Black Country looking after more lone asylum-seeking children - data
More lone asylum-seeking children were being cared for by councils in the Black Country this year, new figures show.
Unaccompanied asylum-seeking children often present themselves at points of entry into the country in their own right and are separated from their parents or any other responsible adult.
Figures from the Department for Education show there were 32 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in Wolverhampton being cared for by the council as of March 31 – an increase from 24 the year before.
The figure had risen to 30 in Sandwell, up from 14; there were 26 in Walsall, an increase from 13, and 16 in Dudley, in line with the year before.
It follows the overall trend in England, where the number of lone child asylum seekers rose by almost a third.
This year there were 7,290 looked-after children who were unaccompanied child asylum seekers, compared to 5,670 the year before.
The department said it also marked a 42 per cent increase on pre-pandemic 2019 figures.
Action for Children said the figures are depressing, adding they show an "overstretched and underfunded" care system that is letting down vulnerable children.
Paul Carberry, chief executive at Action for Children, said: "We need to see a clear shift from the current system. That means urgent cash from central government and a fire lit under its social care reform plans.
"It must ensure proper funding for early help services to reduce the numbers of children going into care, better support for those leaving care to return home so they don’t end up back in the care system, and improved standards of care.
"This approach will not only benefit those children and their future life chances, but also the taxpayer, who is currently footing the bill for an expensive and broken care system."
Councillor Simon Hackett, Sandwell Council’s cabinet member for children, young people and education, said: "We are determined to give those who are seeking sanctuary in Sandwell the support they need to make their home in our borough.
"This includes unaccompanied asylum-seeking children where we offer the best care we can. However, this has become increasingly difficult with the council facing huge financial pressures on services with almost two thirds of our budget spent on looking after vulnerable children and adults.
"With more demands being placed on children’s services than ever before, it is vitally important the Government allocates councils adequate funding to help us to continue to care for vulnerable children."
A Walsall Council spokesman said Walsall children's services were committed to providing the right support to children and families to ensure they have the best start in life.
"This includes ensuring the provision of support to separated migrant children in line with our statutory duties," they added.
Councillor Ruth Buttery, Dudley Council's cabinet member for children’s services, said: “Dudley is proud to be a child-friendly borough and we are committed to looking after all our children in care.
“We have a small number of unaccompanied children in care and this care is funded by national government. Children can come to us through spontaneous arrivals or as part of the national transfer scheme, which is nationally mandated.”
A Department for Education spokesperson said local authorities have a responsibility to provide appropriate support for all children in their care and the department was supporting them by improving the recruitment of foster carers and increasing the number of places available locally in both secure and open children’s homes.