Response to the independent scrutiny report on missing unaccompanied asylum-seeking children

The Brighton & Hove Safeguarding Children’s Partnership (BHSCP) has today, Tuesday 28 February, published a scrutiny report into reports of missing unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC) from a Home Office run hotel in Hove. 

Since July 2021, over 1600 children have passed through the hotel pending transfer to the care of a Local Authority under the National Transfer Scheme. 137 UASC have been reported missing during this time, and the report, by Independent Scrutineer, Chris Robson, was commissioned by Brighton & Hove City Council, Sussex Police and NHS Sussex, to examine the Partnership’s safeguarding response. 

The report highlighted that there was “evidence of good practice and investigation by local agencies when children do go missing.” It also noted that as over 1600 children have been placed in the hotel, the demand associated with giving the council responsibility for all those children would result in “unmanageable risk”, and “would involve the deployment of resources which are beyond the capacity of the Local Authority.”

The scrutiny paper recommends that the Home Office make an immediate decision on the continued use of the hotel to accommodate UASC. It also calls for an independent system of inspection by Ofsted and extra funding for agencies to adequately resource safeguarding. 

Commenting on its publication, Deb Austin, Executive Director of Families, Children & Learning said: “At the heart of the matter are the children themselves and that’s why the council was keen for this scrutiny to take place.

“Hotels are not an appropriate place for children, and it is unacceptable that children have gone and remain missing from the hotel in the city and elsewhere in the country. 

“While it is encouraging that the numbers of children going missing has significantly reduced, as the report highlights this is likely to escalate again as small boat crossings increase again, and more children are placed in the hotel. It’s essential that Home Office has a plan in place to avoid a repeat of the large numbers of children going missing that occurred over the summer of 2022.

“We will continue to work with the Home Office and remain committed to working in partnership with our statutory partners to address all and any safeguarding concerns. 

“We welcome the report and fully support its recommendations. I want to thank Chris Robson for undertaking this scrutiny report and responding to our concerns so quickly on this urgent issue.”