Warrington Asylum-Seeking Children Concerns

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2019 9:09am

By Aran Dhillon - Local Democracy Reporter

Concerns have been raised over the number of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC) fleeing their home countries and being dropped off at motorway service stations in the town.

Warrington Borough Council was rated ‘red’ for the rate of children in care, per 10,000, in its latest performance report.

The rate has decreased from 93.4 in June 2018, to 91.2 in September 2018, to 87.4 in March 2019.

It is the lowest it has been in two years.

The authority confirmed it had 380 children in care at the end of March, which is equivalent to 87.4 per 10,000.

A council spokesman said: “This amount is higher than north west averages and national averages.

“However, averages from the north west and England are based on data submitted to the Department for Education that is up to two years old, so we are not comparing with real-time data.

“We know that the numbers of children in care are increasing across the region and England.

“In Warrington, we are seeing our numbers decrease significantly, due to improved early intervention services and better permanency planning.”

It can be revealed that 18 of the new entrants into care during 2017-18 were UASC, while there are currently 24 in the town.

During last month’s cabinet meeting, commenting on the ‘red’ rating, Cllr Matt Smith, cabinet member for children’s services, said: “ Part of the reason for that is one of the features we know of Warrington that attracts people here and businesses here is the excellent motorway network.

“Unfortunately, a side effect of that is we have one of the highest rates in the area of UASC – this is effectively children being dropped at the side of the roads.

“So, although our rates of children in care is higher than national and similar authorities, it is actually that a lot of those factors are outside of our control.”

Town Hall bosses say UASC are some of the most vulnerable young people the authority works with, often presenting with ‘very complex’ needs.

The spokesman said: “This includes issues around language and having no links or contacts in the country, along with earlier trauma, that led to them fleeing their home country.

“We are clear in our commitment and responsibility to work with these children to ensure they are well cared for.

“The main challenge is finding the most suitable, local, placements for these young people.

“Although we are provided with some financial support from the Home Office to meet their needs, this often does not cover the full cost of individual placements.

“We are eager to identify more local families who are interested in fostering young people from these groups, so we can place all children locally in family-based care.”

In situations where UASC are dropped off, the council says youngsters tend to be located at one of the motorway service stations in the borough.

The spokesman added: “Initially they will be collected by Cheshire Police who will contact the council to provide support and accommodation.

“Where necessary we will work with the Home Office to undertake an age assessment, to determine if the young person is an unaccompanied minor.

“They will then receive the necessary care and support, similar to our other children in care, as well as in other areas, such as making an application to the Home Office regarding asylum status.”

Youngsters are classed as a child in care until they reach 18 and then they become a care-leaver, until they reach 25.

If anyone is interested in becoming a foster carer, they should contact the fostering recruitment team on 442026.

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