‘Government help not enough’ – Rise in unaccompanied asylum seeker children found in Doncaster

Local authority bosses said some unaccompanied asylum seeking children came to Doncaster by train
Local authority bosses said some unaccompanied asylum seeking children came to Doncaster by train

A rise in unaccompanied asylum seeker children found in Doncaster is putting pressure on services because Government help doesn't go far enough, local authority bosses have said.

A rise in unaccompanied asylum seeker children found in Doncaster is putting pressure on services because Government help doesn't go far enough, local authority bosses have said.

Latest figures published by Doncaster Safeguarding Children Board show 12 children arrived in the borough seeking asylum during 2017/2018 - up from three in the previous year.  

In a meeting where councillors scrutinise DCST and council bosses, the council chamber heard the children were 'not part of a Government resettling programme' and 'turned up spontaneously' in Doncaster without a parent or guardian.  

Of the 12, five children came through by train and one children's boss cited Doncaster’s central connectivity as a reason they could've arrived in the borough.

Councillors were told children’s services work under the assumption asylum seeker children will have been trafficked and suffered some kind of abuse and trauma due to their journey.   

The Home Office said they had increased funding but was reviewing the policy after submissions from 50 councils. 

Finningley councillor Jane Cox asked children's services bosses to explain the rise in unaccompanied asylum seeker children.

She said: "I find this quite shocking. It amazes me how a child can get into the Doncaster borough unaccompanied from somewhere as an asylum seeker."

In response, Pauline Turner, director of performance, quality and innovation at DCST, said: "During 2017/2018, nationally there was a number of children that came to the UK in through Dover and there was dispersal plans put in place for that. 

"Doncaster was signed up to some parts of that agreement but not others. 

"We are on a mainline train route and sometimes unaccompanied asylum seekers will come through different ports in the UK and because Doncaster is a central station I know that in the last year at least five have come by train through our station. 

“Like other local authority areas, when they are in Doncaster we are responsible for them."

Damien Allen, Doncaster Council's director of people who is the top officer on children's issues, said the local authority and DCST does receive remuneration from the Home Office to care for asylum seeker children but that 'doesn't quite meet the requirements' they often need'. 

Mark Douglas, DCST director of social care added the amount received from the Home Office depends on the age of the child and the Trust applies for the maximum amount of money available. 

"The figure does fall short of what the actual costs of what those children are and need," he said. 

“It's in the tens of thousands but it's not sufficient of the placement costs or social work costs and any additional therapeutic needs that child might have.

"We have to work on the assumption that any child who's been trafficked across continents and through mainland Europe is likely to have suffered some kind of trauma or abuse. 

"There needs are complex, they're costly to meet and claim what we can.” 

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The UK has a proud history of hosting, supporting and protecting those in need, including some of the most vulnerable children affected by the migration crisis.

“In July 2016 we increased funding provided to local authorities by 20 per cent for unaccompanied asylum seeking children under 16, and by 28 per cent for unaccompanied asylum seeking children aged 16 or 17.

"We also increased the funding we provide to former unaccompanied asylum seeking children who go on to attract leaving care support by 33 per cent.

“The Home Office is reviewing funding for local authorities supporting unaccompanied asylum seeking children. Following a call for evidence last summer, more than 50 local authorities made submissions. The review remains ongoing and we will publish the results in due course.”