The Home Office has announced that councils will get more money to care for children who arrive in the UK alone to seek asylum.
Councils used to get between £71 and £114 per child per day, depending on the age of the child and when they arrived in the UK. From now on it will be £114 per child per day across the board, backdated to 1 April 2019.
The Home Office says that this represents a total increase of £30 million a year. To put this context, council spending on these children was £152 million in 2017/18 — almost double the amount needed four years earlier. The Home Office does not say how much the funding increase brings its total outlay to, but it doesn’t seem to be fully reimbursing the councils: it says that it “provides a contribution to their costs”.
Immigration minister Caroline Nokes told Parliament:
The decision to increase these rates reflects the incredibly valuable work local authorities undertake with vulnerable UASC, and the Home Office commitment to supporting this.
The department also says that it is “working to reduce the time it takes to conclude UASC asylum cases. The Home Office is working with stakeholders to develop a new service standard to ensure a better prioritisation of cases”. This is in line with a statement to the Guardian this week that officials have “moved away from the six-month service standard [target]” for deciding asylum cases in general in order to prioritise the most vulnerable, including children.
Two separate reports last year had criticised delays in deciding child asylum cases. Elder Rahimi Solicitors interviewed some children who had been waiting for over two years for a decision, while the immigration inspector recorded that “non-straightforward cases were taking an average of 458 days.