCC say works on the care home will start “very soon” and are expected to take place until May – when the site is operational.

It added that the site is being used for this purpose because the layout is already “homely and appropriate” for children who can develop early skills in “acclimatising to their local community and socialising”.

MP for Sittingbourne and Sheppey, Gordon Henderson, says he is “extremely angry” to learn of the plans after questioning the Home Office following “speculation”.

The letter that has been sent to resdeints informing them of KCC's plan for Ocean Heights Residential Home on Sheppey
The letter that has been sent to resdeints informing them of KCC's plan for Ocean Heights Residential Home on Sheppey

He added: “While I understand that the council must follow the instructions of the High Court judgement and that asylum-seeking children must be properly cared for, I do not believe Ocean Heights should be used for this purpose.

“I would like to assure my constituents that, along with my colleague Aisha Cuthbert, I will fiercely oppose this decision.”

One of these reasons, Mr Henderson says, was the closure of the only KCC-funded adult social care home on the Island – Blackburn Lodge in Broadway, Sheerness.

The council announced it would be shutting the care home due to a water supply problem in November. It had left 13 elderly residents to search for a new home.

In February it proposed to permanently shut the building which would take £4 million to bring up to the required standards and any work would take around 13 months.

This is part of an ongoing consultation which runs until Tuesday, May 7.

Mr Henderson said: “I have been pressing KCC to provide alternative accommodation for adult social care for people on the Island, but they said there were no suitable premises.

“To then use Ocean Heights, which is a new, perfectly good, and empty care home to house unaccompanied asylum seeker children, is rubbing salt into a very sore wound.

“We are concerned about the decision also because Ocean Heights is situated in a holiday area on Sheppey, and is right next to the Little Oyster Care Home that specialises in caring for people with learning disabilities, autism, physical disabilities and mental health conditions.

“I know many of my constituents will agree with Aisha and me, and I would like to assure them that I have made clear our views, in the strongest terms, to the leader of Kent County Council.

Protests outside of Blackburn Lodge in Broadway, Sheerness
Protests outside of Blackburn Lodge in Broadway, Sheerness

“I will also immediately contact the Home Office, and then raise my concerns in Parliament, as a matter of urgency, after the Easter recess.”

KCC said its current two reception centres that provide accommodation and care for children “cannot sustainably cope with increased demand”.

This comes after the High Court ruling in July which ruled that KCC must take every possible step to increase its capacity to accommodate and look after all unaccompanied asylum-Seeking children.

A spokesperson said: “A total of nine properties have been identified across Kent as suitable for use as new UAS Children Reception Centres including the currently empty Ocean Heights property on the Isle of Sheppey.

“Ring-fenced central government funding will be provided to KCC to acquire and bring online appropriate accommodation to meet Ofsted regulations. The ongoing management of this additional accommodation will be funded by the Home Office and will not present an additional unfair burden on Kent taxpayers.

“As with existing Reception Centres, they will all be run by KCC employees and will have stringent security and safeguarding controls in place. They will be used for the accommodation and care of UAS Children until they are transferred to other UK authorities under the NTS.

“By bringing these properties into use as new Reception Centres, the High Court is endorsing the council’s views it will be better placed to meet the requirements of the court ruling and its statutory duties under the Children’s Act 1989.”

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