Councils to share care for child asylum seekers under new Government scheme

Local authorities are being urged to sign up to a new Government scheme designed to more evenly distribute responsibility for looking after unaccompanied asylum-seeking children around the country.

The voluntary National Transfer Scheme has been launched by the Home Office and the Department for Education. It has been developed after consultation with the LGA, the Association of Directors of Children’s Services and local authorities.

Under the initiative, a child arriving in one local authority area already under strain could be transferred to another council with available capacity.

To support the scheme, the Government will increase funding for local authorities to look after unaccompanied asylum-seeking children from £34,675 per child per year to £41,610.

Existing rules mean that when an unaccompanied child arrives in the UK, the council for that area is responsible for all costs associated with that child until the age of 25. The council remains responsible whether the child stays in their area or not.

The Local Government Association has argued the system is unsustainable because authorities in areas around Channel ports have seen the numbers of asylum-seeking children rise dramatically.

In May, it estimated that councils are currently looking after around 4,000 unaccompanied children.

Immigration minister James Brokenshire said: "The UK has a proud tradition of offering sanctuary to all those in need of protection, including vulnerable asylum-seeking children and ensures their welfare and safety is at the heart of every decision made. This scheme has been established to promote a fairer distribution of caring responsibilities across the country in a way that protects the best interests of those children.

"Local authorities have been tremendously generous in caring for migrant children and we hope many more will come forward and share this important responsibility. We will continue to work closely with local authorities, devolved administrations and our other partners to implement this scheme, which will support councils such as Kent and Croydon, who are caring for high numbers of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children."