Letter: Refugee burden falls on local authorities

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Sir: Your report by Glenda Cooper of the Young Minds paper War and Refugee Children ('Refugee children fleeing war 'need better support' ', 17 October) states that half of the unaccompanied refugee children entering Britain each year will end up in children's homes. That outcome is neither necessary nor desirable.

Through a concerted campaign employing specialist staff, this authority has succeeded in placing well over half the refugee children for which we have responsibility in foster care. There has been a positive response from the local Eritrean and Ethiopian communities helping us to meet the needs of these children. There are now four times as many children in foster care as there are in children's homes.

Your article, however, may underestimate the scale of the problem.

Kensington and Chelsea council is now providing care and support to 121 refugee children - all of them come from Ethiopia and Eritrea. Forty per cent of all our 'looked after' children entered this country as unaccompanied refugees. Yet, despite the cost of providing this care, which is now in excess of pounds 2m per annum, the authority receives no financial support from central government.

It is wrong that a handful of local authorities, predominantly situated in inner London, should be expected to provide for this increasing problem without extra assistance.

Yours faithfully, EDWARD HESS Chairman, Housing and Social Services Committee Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea London, W8 17 October

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