In July the Government launched the national transfer scheme to ensure a more equitable distribution of unaccompanied asylum-seeking and refugee children across the country. The scheme is designed to support local authorities like Peterborough City Council. In support of the national transfer scheme we also increased central Government funding to local authorities caring for unaccompanied children by up to 33%.
Will my right hon. Friend reassure me that in areas such as Peterborough, which has already borne a major burden in both EU and non-EU migration, we will not be expected to pay once again for the huge ongoing costs of children and young people who are unaccompanied minors—we have 40 such cases in Peterborough—and that we will receive bespoke central Government funding?
I can reassure my hon. Friend that each child that his council looks after does attract additional funding, so I hope that that will address his particular financial concerns about the council’s obligations. I would like to put on record our grateful thanks to Peterborough Council, which does a fantastic and generous job in looking after some of these most needy children.
Unlike almost every other EU country, the UK does not allow unaccompanied child refugees to sponsor their parents to join them—a situation that the Home Affairs Committee has described as “perverse”. Does the Home Secretary agree that it is in the best interests of the refugee children, as well as in the interests of our society, to allow them to be with their parents?
I understand the hon. Gentleman’s motive in making this point. However, I would respectfully say to him that that could have a very detrimental effect in terms of a pull factor, with children coming to this country—potentially being sent or indeed trafficked to this country—in order to have their parents brought over; so no, we will not be looking at it again.
On the burden put on local authorities, one of the elements to which I refer them is the controlling migration fund—a new source of funds that I hope they will be able to access to support unaccompanied minors. On the Modern Slavery Act, I will have to get back to my hon. Friend.
Child protection organisations such as ECPAT UK fear that a lack of support and resources is preventing some authorities from offering the required level of professional services to adequately protect vulnerable children from traffickers. Why are over a quarter of local authorities unable to participate in the national transfer scheme for unaccompanied children? Will the Home Secretary agree to look at this as a matter of urgency?
The funds that we put in place to support unaccompanied children represent a sum that we agreed after consultation with local authorities to work out the costs. It is the average cost. We acknowledge that some children will have different needs and will therefore end up being more expensive, and some less so. We hope that this is the right amount to be able to support them. We believe that it is the right amount. We are always willing to try to listen to local authorities if they have other suggestions. I particularly refer them to the controlling migration fund, which we hope will be able to give additional support.