There are many challenges that are currently impacting our nation and we all need our local MPs to be aware of these and for them to raise them within Parliament and get the Government to respond. The challenge is how we can raise the themes in an effective way? One of the themes arose last Wednesday when the Government through Michael Gove made a statement regarding the care of Ukrainian people. He began with the words
The Homes for Ukraine scheme will allow eligible children and minors under the age of 18 who have already applied through the Homes for Ukraine Scheme to come to the UK without a parent or guardian, the Government announced today. This policy will initially apply to the 1,000 children who have already applied to the Home Office but are unable to travel as they are not travelling or reuniting with a parent or guardian.
It became clear a few hours later that his statement and the action was not sufficient for the agencies he calls to assist on behalf of the people for our Nation. As it happened on the following day in Parliament the fact that this theme is impacting Councils across the Nation did get a brief mention. A relatively local person commented during a discussion that took place in the House of Commons. This involved Carolyn McKenzie who is the Director of Environment in Surrey County Council. She was one of the speakers in a debate on the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill which of course is a subject that Michael Gove is responsible for. One of her sentences was
Also, when you get things like covid coming along, or Ukraine, or inflation, the risk of dropping down the agenda is really high, so that sustainable approach to funding is needed, rather than there being small pots of funding and grant-based funding, which can change and is short-run and competitive.
On the day before Carolyn was speaking in Parliament and a few hours after the statement came from Michael Gove a very strong response emerged from outside of Parliament which came from a network of Councils. The statement included that “local authorities urgently need robust guidance and sufficient funding” so that they can support unaccompanied young people who will now be allowed to enter the UK under the Homes for Ukraine scheme. The person who made this comment is Steve Crocker who is the Head of Children’s Services in Hampshire and he is also the president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services. His group criticised the government after it failed to provide guidance to local authorities alongside its announcement. Steve Crocker went on to say to Gove and his Government to
support us to keep children safe and to meet their needs, we are disappointed that this was not published as this announcement was made.
Clearly there are very significant challenges which have been raised from Councils such as Hampshire and Surrey and indeed on behalf of all other Councils in the UK. That would indicate that this theme is a challenge here in Sussex as well as our neighbour Councils. There have certainly been very significant calls that have emerged from Brighton and Hove in the past and one would imagine that East and West Sussex County Councils would also be equally concerned. I recall a few weeks ago that challenges emerged that are facing the Ukrainian children who have been placed in a Hotel in Brighton and Hove. Indeed, Sussex Police and the Hotel management are working very hard to protect these children from the risk of people who are seeking to attack them. The reality however is that our local MPs with one very clear exception have not been raising the Ukraine issues in Parliament in the last few weeks. The one person who has raised questions about Ukraine on a number of occasions in June is Caroline Lucas who is the MP for Brighton Pavilion. She raised several calls which were not specifically about the children care issues but she has spoken on three occasions. The week before last she asked a very detailed question and a couple of days earlier, she asked
what steps she is taking to ensure that effective protection from abuse and exploitation is provided to Ukrainian refugees in the UK before and after their arrival.
A week before those questions she asked
if she will make it her policy to ensure the placement of large posters in all ports of entry with essential information on safeguarding in Ukrainian and Russian, including phone numbers of the police
These calls are vital and we need to applaud Caroline for asking them and we now need to ask all of the Sussex MPs to raise the theme that is a challenge for our Councils.