On 8th February 2016, Lord Roberts of Llandudno asked the government “what action they are taking to relieve the situation of unaccompanied refugee children.” The Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Revd James Langstaff, asked a follow up question.
The Lord Bishop of Rochester: My Lords, as one of the bishops from Kent, may I take the Minister back to his previous answer? In fact, some 1,300 unaccompanied refugee children are housed in Kent, and the local authorities and the voluntary agencies are under very significant pressure. May I push him a little as to whether, in the light of the somewhat unencouraging response from other local authorities, Her Majesty’s Government intend to do anything else to ensure a more effective national dispersal programme—given that we are talking not just about this moment, but about the likely 10 years that will be needed to get a young person from the point of arrival to full integration, with all the work in education, language and healthcare needed to go with that, and the considerable investment required? Some assurance would help my colleagues in Kent.
Lord Bates: It is absolutely right to raise that point: we have a particular problem there, and we need more local authorities to come forward. We will take some action: the Immigration Bill before your Lordships’ House includes a provision that will allow the Secretary of State, where people do not step forward, to impose a settlement on local authorities—and that comes not only with the child, but with about £40,000 of funding per head. So we are not simply asking people to take additional responsibilities. If there is anything that can be done through the Diocese of Kent to exert pressure on local authorities more widely to take their fair share, we would of course all welcome that.