A delegation led by Croydon Central MP, Gavin Barwell, and council leader, Mike Fisher, met with Minister for Immigration, Damian Green, at the beginning of this week.
Mr. Barwell told ELL that the Home Office: “Agreed to provide additional funding of £1.2 million for 2009-2010 period, an estimated £750,000 for the current financial year and extra money for the future”. The cash will help cover the council’s legal costs.
If a settlement had not been made by February 19, the council threatened to challenge the Government with legal action. MP Barwell said: “The council had a very good case. We exposed it very carefully and I am delighted that the Minister has recognised its validity”.
Croydon Council looks after and accommodates hundreds of unaccompanied asylum seeking children (UASC) and is responsible for approximately 15 percent of the entire UASC population. Of the 1071 children in foster care or care homes in the borough in 2009, more than 60 percent were UASC, each costing an estimated £40,000 a year.
The council covers the costs – which can be up to £35million – and this is later refunded by the government.
The Home Office’s decision to cut funding for UASC could have cost Croydon council taxpayers up to £2.5million a year. Before the meeting, Cllr. Fisher had considered the cuts as “totally unacceptable” and “intolerable”.
“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”, he said.
Speaking after securing the extra funding, Mr. Barwell said: “We have stopped people, who I represent as MP, from paying for something that is the government’s responsibility”. “I believe the settlement is a fair deal for Croydon Council taxpayers.”
Kamena Dorling, manager of the Migrant Children’s Project, said: “We welcome the decision. The UK Border Agency has a duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of asylum seeking children, and this must extend to decisions about funding. It is hoped that the extra funding will help ensure that UASC in Croydon receive the support and assistance to which they are legally entitled”.