Ladesfield and us
Ladesfield and us.
Today I attended a meeting, alongside all the available Whitstable Councillors, at the Council offices. The meeting was chaired by the Council’s Chief Executive Officer, with the Council Leader attending as an observer.
The reason we were taking time out from our work and other schedules was to discuss the usage of the Ladesfield building in Whitstable, as a centre for the assessment of unattached asylum seekers under the age of eighteen, with Peter Oakford and Phillip Segurola from Kent County Council. The following are my notes and observations from this meeting.
Under the provisions of the Children’s Act, the legal responsibility for the care of unattached children lies with KCC. This encompasses all children in care within their catchment area and therefore includes such youngsters arriving into it from outside the area.
Up to now such children have been housed at Millbank in Ashford, but a dramatic increase in the number of unattached children meant that KCC had to find additional spaces to house them whilst they were being assessed. The one building within their portfolio that could in readied in the shortest possible time was the empty Ladesfield Home, previous used as a nursing home, situated in Whitstable. Apologies were given to the Councillors present regarding the delay of informing them that KCC would have to use these premises to house up to 40 children for assessment. The information spread instead after a leak to a newspaper, whilst plans were yet to be formalised.
The number of children in this category to be assessed was rising exponentially:
2013 – 218
2014 – 360
2015 – The estimate from the Home Office was a 10% increase. Let’s assume 396. The actual increase now being realised is 300%.
By July, Millbank was overwhelmed with the arrival of 170 children. Despite this, the area in which it is situated, among schools as in Whitstable, has shown no increase in crime.
It then becomes obvious that this is a major problem. KCC have been in talks with all relevant Government bodies, because this is more than Kent can cope with and because this is a national problem, not one that Kent should be totally responsible for just because the county is the nearest to Europe.
The assessment process for these children starts with Home Office officials at Dover. The initial process is to determine who are 18 years old or over. Sometimes this is obvious, but not always. Those deemed to be older are treated as adults and deported.
The remainder, as previously mentioned, legally have to be taken into care. Some of them will go to Ladesfield, so some facts about what will happen there:
- The building will be ready around September 1st.
- It will house up to 40 children, but will be filled gradually
- Experienced staff will lead teams in looking after the children
- Full assessment usually takes between 4 and 6 weeks
- As children leave, to be housed elsewhere, others will replace them
- KCC have promised a maximum usage of Ladesfield of 6 months
- The children are not prisoners. They cannot be prevented from leaving of their own volition.
- Some children might have been given contact details in the U.K. before they left their home country. They may leave Ladesfield and go to these contacts (Presumably not in Whitstable).
The assessment process is devised to learn as much as possible about the children and to make sure that they are safe to go into the wider community – that’s anywhere within the U.K acheter viagra pharmacie.
It will determine their health, both physical and emotional, their age, their grasp of the English language, their orientation. This information will go on a file for each of them that will include their photograph.
When this is complete they will move on to suitable homes where they can receive additional care with outreach support.
In the meantime KCC are pressurising the Government and have now had some feedback of agreement that this is a U.K. issue and not just be the responsibility of Kent. The children housed at Ladesfield will only amount to 0.12% of Whitstable’s population at a maximum.
It would be wrong to use the story of any named child as the reason that they are here, but an anonymous case study of those who have already been assessed at Millbank shows that some experienced their parents being killed in front of them, or ran away when shots were fired, or that their parents sent them away so that they could escape death.
Some, no doubt, will be traumatised by what they have experienced and may never vocalise it.
In so far as the nearby schools are concerned, they have requested a screen type fence. The plans for their expansion and a drop-off route will not be affected in the long term, once Ladesfield is vacated after its maximum usage of 6 months for this purpose.
End of Notes.
I did ask whether there was any way that this plan would not go ahead. The answer was a definite “No”.
This leaves us as a community to put any prejudices or fears to one side. We didn’t ask for this and, to be quite blunt, we don’t want it to pull our community apart. There has been too much said already between those for and against this action.
Newspapers have been quite happy to give space to anyone with an opinion on this matter. More hits equals more income for them. Your unique I.P. address when you comment online is traceable, so beware of what you write.
We all, at some times in our lives, have difficulties or worries put upon us of which we have no control. The Whitstable way to deal with this is to pull together, support each other and see it through. Most reasonable minded people would be horrified to hear the sort of comments that have been emanating from our town, to the extent that it would appear that these children are the ones who need protecting from us.
So, how about a truce? Let’s put the words written in anger or fear behind us and accept what is. If you’ve never had a chance to show a growing mind what is right and what is wrong, then you may have now. Make it the right choice.