21/02/2019 00:01 GMT

Cost Of Caring For Young Asylum Seekers Has Doubled Since Migrant Crisis, Figures Show

Local councils have picked up most of the bill, even as their budgets continue to be squeezed.

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Council spending on care for child asylum seekers has almost doubled sine the migrant crisis in 2015, new figures show.

Councils in England spent £77.8m in 2014/15 compared to four years later, when they spent £152.4m, according the Local Government Association (LGA).

Local authorities are required by law to accommodate and care for under-18s who claim asylum and have no relative or guardian in the UK.

There was a sharp increase in the the number of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC) after the international migration crisis in 2015.

Since then the increase has remained flat, with 4,480 UASC in the UK at the end of March last year compared to 2,760 in 2015.

The LGA claims the costs and challenges are contributing to “soaring” demand on councils’ children’s services, as their budgets continue to be squeezed.

David Simmonds, chairman of the LGA’s asylum, migration and refugee task group said councils were committed to providing the best support possible.

He added: “However, given the significant financial pressures councils are under as they set local budgets and council tax in the coming weeks, achieving the level of support new arrivals are legally entitled to is becoming more and more challenging.

“Councils want to make sure every child in their care gets the very best support which keeps them safe from harm, and enables them to go on and live fulfilling, happy and healthy lives.”

He called for a government commitment to “properly fund the joint commitment to support unaccompanied children”.

Last year an inspection report on the arrangements found funding “was an issue”.

It said an unaccompanied asylum-seeking child costs a local authority approximately £55,000 a year, of which the Home Office provides £41,610 for children under the age of 16, and £33,215 for those aged 16 or 17.

The latest official figures show the number of UASC applications in the UK fell by 10% to 2,635 in the year to September.

The news comes the same week as a group of 34 men, women and children were detained by Border Force officials after crossing the English Channel in a small boat on Monday, 

Even though the number of migrants entering Europe is no where near the numbers seen in 2015, the UK is still struggling to cope with people attempting to cross the channel.

In 2018, more than 500 migrants tried to travel to the UK on small vessels, with 80% of them attempting the journey in the final three months of the year.

In response to the increase in incidents, Home Secretary Sajid Javid ordered two Border Force boats to be redeployed from overseas to patrol the Channel.