Extra government cash could save £1m-a-year cost to Portsmouth over asylum-seeking children
EXTRA cash from government to look after asylum-seeking children could save city taxpayers £1m a year, but the council leader has pleaded with other authorities to ‘share the burden’.
A new funding pledge from Westminster means Portsmouth City Council will now receive £143 a night to house unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, up from £114.
This is because the authority has to look after a significantly higher amount than the 0.07 per cent of its total care population threshold, so is entitled to the extra money. The council is currently looking after 79 such children, when its threshold would be 22.
Council leader Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson said: ‘The fact that we have so many more asylum-seeking children here means we have been paying out an extra £1m than we should have to.
‘These proposals should mean that it cancels that pressure on the Portsmouth budget.
‘What we would really like is other councils around the country based provide homes for these people. There’s a formula for how many kids each place is supposed to take.
‘I would like other councils around the country, including Hampshire, to do take the number of kids they're meant to.
‘Portsmouth has to look after many more kids than we are meant to but other councils won't share the burden.’
As previously reported by The News, councils including Oxfordshire County Council, West Sussex County Council, Hampshire County Council, Surrey County Council and Southampton City Council took on a few children from Portsmouth last year.
Cllr Simon Blackburn, chair of the Local Government Association’s asylum, migration and refugee task group, added: ‘We are pleased that government is providing additional funding for unaccompanied asylum seeking children. This is positive recognition of the valuable role councils play in providing support to children and young people starting a new life in the UK.
‘This funding will help to reduce the funding gap between what councils pay to support unaccompanied children seeking asylum leaving care and what they receive from the government.
‘As the government continues to work with councils and partners on revising the current national transfer scheme, it must recognise responsibilities for supporting unaccompanied children to quarantine immediately on arrival in the UK.’