Number of migrants identifying as minors pushing social workers in Devon to 'breaking point'

A council in Devon says its social workers are being pushed to "breaking point" and unable to carry out normal safeguarding duties, because of a high number of migrants being placed in hotels identifying as minors.

Torbay Council says a "high percentage" of migrants at a hotel in Paignton are claiming to be under 18, resulting in two social workers having to spend a minimum of 37 hours on every case - a process which could result in around £1m in total costs.

The council's chief executive Anne-Marie Bond told Sky News the situation is putting immense pressure on staff.

She said: "As a consequence, we don't have these social workers available to undertake their normal safeguarding responsibilities within the bay, and that is leading to immense concerns about our ability to deliver statutory services to the children of Torbay.

"We, and our social workers, are working incredibly hard to balance these risks, but we are pushing them to breaking point and that's my main concern."

The council says it was given no warning or consultation about a second hotel - in neighbouring Torquay - being taken over by the Home Office on Monday.

It says that having to process checks for migrant children can take up to 28 days and require an interpreter, appropriate adult, advocate, and accommodation.

Ms Bond said the council was already seeing an impact on child services, adding: "It's impacted upon our visiting patterns to some children, it's impacted upon the ability for managers to give support to the social workers to guide them in their cases and how they work with families and young people, so immensely impactful on a day-to-day basis."

The council is now considering legal action against the Home Office over the requisition of a second hotel for migrant housing, and is awaiting further clarification from the government.

'No one offered me protection in other countries'

Sky News spoke to one of the migrants living at the hotel in Paignton.

Thirty-six-year-old Mohammed Khalid arrived on the shores of the UK in a dinghy with 29 others in early August after leaving his home country Sudan in January.

After spending 24 hours at the Manston Processing Centre in Kent and a month at an immigration facility in Heathrow, he was sent to Devon.

He says other countries, such as France and Italy, do not provide the safety that England does.

"The UK, the people, and the government... they provide me, provide us, the protection – the people are helping us every time. No one offered me protection in other countries," he said.

Mohammed said conditions in the hotel were good and that he receives £8 a week.

'A different start to their life'

Reverend Nathan Kiyaga, dean of Torbay and chaplain at St Cuthbert Mayne School in Torquay, has visited the migrants at the hotel and says much of the community is supporting them.

"Having spoken to them, I see people who are longing to have a different start to their life, for circumstances beyond our understanding they've ended up in this place," he said.

"Our bid is to see how we can be the welcome to them for the time that they are here and support them as they rebuild their lives."

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Around 37,000 asylum seekers living in UK hotels

The Home Office says there are around 37,000 asylum seekers living in hotels in the UK at a cost of £5.6m a day.

It would not answer questions specifically relating to Torbay Council – but said in a statement it told Sky News: "The number of people arriving in the UK who seek asylum and require accommodation has reached record levels, placing unprecedented pressures on the asylum system.

"The Home Office and partners identify sites for accommodation based on whether they are safe and available. While we accept that hotels do not provide a long-term solution, they do offer safe, secure and clean accommodation, and we are working hard with local authorities to find appropriate accommodation during this challenging time."