Local Government Finance (England) Special Grant Report (No. 77) on 2000/2001 Special Grant for Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children

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Mr. Allan: Annex B seems to suggest that while the local authority continues to have its Children Act responsibilities, which I welcome, no grant will be payable. Paragraph 3 says that no grant is payable in respect of persons whose claim for asylum has been finally determined.

Mrs. Roche: As I understand it, it would depend on where they were. The authority might still have continuing obligations as it would to any other child in care, for example, under the Children Act. The child might have exceptional leave to remain and so there would be an obligation towards him or her.

I do not have any comparable figures for other countries. I am not sure that they exist in that form. If they do, I shall make them known to the Committee. There was no capping last year. We have set a regime that we think is fair to local authorities, but the hon. Gentleman and the Committee must realise that there are tremendous variations in costs. Certainly the average weekly figures show that we are on the generous side.

Mr. Simon Hughes: Can the Minister remind us of the figures for the last two years? This year the figure is £85 million.

Mrs. Roche: Last year it was £52 million. There has been a substantial increase. We have the figures for all the authorities claiming the higher rate and we can also give the latest figures on the numbers of children, but I shall write to the Committee rather than read them out now. The hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey also mentioned education costs. Those are not covered by the grant. As he will know, they come under the normal process of education spending and would be reflected in the standard spending assessment of the education authorities concerned.

Mr. Hughes: What is the justification for the differential amount at 16? What is it meant to cover because it goes down by half? What is paid for in the case of under-16s that is considered unnecessary after 16?

Mrs. Roche: By its very nature, caring for younger children is much more expensive and intensive. At the later age there will probably be a greater degree of independent living.

The hon. Gentleman asked about detention, which is not strictly the subject of the report. Young people are detained only in the most exceptional circumstances. The most obvious example is someone arriving at a port very late at night when social services cannot come out. There are times prior to removal when young people may be kept with their families in special dedicated accommodation, but they are not unaccompanied children. Generally speaking, the Government's policy is not to detain young people.

The reservation has been a long running issue. The United Nations convention on the rights of the child is couched in broad-brush terms. We have an independent panel of advisers and we believe that nothing in our policy on asylum for children goes against that convention.

I hope that I have dealt with all the matters that have been raised. I will look to see whether I can provide any information in addition to that which I have promised. I commend the report the Committee.

Question put and agreed to.


    That the Committee has considered the Local Government Finance (England) Special Grant Report No. 77 on 2000/2001 Special Grant for Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children (House of Commons Paper No. 315).

        Committee rose at eleven minutes past Eleven o'clock.

The following Members attended the Committee:
Cook, Mr. Frank (Chairman)
Allan, Mr.
Burns, Mr.
Gill, Mr.
Hughes, Mr. Simon
Jones, Helen
Jones, Dr. Lynne
Levitt, Mr.
Lidington, Mr.
Meale, Mr.
Roche, Mrs.
Simpson, Mr. Keith
Steinberg, Mr.
Sutcliffe, Mr.
Truswell, Mr.
Wright, Mr. Anthony D.

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