Heated debate over plan for Norfolk to take in lone child refugees

Michael Rosen, director of Children’s Services at County Hall, spoke at the Norfolk County Council m

Michael Rosen, director of Children’s Services at County Hall, spoke at the Norfolk County Council meeting on unaccompanied minors - Credit: Archant

Norfolk has moved a step closer to taking part in a programme that would bring unaccompanied child refugees to the county, following a heated debate at County Hall.

Members of the Children's Services Committee yesterday voted by nine votes to two in favour of the county council taking part in the government's national transfer scheme for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children.

UKIP councillor Paul Gilmour, who voted against, warned Norfolk's health services would not be able to handle the strain of newcomers.

The government has pledged £42,000 per child per year for wellbeing purposes.

Councillor Judy Leggett said her initial concerns about resources had been addressed, and added: 'I think Norfolk should do its bit.'

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According the council report, Norfolk currently has 15 unaccompanied child asylum seekers, a figure that could rise to 117, or 0.07pc of the county's under-17 population, under the government's formula for an area's 'fair share'.

Michael Rosen, director of Children's Services, said councillors could set a limit to how many children the council accepted, and could refuse individual cases.

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He added: 'I think we need to be careful about the speed at which we accept young people into our care and services. I'm not saying we shouldn't take any, but to be careful about how many we take in and at what speed.

'[They] are mostly around ages 16 or 17, so they won't be in our care for long. We want to begin to build links for them in this country to sustain these young people when they are no longer looked after by us.'

The full council will make a final decision about joining the scheme in October.

What do you think? Email amanda.ulrich@archant.co.uk

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