Agenda item

National Dispersal of Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children

(To receive a report which invites the Committee to consider the proposal for the Council to enter into a voluntary arrangement relating to the dispersal of unaccompanied asylum seeking children across the country prior to consideration by the Executive)


Consideration was given to a report which invited the Children and Young People Scrutiny Committee to consider the Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children – National UASC Transfer Protocol 2016/17 which was due to be considered by the Executive on 6 September 2016.


It was reported that there had been a significant increase in the number of people seeking asylum within the United Kingdom, and within this cohort there had been increases in the number of children who were unaccompanied and seeking safety.


Members were advised that the large number of unaccompanied asylum seeking children had resulted in the government requesting all local authorities to sign up for a voluntary agreement whereby unaccompanied asylum seeking children were dispersed around the country with all local authorities contributing to the welfare and maintenance of the children.  This had been particularly important given the high numbers of children who had presented as unaccompanied asylum seeking children in Kent.


The Committee was provided with the opportunity to ask questions to the officers present in relation to the information contained within the report, and some of the points raised during discussion included the following:

·         Lincolnshire had always taken its responsibilities towards unaccompanied asylum seeking children seriously.

·         It was queried how the extra money would be would be allocated, and if foster carers and schools would receive some of this extra money.  In terms of the UASC already in the care of the authority, this would continue to be funded by grants from government which paid the foster carers.  The local authority must submit accounts to government to receive this funding.  It was reported that there were also grants available if the children required additional resources, such as CAMHS.

·         In Lincolnshire, the approach was taken that a child which had gone through trauma to get here, and who required additional resources, it was the authority's legal and moral responsibility to provide that service to the child.

·         It was queried whether the people allocating the young people take into account the fact that Lincolnshire already had 65 unaccompanied asylum seeking children and ensure that there was an even distribution of children between authorities.  Members were advised that the government was aware of how many children each local authority had in its care, and a list containing these numbers was produced, and authorities were requested to notify government if the figure was wrong.  On a regional level, there was a Strategic Migration Board which also kept a record of how many children were in the region.

·         It was commented that very careful supervision would be needed for those young people where it was difficult to prove their age.

·         Members were advised that as soon as a young person presented as an unaccompanied asylum seeking child (UASC) the police would be notified, who would then notify Children's Services.  The appointed social worker must be trained to age assess.  In cases where there were disparities between the age the child claimed to be and the age that authorities believed the child to be, there would be tribunals, and recent case law now compelled young people to take part in any other assessments which were required to determine their age.  Members were advised that within Lincolnshire, there was a very good record of appropriately age assessing UASC.

·         Concerns were raised regarding adult family members who may accompany children (as referred to on page 7 of the report), and whether sufficient checks would take place.  Members were advised that local authorities had not had an opportunity to carry out any inspections of family members, and would not have the opportunity to do so.  It would be government who would make the assessment of who would be the most appropriate people to offer these resources to.  The government had indicated a commitment to take the most vulnerable people from the refugee camps.

·         Members were informed that the proposal in this report was not about the resettlement of families at this point.  Resettling families was a very different situation to that of UASC.

·         Members were advised that there was not yet a protocol to work to, and councils would not be forced to accept UASC.  However, when young people or families came into the East Midlands they would be assessed at this point.

·         It was noted that this was a very complex situation, and the East Midlands had made it very clear that there were some areas of the country which had no asylum seekers or UASC.

·         Kent County Council had over 900 unaccompanied asylum seeking children, of which 300 have been placed in other authorities. 

·         Lincolnshire had just received its first request to accept two young people who had recently arrived in Kent.  It was noted that Lincolnshire had the second highest number of UASC in the region, however, the county did remain as an entry point for young people coming into this country.

·         Lincolnshire had had a statutory duty and responsibility for UASC for a long time.

·         One member suggested that all councillors should attend training on all the different programmes which were in existence which could assist asylum seeking children and adults, so that members had all the facts.

·         Security vetting was being carried out by the UN in the camps, including biometric testing.  It was noted that those young people and adults that were selected to enter the UK would arrive with a national insurance number.

·         It was commented that there was a huge commitment to these young people in local communities, but it was acknowledged that there was more that could be done to engage with local communities.

·         The vast majority of young people coming in were around 16/17 years old, and the authority had a responsibility to place them in accommodation which suited their cultural and educational needs.  Most of these young people ended up around the borders of the county as they wanted to be able to access more culturally diverse areas.

·         Concerns were raised regarding the foster carers, as the authority was currently trying to recruit foster carers for its own needs, so how would it manage to recruit the extra carers.  It was also queried whether there would be additional training put in place for foster carers who took in UASC as they were likely to have additional needs.

·         Members were assured that Lincolnshire had been taking in UASC for years, and they were encouraged to reach their full potential.  Children younger than 16 would be placed with foster families, and from 16 onwards would be placed in semi-independent accommodation.  It did not feel like there would be a need for additional resources, as the authority had always ensured that a child's needs were met and would continue to do so.  It was also noted that the county would not be receiving a large number of children at one time, it would be a 'trickle' of children over a longer time period.

·         In relation to foster carers, it was noted that they were all trained to be able to provide care to children who were traumatised, as all children that entered care would have experienced some level of trauma.  Additional support would continue to be provided to foster carers as and when it was required.

·         Concerns were raised regarding accepting more children into the county when the authority was placing children out of the county.  However, members were advised that it did not cost particularly more to place a child out of county, but was mainly about how far staff had to travel to make their visits.  It was reported that there were currently only 23 children placed out of county and of those 8 were UASC (funds for care were fully recovered), of the remaining number, those children were placed out of county as they were living with family members.

·         Lincolnshire was very good at recovering funds where it could.

·         One member commented that they believed the authority had a national duty to play its part, and had a lot of respect for Children's Services teams nationally and believed that they were fully equipped to deal with this.

·         It was queried what would happen if a young person was age assessed as being over 18, and members were advised that if a child was age assessed as being under 18, every authority had a responsibility to provide care.  If they were age assess as over 18 then the authority would work with the Border Agency, but in the most sensitive way possible.

·         Members were advised that if a parent of an UASC identified themselves, then the authority would be obligated to return the child back to the parent.  However, there was no transfer of any rights for the parent to be able to come here to join the child.

·         It was noted that some children who arrived had relatives in other parts of the country, and in those situations the authority would contact the relative.  The relative would then be assessed, in the same way as any other potential foster carer, and if it was appropriate the child would always be placed with the relative.

·         Members were advised that local authorities had a statutory duty around the Prevent agenda to recognise the radicalisation of any child of any race and to work closely with the Police to put appropriate measures in place.

·         It was reported that the majority of young people coming in were 16/17 years old and were predominantly male.  It was commented that there should be just as many females who wanted to come here.




1.    That the Committee supported the recommendations to the Executive as set out in the report.

2.    That the last paragraph on page 7 of the report be rewritten to clarify that the decision to be taken only refers to unaccompanied asylum seeking children, and not the resettlement of family groups.


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