Which would you choose; ‘Your Granny’ on a hospital trolley in A&E / unable to get social care, or a crying unaccompanied refugee child already in a ‘civilised’ EU country?
Emotional ‘blackmail’ is a useful tool for politicians and NGOs in order to get the government to take some action or provide extra funding and we have seen some good examples of this recently with the media crescendo regarding the latest winter crisis for the NHS and the apparent ‘halting’ of the Dubs amendment regarding taking in more unaccompanied children from the EU.
Cllr David Simmonds, Chairman of the LGA's Asylum, Refugee and Migration Task Group, has responded to the Government's announcement on the number of unaccompanied asylum seeking & refugee children resettled under the Dubs amendment – (The number of unaccompanied asylum seeking children living in England increased by more than 50% to over 4,000 in the last year!).
LGA responds to Government's statement on Dubs amendment resettlement figures ~ Unicef: End to Dubs scheme leaves refugee and migrant children facing uncertainty ~ ScotGov: Inhumane action by the UK Government ~ BBC: 62% Rise in lone children seeking asylum in England
What one must bear in mind though is that the kind-hearted people who offer to take one of these children into their homes is probably NOT offering to pay for all the public services they will need up to the age of 25. As the LGA has previously highlighted ; "When an unaccompanied child arrives in the UK, it is the council area where they arrive that is responsible for all costs associated with that child up until the age of 25. This includes schooling, foster care or children's homes, through to university fees and housing costs, whether they stay within the area or are moved elsewhere in the country”.
Both these causes are emotionally heart-breaking, BUT the government does not have any money! We still have a £60bn+ deficit each year and additional funds can only seemingly come from the tax-payer – or can they!
We currently have a Foreign Aid budget of over £12bn a year which has risen from £8.63bn in 2011.
People / politicians / the Media are increasingly calling for a bi-party approach to health & social care policy and a re-examination of the 0.7% of GDP set aside for Foreign Aid (FA), especially money given to third parties, where we have no control over how it is spent. In March 2015 (as we have highlighted before), MPs found that £6.3bn of Britain's aid budget had been handed to major agencies to help hit the target of spending 0.7% of nation's income on foreign aid (including the EU, which then ‘claimed it as their own ‘aid’ one presumes).
Why can’t we set up a trust (held by Unicef in Switzerland perhaps) into which the complete average long-term cost (which would vary each year according to their age) of every unaccompanied child migrant (including, physical & mental health, housing, education, translation services, etc. needs) could be paid from the FA budget each year? The appropriate amount could then be paid direct to the Local Authority (LA) which is responsible/liable for each child and it would be liable for funding / re-funding the different service providers (including the NHS).
One accepts that the concept is probably too simplistic as it stands, but it would maintain the concept of FA budget, while removing the conflict between either funding your ‘Granny on a trolley’ or caring for the ‘Dubs Amendment Children’.
If such a scheme could be set up it would:
*Ensure we knew how the FA was spent and that it was ‘value for money’
*Ensure the unaccompanied children got the proper care & support they needed until they reached the aid of 25
*Ensure it was spent on a ‘foreigner’ as they are currently ‘abroad’
*Relieve some of the financial pressure on LAs, NHS, etc.*Mean that the Government did not have to find additional funds to the detriment of other (domestic) services, thus removing a source of ’conflict’