The Leader of Croydon Council has welcomed new government investment towards the borough’s cost of caring for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children.
Over the last decade Croydon has looked after more than 5,000 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC) because a local Home Office immigration centre acts as a major UK entry point alongside Heathrow Airport and Dover.
Up to 70 new UASC children arrive in Croydon each month; one of the most per head of population in a UK local authority and 15% of the total in London. The difference between government funding and the actual cost has led to the council having a £9m shortfall each year since 2015.
With support from cross-party colleagues, the council has pushed the government in recent years for fairer funding and calling for more councils nationwide to take their share of UASC arrivals. Although government rules say no council should have UASC of more than 0.07% of its child population, Croydon’s UASC percentage is six times higher at 0.4%.
This week the council received a letter from the Home Office confirming that from 1 April 2020 it would retrospectively bring in the following changes:
• Introducing a 25% rise in the daily funding rate for all areas with a high UASC population, including Croydon – to £143 per day per child
• Raising its funding contribution to £240 per UASC care leaver per week
• Allowing councils to claim back the cost of their first 25 UASC care leavers
• Increasing the amount councils receive to support UASC care leavers until the age of 25
These measures mean that Croydon Council would receive around £4m on top of its existing funding.
“Croydon is a diverse and international borough and we are proud to help UASC children in need, but unfair funding has cost us millions each year.
“This government announcement is good news for Croydon, as it means an extra £4m towards our support for UASC children and puts us in a stronger financial position as we face a long economic recovery from the impact of Covid-19.
“This decision comes after years of Croydon Council working with cross-party colleagues to push our case on fairer UASC funding and get a better deal from government.
“However, although this extra funding is welcome, at a time when all councils’ finances are particularly tight we still have a multi-million-pound UASC funding shortfall from government and a disproportionately high number of UASC to look after. The National Transfer Scheme is meant to share UASC numbers more evenly around councils nationwide, so we urge ministers to restart the consultation on this as soon as possible.”
Councillor Tony Newman, leader of the council