Argyll has room for five more asylum-seeking children

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As many as seven unaccompanied asylum-seeking children could be housed in Argyll and Bute, a council committee has been told.

A report updated councillors on the situation with those young people (UASCs), the number of whom reaching the UK continues to rise.

Officers from the council and the area’s health and social care partnership (HSCP) have been working to develop plans to deliver appropriate care.

The UK Government made it mandatory, instead of voluntary, for UK local authorities to participate in its national transfer scheme for UASCs last month.

However, the council has formally responded expressing concerns about timing and preparation for bringing the plans forward, with the report expressing hope for ‘a degree of reasonableness’.

Chief social work officer David Gibson told the council’s policy and resources committee of the figure of seven at its virtual meeting on Thursday December 9.

Council leader, Kintyre and the Islands Liberal Democrat Councillor Robin Currie, said: ‘It was always our intention to bring two children to Argyll and Bute.

‘There has been a lot of work done by officers and COSLA (Convention of Scottish Local Authorities) on this subject and hopefully we will get a good outcome from it all.’

Mr Gibson replied: ‘Our capacity, as far as the Home Office is concerned, is not one or two – it is seven young people between the ages of 16 and 18.

‘Two is the basis for what we are working on now. If, over subsequent weeks, we have to take seven, that will create a much bigger issue and we would come back with reports to the council.’

Mid Argyll Independent Councillor Douglas Philand also raised the issue of mental health of any UASCs arriving in the area.

He said: ‘Obviously these young people, if placed here, could have significant mental health issues. I know they will be treated the same, but I am just keen to nail that fairly quickly just so things do not develop into a later trauma.’

Mr Gibson responded: ‘We have no doubt these youngsters have the potential to come with trauma. Some may have come from war zones, equally some may not have.

‘But we would expect a degree and we will discuss this with some of our mental health colleagues. The funding we have is to pay for their accommodation and a bit of schooling.

‘The numbers will not flood us but we will sit down like we would with any young people and work on a plan.

‘We will have interpreters on the ground to help us understand what the young people are trying to tell us. There are services we need to work around but we will do that in a bespoke process.’