Kent council struggling to cope with rise in child migrants

A young Kurdish girl at camp near Dunkirk Image copyright EPA
Image caption Kent says it is under pressure because it is the closest British county to the camps in Calais and Dunkirk

Vulnerable children are being placed in care outside their home county of Kent due to the influx of child asylum seekers, according to council chiefs.

Kent County Council said the continuing flow of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC) from across the English Channel had left it with no choice.

The authority currently has 924 such children in its care, compared with nearly 630 at the start of last August.

Councillor Peter Oakford said it was "not a position we want to be in".

The cabinet member for specialist children's services said Kent County Council had seen a 30% rise in looked-after children in the past seven months.

Other authorities elsewhere in the UK have accepted full responsibility for 56 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children.

Image caption Councillor Peter Oakford said the county council would be "in significant difficulties" if more children arrived

Mr Oakford told the children's social care and health cabinet committee: "This has affected our ability to place citizen children within Kent ourselves.

"We have had to place Kent children outside of Kent due to the influx of UASC, which is not a good position to be in and is not a position we want to be in.

"It's actually costing us more financially because we have had to place, I think, six children into residential care either short-term or longer term, which is far more expensive than normal foster care."

The council's services have been stretched since the start of the migrant crisis last summer as Kent is the closest British county to Calais and Dunkirk.

The number of child asylum seekers coming into its care has slowed to about 15 a week during the winter, but Mr Oakford said if that increased with the arrival of the warmer months the authority would be "in significant difficulties".

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