A rising number of lone migrant children are being found in hotels having been “mistakenly identified” as adults, the chief inspector of Ofsted has said.
Amanda Spielman said she is “very concerned” about the trend and is worried that vulnerable children could be lost from sight and at risk of exploitation.
She said a rising number of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC) are arriving in the UK and need care and compassion.
They should swiftly be taken into local authority care but she said, “growing numbers, pressures on foster care, and the failings of some authorities to take ‘their share’ has led to unacceptable delays”.
A rising number of lone migrant children are being found in hotels having been “mistakenly identified” as adults, the chief inspector of Ofsted has said Gareth Fuller
The Home Office has said it does not want to be accommodating children in hotels “but we have no other choice”.
Addressing attendees of the National Children and Adult Services Conference in Manchester, Ms Spielman said the Government department has committed to ending the use of hotels as quickly as possible.
“You all have a part to play in achieving that”, she added.
She said it is vital that asylum seekers are given accommodation that is appropriate for their age, and said adults being in spaces for children “raise obvious safeguarding concerns”.
She added: “We are also very concerned about increasing numbers of children being found in hotels, mistakenly identified as adults.
“We have raised this with the DfE (Department for Education) and have seen swift action from local authorities.
The chief inspector of Ofsted, Amanda Spielman said she is “very concerned” about the trend Gareth Fuller
“But we are concerned that vulnerable children could be lost from sight and at risk of exploitation.”
Lisa Pascoe, Ofsted’s deputy director for regulation and social care policy, said the scale is unclear but it is “right that we name this quickly and early” so it can be stopped.
Asked at what point children are being mistakenly identified as adults, she said local authorities are “quite quickly” finding that asylum seekers transferred into hotels in their area as adults are children, prompting nods from around the room.
She said: “I think we all know that these are children that can be particularly vulnerable to being exploited.
“Some of these children may already be here for that purpose – we don’t know that – but they may be.”
Ms Spielman added that quite a number of children disappear very rapidly after arriving in the country.
In August, the Home Office said councils would receive extra money to incentivise them to move lone migrant children out of hotels faster and said they would be required to take enough UASC to make up at least 0.1 percent of the total number of children in their local area – up from 0.07 percent previously.
Ms Spielman said she is aware that many councils are working “tremendously hard” to develop UASC provision and to accommodate the increased quotas.
She added: “When we inspect, we will recognise those making good efforts as well as where progress is too slow.”