Government praises Norfolk's 'moral leadership' over child asylum seekers
- Credit: PA
A minister has praised the "moral leadership" of Norfolk in taking on significant numbers of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children.
Children’s minister Vicky Ford highlighted the county as an example to follow as she urged more councils to consider doing more to provide placements.
In December Norfolk County Council said it had taken in almost 50 children who fled to the UK over the sea and without their parents to seek asylum.
The county responded to a plea for help from Kent County Council last summer, given a surge in children arriving in small boats after travelling across the English Channel.
Ms Ford said she was “extremely grateful” to authorities that have come forward to “take on the care of these very vulnerable young people over recent months”.
Speaking at the annual conference of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS), she added: “Sometimes local authorities say that these young people will not want to live in rural areas, or outside the big cities as reasons why some areas feel that they cannot step forward and play their part.
“I know that meeting these young people’s needs can be challenging, but it can also be very rewarding. Many of these young people can go on and thrive wherever they go to live.”
Ms Ford said the recently announced changes to the National Transfer Scheme (NTS), with a voluntary regional rota backed up by increased funding to “help ensure there’s a fairer distribution of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children across the country”.
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She told delegates: “The experiences of councils such as Norfolk which has gone from having very few unaccompanied asylum-seeking children to caring for a significant number as a result of moral leadership and a concerted effort, demonstrates that.”
The NTS was introduced in 2016 after a surge in the number of asylum seekers arriving in the UK.
Norfolk County Council is a member of the voluntary programme designed to encourage local authorities to agree to receive unaccompanied young asylum-seekers from gateway councils, such as Kent, which are often the point of arrival for asylum seekers.
The Home Office mooted making the scheme mandatory in a consultation last year, but, in a statement last month, said a voluntary rota system would enable the fairer distribution of responsibility between councils.