Now H&F Council refuses to take any more unaccompanied refugee children

dubbsIn May the Government agreed to a demand from Lord Dubs that the UK should take in 3,000 unaccompanied refugee children from across Europe where local authorities agree.

There is a difficulty with the policy given that it gives priority to those who have reached Europe (Syrians and also Afghans, Eritreans and others) rather than those in the refugee camps. Those in Europe are generally safer than those stuck in the camps. Also giving preference to those who have reached Europe provides an incentive for the people smugglers – the criminal gangs that attract the desperate.

So while I agree with Lord Dubs that we should take more refugees I disagree over where they should come from. However this dispute is rather academic in our borough. Our council is not taking any more from anywhere.

I have already written about the Council’s general failure in this regard yesterday. Under the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme it has a score of nil.

Under the Lord Dubs unaccompanied refugee children scheme it has the same score. It’s all very well for Lord Dubs to be paraded around at local Labour Party gatherings like a prize bull where they all tell each other how caring they are. Then they go away and decide to block anyone from coming in.

For those interested in the details here is my correspondence over the last 24 hours with Steve Miley, the Council’s Director of Family Services. The upshot is that Hammersmith and Fulham could take in unaccompanied refugee children but has quietly made a political decision not to.  just to make clear I don’t blame Mr Miley for this. He takes his orders from Cllr Sue Macmillan and she is the one who must take responsibility.

I wrote to him as follows:

Steve,
As I’m sure you will be aware in April the Government announced a scheme for the settlement of 3,000 refugee children.
https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-scheme-launched-to-resettle-children-at-risk
Please advise how many we will be taking in Hammersmith and Fulham and when?
Will the placements will be fostering and adoption (with the usual delays) of whether some form of “fast tracking” will be possible. I would presume a decision on placing such children for fostering rather than adoption would depend on whether their parents were still alive?
Will these children be placed with those couples already approved for fostering and adoption? Or will there be some sort of separate category specially recruited?
Obviously I would hope placements in residential children’s home can be avoided.

Best wishes,
Harry

He replied:

Harry

The government is planning a national dispersal scheme for all refugee young people and we anticipate that the 3,000 referred to will be part of that.

The details of the scheme are currently being worked on – the initial plan is that all Local Authorities will be asked to take a proportion of young people according to the Local Authority size – the formula being proposed is 0.07% of the child population in that Local Authority.

Local Authorities who already have more UASC than that number now will not be asked to take any refugee young people; Local Authorities whose number of UASC young people is below the 0.07% figure will be asked to take young people first.

We are currently just above the 0.07% number (which equates to 23 young people) so are unlikely to be asked to take young people first.

In addition, until the scheme comes into place, all children who present in London now are equally shared out under and agreement between London Councils.  On average we take about 15 – 20 children a year (all aged 16 – 17). Approximately 450 young people claiming asylum are shared out across London Councils every year.

All young people are assessed – with fostering as the main placement choice – some older young people go straight into semi independent supported placements. As you say we don’t use residential care for this group.

Steve
Steve Miley
Director of Family Services
Hammersmith and Fulham Council
3rd Floor 145 King Street, London W6  9XY

I responded:

Thanks, Steve.
I was at a meeting of H&F Refugees Welcome last night which discussed encouraging residents to offer to foster or adopt unaccompanied
refugee children. Although we are not planning to take any of the 3,000 I suppose that could still be useful in terms of foster placements for the 15-20 we get each year of 16-17-year-olds?

What if some of the younger refugee children currently with foster carers in the borough were placed for adoption? I presume that would mean they would no longer count as refugee children and so not be included as part of the 0.07% calculation? For example suppose we had 25 children at present and so we our above our quota of 23 and not taking any more (which seems to be the case).  If we placed five for adoption then we would be below the quota and so we would, in that example, be due to take three of the 3,000? Is that right? In any event if the refugee children’s parents are dead would it not be better to place those children for adoption rather than have them shunted around the care system from one foster carer to another?

Also if H&F Refugees Welcome found several suitable potential placements for the children could we say to the Government: “We know we are already exceeding our quota of 23 children as we have 25 children. But the good news is that we have found places for an extra five children thus we could take our total up to 30.” I presume the Government would say: “That’s fantastic. Thanks so much.” Rather than telling us: “No thank you. That would confuse our UASC allocation formula.”

Please clarify these points.

Best wishes,
Harry

His reply was as follows:

Harry

Thank you for this information.

As you know we are always keen to hear from local families interested or wanting to know more about fostering – we would be happy to follow up with briefing session for any community group – I have copied in our fostering and adoption Head of Service Sally Pillay who could arrange this.

Care planning for any looked after child takes account of their age, their circumstances, and their need for a stable upbringing within a family  – so yes adoption would be an option to be considered.

And as you say adopted children leave care and so that potentially could bring out numbers down below the 0.07% threshold.

In addition as most of our UASC young people are aged 16 or 17 approximately 10 a year leave care on their 18th birthday and that also will bring out numbers down below the 0.07% threshold.

In short even though we are currently above the threshold there is every reason to expect that we will continue to need to provide care for refugee children.

And therefore we are keen to follow up any possible options for the recruitment of foster carers.

Steve
Steve Miley
Director of Family Services
Hammersmith and Fulham Council
3rd Floor 145 King Street, London W6  9XY

 

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