Falkirk Council: Government not providing enough cash to look after asylum seeking children
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Falkirk Council currently looks after 12 young people seeking asylum through the National Transfer Scheme, which aims to relieve some of the pressure on local authorities in the south east of England, who are legally bound to look after young people arriving without their families.
But government grants to Falkirk Council to pay for the service are estimated to be £350,000 short of the actual cost to the council.
A report to the education, children and young people’s executive heard that looking after the young people is likely to cost the council £769,000, while the grant income they will get is just £416,000 – a shortfall of £353,000.
Members were told that one of the reasons for the high cost is that a shortage of foster care placements has meant some youngsters are being placed into residential accommodation, which is very expensive.
It is mandatory for councils to be part of the National Transfer Scheme, but Councillor Fiona Collie reiterated her previous support for the scheme, saying Falkirk should be willing to play its part in helping young people flee from horrific situations.
“There is a moral imperative to this council in supporting these young people. We need to play our part but we should also want to play our part,” she said.
The report states that the number of people arriving by small boat is expected to rise significantly again this year, which will mean Falkirk’s share of the children who need looked after could also rise.
For the next 12 children, grant income is estimated to be £302,000 based on one child being received each month during 2023/24.
However, members heard that the cost is an estimate and could change significantly as it depends on the type of placement used and the age of the young person.
Conservative councillor James Kerr said the lack of cash was “very disappointing”.
He said: “I’ve said it many times – I don’t care what government it is, they need to support these people and they need to support the local authorities to provide the service that we need to give them.
“Whether it’s UK government or the Scottish Government, they need to find the money to support us on that.”
The rising numbers of asylum seekers is a national issue that is being discussed by the local authority group, CoSLA, with the Scottish Government, Social Work Scotland and the Care Inspectorate, members were told.
Falkirk Council also has the responsibility for educating 66 Ukrainian children who are here with their families.
For this, the UK government has provided £339,000 of funding.
Members of the education executive agreed that some of the Home Office funding should be used to recruit two social work assistants to help children and young people integrate into local communities.
The temporary posts will cost around £87,000 each year for two years (£43,500 per post, per annum), and they will support both the Ukranian refugees and those who come through the National Transfer Scheme.
Members also agreed that the Director of Children’s Services should have the flexibility to decide where the funding was most needed.
That could mean providing more teachers, support for learning assistants, social work assistants, community education workers and a central support co-ordinator as and when required.
Falkirk Council’s head of planning and resources, Gary Greenhorn, said that the number of Ukrainian refugees remains changeable and at this point it was not possible to give a final total of the cost to the council.
He said: “We have already had some children and families come into the schools then moved elsewhere, so it is a continually changing set of circumstances and we think that will continue for quite some time to come.”