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Number of asylum-seeking children coming to Thurrock continues to rise

THE increasing numbers of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children entering Thurrock, and their associated costs were highlighted by Council Leader, Cllr John Kent, on Wednesday (11 November) evening.

He was speaking to the Shaping the Council item at that night’s cabinet meeting, where he said: “In the children’s area, we are having to deal with unprecedented numbers of unaccompanied under age asylum seekers or refugees.

“While the government pays some of the costs involved, they do not cover the costs entirely and the council has to pay the difference.

“This isn’t down to poor planning or bad budgeting, Thurrock is facing exactly the same problems as children’s services elsewhere.”

And after the meeting, Cllr Bukky Okunade, portfolio holder for children’s services, added: “At the moment we are dealing with 80 so-called UASC, up from 77 last month and 74 the month before.

“We are reimbursed by the Home Office at a rate of £71 a day for 16-plus children and £95 a day for those aged 15 and under – the vast majority are 16 and 17.

“This funding would be adequate to cover the basic costs of an in-house foster carer, however because all our in-house foster places are full we need to go to the market and procure placements with independent agencies.

“These, on average, cost £760, which for a 16- or 17-year-old would be a shortfall £263 a week, or the equivalent of £13, 676 a year.

“These costs are increasing as we are competing in the market for places in demand from other councils with similar increases in demand.”

And she added: “This does not take into account the additional support costs of social workers, administration and reviewing officers.”

For comparison, in November 2014, the council was catering for 45 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children and in November 2013 the number was 21 – throughout 2013 the numbers were between 21 and 23.

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