York responds on unaccompanied asylum-seeking children


Around this time last year, I posted on Lib Dem Voice about York’s role in responding to the refugee crisis. I am very pleased that over the last year, York has been active in the Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme and in welcoming refugees to the city. We have a proud history of offering a home to those fleeing persecution and will continue our work to meet our humanitarian commitments.

A closely associated issue, increasingly prominent over the last few months, has been that of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. Tim Farron and Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords have campaigned strongly for the government to do a huge amount more on this front. Early this year, Tim slammed the government’s response as ‘cold-hearted’ and ‘callous’. He was absolutely right – we were failing people who are the least able to help themselves. After months of pressure, the government accepted a commitment to resettle ‘up to 3,000’ children from within Europe.

I have given support on behalf of City of York Council to Liberty’s Protect Refugee Children campaign, whose central statement reads:

We welcome the Government’s commitment to create a resettlement scheme to bring unaccompanied refugee children in Europe to safety in the UK. We recognise and support the vital role that local councils can and should play in caring for children seeking sanctuary.

“We urge central government to provide funding to build the essential regional infrastructure necessary to secure the placement and support of children across the country and help us build them a brighter, safer future.

I would encourage more Lib Dem Councillors to sign up too. Lib Dems should be making the case for the government to show its support for local authorities and give us the resources to make our welcome to unaccompanied asylum-seeking children as warm as possible. In particular, I want to see a change that delivers funding for placements up-front, rather than delaying it until past the point that the authority actually needs it.

Despite some of these challenges, York has been working closely with authorities across the Yorkshire & Humber region to provide an active response. York is leading a meeting of social care professionals that aims to coordinate our efforts in the region. We will continue work with neighbours and partners to give asylum-seeking children a home and a new start.

We know we are doing the right thing. We now need the government’s full support to help us deliver.


* Keith Aspden has been the Councillor for Fulford Ward in York since 2003 and for Fulford and Heslington Ward since 2015. Since 2019 he is the Leader of City of York Council, and the Liberal Democrat Deputy Chair of the LGA Fire Services Management Committee.

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  • “Tim Farron [has] campaigned strongly for the government to do a huge amount more on this front. Early this year, Tim slammed the government’s response as ‘cold-hearted’ and ‘callous’.”

    Yet strangely, Tim’s Lib Dem-controlled local authority area still doesn’t have a single refugee or asylum seeker living in it.

  • Well done York, lived there for many a year and loved it, resources up front is the key point if this is going to work as well as it could. More power to you!

  • @ Stuart The Lib Dem Council you refer to is a District Council. The responsibility for asylum seekers is a Cumbria County Council responsibility.

    Suggest you do your homework next time before demonstrating your misinformation.

  • Katharine Pindar 23rd Nov '16 - 12:26am

    @ David Raw. Thanks for that correction, David. I am informed that Cumbria County Council has agreed to take 120 refugees, and the delay in beginning to do so was because so many people were flooded out of their houses for many months that spare accommodation was not readily available. I continue to press my Labour MP and Labour County Councillor on the matter.

  • Katharine, given that the Windsor family of Buckingham Palace are going to get a £ 369 million housing benefit handout, and that there are several unbedroomed tax rooms available there, a bit of leading by example wouldn’t come amiss – especialy since the Association of Directors of Children’s Services state HMG are only picking up half the tab that councils such as York and Cumbria are having to find.

    It’s a funny old world : to those that have shall be given ?

  • Daniel Walker 23rd Nov '16 - 9:13am

    @David Raw To be fair, the money to refurbish Buckingham Palace (which, being clear, is primarily used for her duties as Head of State, and is owned by the nation – if we went to an elected HoS it would almost certainly be the President’s residence, and would still need refurbishing) is coming from a (temporary) reduction in the effective 85% tax rate on Crown Estate income to 75%, rather than a handout per se. I’m no monarchist, but these things need to be kept in perspective.

    Your point about the burden on councils vs HMG is, of course, entirely valid though!

  • Daniel, …….to be fair……… the Windsors can afford to do it themselves. Do you remember the kerfuffle when part of Windsor Castle burned down ?

    It certainly doesn’t stack up with disabled folk having to lose benefit when they need an extra bedroom.

  • Daniel Walker 23rd Nov '16 - 12:14pm

    @David Raw

    I do remember the “kerfuffle” regarding the Windsor Castle fire, yes. Indeed, avoiding something similar happening to the Palace, and a similar kerfuffle is the impetus behind this refurbishment.

    And they are paying for it themselves, it’s effectively coming out of Crown Estate income; that was my point. I assume you aren’t suggesting that the money should come out of Elizabeth Mountbatten-Windsor’s personal fortune? (which I grant is considerable) I would complain if Crown Estate money was used to maintain Sandringham or Balmoral, which are private houses, but Buckingham Palace is a public building, used for her public duties. Mr Obama is not a poor man, but I assume he does not pay personally for the White House to be repainted, should it need it, and nor should he.

    The bedroom tax is appalling, as you rightly suggest, but not directly related to this.

  • Reference Buck House….The queen gets about £45M (15% slice of the crown estates) given as the Sovereign grant. HM’s salary for being Head of State.
    Included is a figure to maintain buildings*…However, 60yrs of receiving this stipend didn’t lead to any buildings maintenance although in those 60 years she has been given umpteen ‘top ups’ and she has now been granted a further 10% slice of the crown estates.

    Also, the Queen is privately funded by the duchy of Lancaster. A similar arrangement as Charles’s duchy of Cornwall. The accounts from this duchy are never made public, but conservative estimates put its value at over £300M (strictly for her personal use).

    This means we are paying her a Sovereign grant in addition to the duchy of Lancaster monies. No wonder she rarely touches her own private wealth.

    *…The occupied royal palaces in the United Kingdom such as Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle are held in trust by the sovereign. The Royal Household is expected to use the Sovereign Grant to maintain the palaces.
    In May 2009 the Queen requested, and received, an extra £4 million annually from the government to carry out a backlog of repairs to Buckingham Palace.
    In 2010, the Queen requested an additional grant from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport but was refused on the basis that the scheme was “aimed at schools, hospitals, councils and housing associations for heating programmes which benefit low-income families..

    Ref Windsor Fire…The cost of repairing the 1992 fire at Windsor embarrassed HM into paying income tax and opening Buck house to the public….
    She also stumped up about 10% towards that cost, so even an offer of the same % here would be a start…

  • @ Daniel …… You assume wrongly. I do think that Elizabeth Mountbatten-Windsor (formerly Battenberg-Saxe-Coburg-Gotha) should cough up.

    There is likely to be a parliamentary debate on this (over 100,000 have already signed a petition on it).

  • Simon McGrath 23rd Nov '16 - 3:00pm

    @david Raw – why do you think it relevant that the Queen’s great grandfather changed his name 100 years ago?

  • Simon McGrath. It was her Grandfather, Simon.

    Why did you find it relevant to ask ?

  • @David Raw
    Actually South Lakeland’s own website makes it very clear that refugee policy is decided jointly by the local district authorities, via the “Cumbria Leadership Board”.

    I note that South Lakeland’s website helpfully advises would-be asylum seekers to try applying “in either Croydon or Liverpool”!!

    @Katharine Pindar
    Yes, it’s true that after originally offering to accommodate the grand total of 15 families across the whole of Cumbria, the local authorities then claimed they couldn’t even take in that small number because of the floods. Yet, as I posted here the last time this was discussed, Cumbria has similar numbers of empty properties to other nearby authorities who have taken in large numbers of refugees. Besides, the floods were nearly a year ago now. Is this really still an excuse?

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