Some asylum-seeking children who are being looked after in Northamptonshire will no longer receive financial support from the county council once they turn 18.
Despite passionate pleas from a councillor and an 18-year-old Northampton student, on Tuesday the cabinet at Northamptonshire County Council approved the plan to withdraw financial support for teenagers whose requests for asylum or immigration from the Government have been refused.
The measure will save the cash-strapped authority £330,000 a year and is being done as part of its move to cut services that are not part of its statutory provision.
There are currently 23 young people who will be affected by the policy.
At the meeting Labour Cllr Danielle Stone told the Conservative-run cabinet that the policy was the worst she had come across in all her time as a councillor.
She said: “One of my great concerns is that few people sitting around this table know these young people. They are in this country because they are escaping slavery, they are escaping persecution or are escaping civil war.
“If we return them home they will not be treated and greeted with flowers, they will be treated and greeted with guns’.
After criticising the way the council had dealt with the young people’s immigration appeals, Cllr Stone was shut down by leader Matt Golby and not allowed to speak any further.
A-Level student Ciaran Dowling, who knows the young people through a youth club, appealed to the cabinet not to make the move and said the young people had suffered enough.
He said: “I want to be proud of the county where I was born and grew up for its compassion and humanitarianism and for us to set a better example. Just because you do not have to support these young people doesn’t mean you cannot support them. There can be mistakes and injustices in the application of national policies and we know this has happened where immigration is concerned. For me, hiding behind policies that can be cruel in their execution to justify even greater cruelty is wrong.”
Cllr Adam Brown was in favour of the policy and said it was ‘absolutely the right way to go’.
He said: “If we are to support the welfare state then a key part of that is enforcing an immigration policy that is effective and fair’.
Cllr Fiona Baker said the move had already been made by some other councils.
She said: “The policy affects only a very small number of our asylum-seeking young people. This process will work very much on a case by case basis, looking sensitively at the individual circumstances for each young person, in line with human rights legislation and human rights assessments and will be taken prior to any decision that seeks to end funding and support.
“Should the decision be made to end support a policy for gradual reduction of support will be followed and all affected will be transitioned into other support services such as the Red Cross.”