Funding to help councils look after asylum seeking children has been slashed by an astonishing 37% since the Tories came to power, Government figures show.
A total of £34.5m for refugee children’s services has disappeared from councils’ budget since 2010, something the Labour Party said was “simply unacceptable”.
The pot of money has a wide remit but funds services related to refugee children’s health, emotional development and social needs via the Department for Education budget.
Ministers insist more support is reaching refugee children, however, adding the current rates for councils to place a child in care - £41,610-a-year for a child under 16 and £33,215-a-year for those aged 16 and 17 - are based on costs put forward by councils.
It comes as the number of asylum seeking children entering the country without a parent or guardian rose by 6% last year, as conflicts across the globe continue to tear families apart.
Emma Lewell-Buck MP, Shadow Minister for Children and Families, says: “These figures show that the Government are failing some of the most vulnerable children in our society.
“To slash spending on these vital services, at a time when we must be doing more to support asylum seeking children in this country, to ensure they get the best possible start in life, is simply unacceptable.
“These services provide vital support to incredibly vulnerable children and young people, and any cuts being made are the very definition of a false economy.
“From failing to properly support the Dubs scheme, to the months of delays before a safeguarding strategy was finally published, this Government has consistently failed vulnerable children in this country.”
Of the 72,670 children being looked after by local authorities in 2017, 4,560 were unaccompanied asylum seeking children. Almost 50,000 children have been granted asylum since 2010 in total.
The Government has also committed to taking a small handful of those unaccompanied children still languishing in refugee camps under the Dubs scheme.
The Dubs amendment, part of the 2016 Immigration Act, was passed after a campaign to transfer 3,000 unaccompanied child refugees stuck in camps to Britain. There are more than 3,300 unaccompanied children in Greece, 11,186 in France and 13,867 in Italy.
The Home Office has agreed to resettle just 480, though many campaigners believe that the Government should do more to help refugee children.
A Government spokesperson said Labour’s analysis of the figures does “not tally with the significant, increased investment we have made to support for asylum-seeking children and the local authorities who care for them.”
They added: “We are proud of the support we have given to the more than 49,000 children who have been granted asylum or another form of leave in the UK since 2010. Last year we increased the funding we provide to local authorities by 20% for unaccompanied asylum seeking children under 16, and by 28% for unaccompanied asylum seeking children aged 16 or 17.
“Local authorities who look after unaccompanied asylum seeking children now receive £41,610 a year for under 16 years old and £33,215 a year for those aged 16 and 17. We also provide local authorities with £200 per week for former unaccompanied asylum seeking children who go on to attract leaving care support.”