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8 September 2016, 12:38
A voluntary scheme designed to help counties like which take in large numbers of unaccompanied child asylum seekers isn't working according to Kent County Council.
Officials at KCC say just 48 under-18s have been permanently transferred from Kent to other local authorities since it was the scheme was launched two months ago. But nearly double that number have arrived in Kent during that time.
They say part of the problem stems from too few local authorities signing up to the voluntary national dispersal scheme, and urgent action is now needed for the Government to make it mandatory.
Peter Oakford, KCC's specialist children's services cabinet member, said: "The voluntary scheme is not working and Kent is continuing to care for a hugely disproportionate number of these young people.
"While we are very grateful to those authorities who have signed up to this scheme, the vast majority have not stepped up and accepted their responsibilities.
"We need Government to make national dispersal mandatory as a matter of urgency.''
Kent is currently caring for more than 1,400 young migrant people. In January, the county had just over 900 unaccompanied migrant children aged under 18 in its care.
Migrants continue to come into Europe from countries in north Africa and the Middle East, with many ending up in Calais where the 9,000-strong camp known as "the Jungle'' is based.
As Kent is the closest British county to northern France, KCC has had its services stretched since the start of the migrant crisis, with council bosses reporting extra pressures on foster carers, social workers, school places, accommodation, healthcare and tutoring in English as a second language.
Dover and Deal Conservative MP Charlie Elphicke said: "Yet again it's Dover and Kent that have to bear the brunt of the Calais crisis.
"In Dover and Kent we are on the frontline of people traffickers and their evil trade of modern slavery. We are caring for vastly more than our fair share of unaccompanied migrant children.''