Extra support is needed for rising numbers of child asylum seekers in Portsmouth

Council leader Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson has concerns about Victory Energy
Council leader Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson has concerns about Victory Energy

MORE support is needed to meet rising numbers of asylum seeking children coming into Portsmouth, the council leader has said.

Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson has written to the minister for immigration, MP Caroline Nokes, urging for a review of the the national transfer scheme which is a system for local authorities dealing with unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASCs).

The scheme was put in place to transfer the children to authorities that have the capacity and resources to look after them.

But Portsmouth has seen a steep rise in the number of UASCs arriving in the city, and is currently supporting 87, which is proportionally higher than other councils of nearby areas such as Southampton and Hampshire.

Cllr Vernon-Jackson said: 'I have written to the minister of state for immigration inviting her to meet with me and discuss this important issue. It's vital that the government understands the complexities involved, especially against an ever-decreasing council budget, and the pressures that small authorities are under to handle the situation.

'We are more than willing to do our part and ensure the care of these vulnerable young people, but there needs to be a fairer system that spreads the responsibility more equally.

'With our current Prevent priority status we have so far been able to provide resources through our own foster carers and social workers, but with funding due to end this financial year it's imperative that we tackle this issue now before it's too late.'

Despite a recent top-up of £188,000 to help with UASCs Portsmouth City Council has not had enough funding to expand its in-house fostering service in line with demand and has had to use agency workers.

The unfunded social worker time taken into account has created a short-fall of around £627,000.