MORE than a dozen lone asylum-seeking children were being cared for by the council in Dudley this year, new figures show.

Unaccompanied asylum-seeking children often present themselves at points of entry into the country in their own right and are separated from their parents or any other responsible adult.

Figures from the Department for Education show there were 16 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in Dudley being cared for by the council as of March 31 – in line with the year before.

It contrasts the overall trend in England, where the number of lone child asylum seekers rose by almost a third.

This year there were 7,290 looked-after children who were unaccompanied child asylum seekers, compared to 5,670 the year before.

The department said it also marked a 42 per cent increase on pre-pandemic 2019 figures.

Paul Carberry, chief executive at children's charity Action for Children, said: "We need to see a clear shift from the current system. That means urgent cash from central government and a fire lit under its social care reform plans.

"It must ensure proper funding for early help services to reduce the numbers of children going into care, better support for those leaving care to return home so they don’t end up back in the care system, and improved standards of care.

"This approach will not only benefit those children and their future life chances, but also the taxpayer, who is currently footing the bill for an expensive and broken care system."

The figures show unaccompanied child asylum seekers made up nine per cent of all looked-after children. In Dudley, they made up three per cent of children being cared for.

Unaccompanied child asylum seekers across England were generally older, with just 14 per cent under 16 years old. And the majority (96 per cent) were male.

The Local Government Association, which represents local authorities across the country, said the latest figures emphasise how vital it is that the autumn statement ensures children’s services are adequately funded so councils can meet this rising demand and ensure children and their families get the support they need.

A DfE spokesperson said: "Every child deserves a safe and secure home, no matter their background, and local authorities have a responsibility to provide appropriate support for all children in their care.

"We are supporting them by improving the recruitment of foster carers and increasing the number of places available locally in both secure and open children’s homes."

Dudley Council would not confirm where the children in its care originated from and how they came to be in the UK alone.

Councillor Ruth Buttery, cabinet member for children’s services, said when asked for comment: “Dudley is proud to be a Child Friendly Borough and we are committed to looking after all our children in care.

“We have a small number of unaccompanied children in care and this care is funded by national government. Children can come to us through spontaneous arrivals or as part of the national transfer scheme, which is nationally mandated.”