HL Deb 27 February 2002 vol 631 cc248-9WA
Baroness Whitaker

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What plans they have to reimburse local authorities for their expenditure on supporting unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. [HL3015]

Lord Rooker

My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has today laid before Parliament a Special Grant Report which sets out the arrangements for reimbursing local authorities in England for the costs of supporting unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC) as a result of their duties under the Children Act 1989.

The Special Grant Report explains the areas of expenditure which will be eligible for the grant and the time-scales for local authorities to make their claims.

As my right honourable friend the Home Secretary outlined in the White Paper, we will continue to offer appropriate levels of care to UASC and the Home Office leads the Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children's Stakeholder Group. One key element of this is to ensure that we can sift out adults posing as children and deter those seeking to abuse the system. Home Office staff are already taking steps to challenge older applicants and divert them to the adult asylum process.

We are exploring opportunities for better sharing of costs across the country and in particular the joint commissioning of the accommodation for unaccompanied minors who are 16 or 17 on arrival. We are already doing more to support local authorities by improving information exchange and UASC will be included as part of the asylum audit. It is important that financial support to local authorities provides fairly for essential needs and encourages good value for money.