Refugee children need homes right here, right now
Since the images of Aylan Kurdi struck such a potent chord with the general public, there has been an outpouring of offers of help from individuals touched by the horror and scale of the refugee crisis. In Britain, at the edge of this crisis, we are feeling the ripples emanating from refugees fleeing to Greece and Italy. Thousands are camped around coastal ports stretching from France northwards. 

While many are claiming asylum in France and Belgium, the authorities in those countries are struggling to cope. Many refugees are making dangerous journeys to get to the UK because of the desperate conditions around Calais. The commonest route is on freight traffic coming through the Eurotunnel. 

Amongst scores of refugees arriving every day in Folkestone, there are a large number of unaccompanied children – under-18 year olds with no parents or relatives to look after them. Under British law, unaccompanied children are the responsibility of the local authority in which they first present, typically Kent County Council.

However the situation of children arriving in the Kent ports is now critical 

The capacity of Kent County Council children’s services to accommodate these newly arrived separated children no longer exists. There are no fostering placements left in Kent and the reception facility they have is crammed to bursting. As a result, children traumatised by the events of their departure and their journeys are being left to languish without the necessary support to begin to rebuild their lives.

This crisis has been brewing since late June. In July, Alison O’Sullivan, President of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services wrote to all Directors of Children’s Services (DCS’s), alerting them to a critical situation with ‘a sharp spike’ in the numbers of unaccompanied asylum seeking children presenting themselves in Kent. The letter from the ADCS President asks DCSs to contact the DCS in Kent ‘if your authority is able to offer any suitable foster or residential care placements.’

The take-up to date has been negligible. But the number of children continues to spiral out of control and Kent children’s services are facing meltdown.

Kent Children’s services are now reporting they are trying to find placements for over 940 unaccompanied children. 

While the Home Office and the Department for Education are attempting to put a plan in place, the dialogue has remained stuck at the level of Government officials talking to Children’s Services directors. 

WHAT IS NEEDED NOW IS LOCAL ACTION TO PUT PRESSURE ON LOCAL AUTHORITIES TO FIND PLACEMENTS FOR THE CHILDREN ARRIVING IN KENT

The immediate and pressing need is for foster placements for children from 14 years old (occasionally younger) upwards. Local authorities need to be working with their local community to identity potential foster placements, make the necessary checks and provide support and training for those agreeing to take on the task.

So we need your help.

We must do everything we can to persuade Cambridgeshire County Council to do much more to find foster placements for child refugees. Your help can make a real difference to the lives of extremely vulnerable children.