Council pledges to continue its support for refugee children

It’s Refugee Week (14-June 2021) and Brighton & Hove City Council has pledged to continue its support for one of the most vulnerable groups of people in the world.

The awareness week connects communities through arts, cultural and educational events, and promotes a culture of welcome.

This year’s theme is ‘We Cannot Walk Alone’ and, according to the national Refugee Week organisers, is ‘an invitation to extend your hand to someone new. Someone who is outside your current circle, has had an experience you haven’t, or is fighting for a cause you aren’t yet involved in’.

Brighton & Hove libraries are holding a series of events to mark this year’s celebration of Refugee Week.

Brighton & Hove City Council has been a City of Sanctuary since 2015 and in March 2021 signed up to the City of Sanctuary Charter affirming its vision to be a welcoming place of safety for all and proud to offer sanctuary to people fleeing from violence and persecution.

Councillor Hannah Clare, Chair of the Children, Young People & Skills Committee, said: “As a council we continue to be committed to welcoming and offering sanctuary to refugees and children who have arrived in the UK by themselves from countries such as Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan where war and persecution have made their lives unbearable.  

“We support the idea that all councils should play their part in supporting refugee children as the voluntary scheme we have at the moment is not working.”

Since 2016 the council has committed to take a minimum of 10 refugee children per year for the next 10 years via the National Transfer Scheme (NTS) and regularly throughout the year from councils including Kent and Portsmouth.

Councillor Clare added: “Sadly the government recently announced that they will not introduce a mandatory scheme where newly arriving children would be transferred to social services departments around the country for care and support, and as a result, unfortunately we’ve seen councils like Kent County Council announce they are unable to support any more of the children who arrive on their shores.

“As a city of sanctuary, we will remain open to one of the most vulnerable groups of people in the world.”

Currently there are 37 refugee children in our foster care service (0.074% of under 18 population) and 106 care leavers. The ask from the government is that councils take up to 0.07% of their child population.

Councillor Clare concluded: “We’re seeing a lowering in the age of new arrivals with more arriving aged under 16 and with a great degree of vulnerability and with more complex needs. But there’s a shortage of foster placements equipped to care for this cohort.

“So we’re urging anyone who thinks they have the skills to come forward and find out ways they can help.”

One carer with first-hand experience is Natasha who is currently fostering young people from Afghanistan but has previously looked after youngsters from Kurdistan.

Natasha said: “It's so rewarding to see these young people who have arrived in Brighton & Hove find their feet and find safety.

"We have creative ways of communicating with games for example, so that can be quite fun. As carers we can’t change the past, but we can create a better future.”

If you would like to find out more about fostering a refugee child, please contact fostering@brighton-hove.gov.uk.

The council continues to seek landlords who would be prepared to rent out their properties of any size to help refugees make a new home in the UK – please contact refugeehelp@brighton-hove.gov.uk if you would like to discuss further.

The council is also working with our local City of Sanctuary group, Sanctuary on Sea to identify where we need to do more to support adults and children seeking sanctuary in the UK and to find ways that refugees can use their resilience and skills to contribute to the economy and local community.

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