Lone child refugees could be turned away from Norfolk on cost grounds
- Credit: PA
A decision will be taken today over whether Norfolk will sign up for a national scheme to take in unaccompanied child refugees - but council bosses have warned they could have to turn youngsters away if looking after them is deemed to be too expensive.
The government has agreed to take in more child refugees from North Africa, the Middle East and, after coming under pressure, children registered in Greece, Italy or France before March this year.
Norfolk County Council is currently responsible for five lone children who sought refuge in the county, but, if it signs up to new arrangements, it could take in more of the youngsters.
Those new arrangements would see pressure on some authorities, such as Kent, which is looking after 900 unaccompanied child refugees, eased by transferring them to other areas.
County Hall officers say, based on government modelling, that could see Norfolk expected to take 117 such refugees.
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And, with Ofsted having rated the county council's looked after children services as inadequate, Michael Rosen, director of children's services at County Hall, will today tell councillors he could not support such a number coming to the county.
In a report to councillors, he says: 'Ofsted currently judges looked after children services as inadequate. Other services for children and young people, notably, health services, face similar challenges and there is a shortage of support for mental health.'
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While members of the children's services committee will be asked to agree to participate in the national voluntary arrangements, it comes with a caveat.
Councillors will be asked to give Mr Rosen the power to accept or refuse individual children, after assessing whether the costs of meeting their needs can be paid for within the overall children's services budget and any extra cash which the Home Office gives.
Mr Rosen said affordability should be a criteria for refusing children and warned: 'Members should note the possibility that is unlikely that all additional costs will be met by new funding from central government.'
And the council is asked to agree that it will not accommodate the child refugees where there is no suitable health provision to meet physical and mental health needs.
The council has, separately, agreed to take in 50 Syrian refugees, who would be housed in Norwich and Broadland.
The National Audit Office today published a report urging the government that the 'goodwill' of councils in resettling those refugees needs to be supported with clear longer term funding.