UK Politics

Councils demand more funding for child refugees care costs

Child at refugee camp Image copyright AFP/Getty

The cost of caring for refugee children will lead to higher council tax bills or service cuts unless more money is provided, ministers have been warned.

A scheme to resettle unaccompanied children around the UK starts in July.

The government has agreed to take in more child refugees, including from the EU and 3,000 children and relatives from the Middle East and North Africa.

The Local Government Association says the number of spaces councils will make available will depend on funding.

At the moment children are looked after where they arrive, largely in Kent or near Heathrow airport.

Deputy leader of Hillingdon council, which cares for children who arrive at the airport, David Simmonds said: "Unless there's additional funding in the system we'll need to see either increases in council tax to pay for supporting refugee children or we'll see local councils cutting other services."

'Underfunded'

From July, the government will provide more money to support newly arrived unaccompanied refugee children: £41,600 a year for those under 16 years old. The Home Office has been in talks with councils for weeks about the arrangements.

But Mr Simmonds, who is also deputy chair of the Local Government Association - which represents councils in England and Wales - said this fell short of a real cost of £50,000 a year.

He has told the government that the number of children who could be accommodated would depend on how much money was made available.

Correspondence seen by BBC Radio 4's Today programme says the "first phase" of a "national transfer scheme" will begin in July. Some councils have already refused to accommodate more children.

Under pressure to accept extra unaccompanied child refugees, the government first insisted it would only accept them from beyond the EU, before conceding it would resettle those registered in Greece, Italy or France before 20 March.

These numbers were in addition to a scheme to resettle 20,000 Syrian refugees in the UK by 2020.

More than 3,000 unaccompanied children applied for asylum in the year to March - a 57% rise. Afghans, Eritreans and Albanians accounted for more than half the applications.

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