The Kent Challenge
Both the Port of Dover and Channel Tunnel, Folkestone are situated within south Kent. These trade and travel routes provide refugees including unaccompanied asylum seeking children (UASC) a means to enter the country. As UASC are children and unaccompanied, they become Looked after Children and become the responsibility of the Local Authority where they arrive.
Kent County Council has for many years had a number of UASC on their caseload, between 2010 and 2013 this averaged 180 new cases per annum. These children and young people were managed within statutory and primary care health services alongside the larger Looked after Children cohort.
In 2014, the numbers of UASC entering the county began to exceed the expected numbers of new entrants, increasing from 180 to 333. The health services for Looked after Children were beginning to experience the strain under the increased numbers. Some paediatricians and doctors in Kent began to develop expertise within the areas of UASC and started to develop their own resources and tools to support health assessments.
In June 2015 the number of children and young people entering Kent increased to four times more the annual average of arrivals to over 930 children and young people. In the month of October alone, 250 children and young people made the journey from Calais to the Port of Dover or through the Channel Tunnel.
The stretch on services was untenable within weeks, with a severe lack of capacity within paediatrics and accommodation for these vulnerable children and young people. The population profile was also changing from the norm, however, without shared information systems and a rush to put services in place it was difficult to understand the health profile of the children and young people arriving in Kent.
UASC Project Team
In the autumn of 2015, it became clear that the influx of unaccompanied asylum seeking children entering Kent was not subsiding and our inability to meet the health needs of the significantly increased population was increasing. NHS England Safeguarding funded some short-term Designated Doctor and project management support. Through this the UASC project team was created.
The UASC Project Team is a virtual team made up of number representatives of health-focussed agencies. They include: