Emergency talks between finance officers from Croydon Council and the UK Border Agency took place last week after cuts to funding for unaccompanied asylum seeking children (UASC).
The Home Office’s decision to cut funding for UASC could cost Croydon council taxpayers up to £2.5million each year.
Croydon is a “gateway council” for asylum seekers and is responsible for approximately 15 per cent of the entire UASC population. Of the 1071 children in foster care or care homes in Croydon in 2009, 685 (64%) were UASC, each costing an estimated £40,000 yearly.
Council Leader Mike Fisher called the cuts “totally unacceptable” and “intolerable”.
“The impact of this decision is considerable and, as it stands, it is not a situation we can tolerate,” he said. “There will be a further burden on local taxpayers and it’s just not right for them to pay for what is a national service.”
Croydon Council covers the costs – which can be up to £35million – and is then reimbursed by the government but the UK Border Agency failed to meet the whole of Croydon’s bill for 2009 to 2010 of £27.8million.
According to the UK Border Agency, funding has decreased because of the reduction in unaccompanied minors in Croydon in recent years. UKBA regional director Hugh Ind told the Croydon Advertiser: “The Government needs local authorities to demonstrate that they are getting to grips with their costs. We cannot support rising costs when the numbers of unaccompanied children requiring support are falling.”
If a settlement cannot be made by February 19, 2011, the council will challenge the Government with legal action. A decision supported by Central Croydon MP, Gavin Barwell.
Kamena Dorling, manager of the Migrant Children’s Project, said: “It is unacceptable for the UK Border Agency to refuse to reimburse Croydon Council for the services it delivered in 2009 and 2010. It is vital that future funding be sufficient to ensure that these vulnerable children receive the care and support that they need.”