Seagull Weekly Briefing 19/12

Our last one before Christmas—all the top stories in the city.

Seagull Weekly Briefing 19/12
Source: The Brighton Seagull

Good morning, and welcome to the Brighton Seagull's Monday Briefing! This will be our last one before Christmas, to let the team take a well-earned break.

This year has been a big one for the Seagull - thank you to everyone who has joined us in 2022, and we’re excited to keep bringing you the most important local news and the best local live events in 2023. We’ll be back with our first briefing in the new year on January 6th so until then, we wish a very Merry Christmas to all who celebrate—and a restful, joyful, and warm holiday season to those who don’t—from our Seagull family to yours.

Two members of Seagull in an office, sat on a square footstool. One person with ginger hair, a cream top and black glasses is throwing a peace sign. The other is lying down, wearing dungarees with hedgehogs on and a blue and white stripy top, with highland cow slippers. They are both smiling.
Behind the scenes in Seagull HQ!
This edition of The Brighton Seagull is sponsored by Cybersyn, a friendly digital analytics consultancy based right here in Brighton.

News This Week

In The Seagull this week:

  • Roosa Herranen interviewed The Birdyman—you know, the one who has the bird whistles in North Laine.
A profile of... Birdyman
Roosa Herranen interviews The Birdyman on his career, his whistles and crucially to find out: why birds?

Mental health emergency declared

A mental health emergency in the city has been recognised by the council.

In a cross-party motion proposed by Carmen Appich and Sue Shanks to the full council last week, it was noted that the demands on and levels of need for mental health services in Brighton & Hove is high compared to England. This is the case across all ages: children and young people, working age adults and older adults.

Various plans have been laid out for how the council plans to deal with this.

It has requested CEO Geoff Raw writes to the Education Secretary requesting resources to better equip education providers to deal with the challenges of poor mental health for students, teachers and staff.

It has also requested a report be brought to Health and Wellbeing Board which explores the options for rolling out school and college-based counselling
across the city.

However, this comes a month after Brighton and Hove Citizens, a group of headteachers, faith and community groups, were told by the council that it cannot afford to back its calls for every school in the city to have a counsellor.

The council also failed to back its calls for all carers to earn the Real Living Wage of £10.90 an hour, and for a mental health worker to be in local food banks.

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🖋 News in Brief 🖋

  • Last week's Santa Dash raised more than £7,000!
  • We don't normally do weather for the week ahead, but there's a yellow weather warning from now until 6am on Tuesday. Stay safe out there!
  • Rail strike dates until we're back: Christmas Eve, December 26th, December 27th, January 3rd, January 4th, January 6th, January 7th. Solidarity ✊
  • 103 days until the Volks reopens!
If you have a story for Seagull, please get in touch with our editor at [email protected].

The Big One

What's happening? An estimated 130 children seeking asylum in Brighton and Hove have gone missing from Hove hotels.

What? How? In July 2021, the Home Office began contracting with hotel owners in Brighton and Hove (among other places) to house unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, as well as adults and families with children in additional hotels. Last month, it was revealed by The Guardian that more than 220 unaccompanied children seeking asylum were missing from Home Office-funded hotels.

Wow. In her maiden speech, newly-elected Labour councillor Bella Sankey said:

More than 130 children seeking asylum have gone missing from Brighton and Hove since July last year. Five classrooms of children have disappeared.

This shocking situation has occurred for two reasons. First, the actions of Conservative Home Secretaries Priti Patel and Suella Braverman who have, without precedent and completely outside of the law, moved lone children into the city, abandoning them in hotels, with no meaningful safeguarding.

Second, this situation exists because the Green administration has chosen to look the other way.

The Greens claim that these children – resident in our city – are not our responsibility, choosing instead to nod along with Suella Braverman’s fiction that these hotels are – in quotation marks – ‘intake centres’.

She asked Phélim Mac Cafferty, council leader, to tell councillors who is legally and ethically responsible for the children, and why he is has not challenged the Home Secretary yet.

Following this, councillor Mac Cafferty said how he has 'repeatedly' challenged the Home Office, just not always publicly, and Green deputy leader Hannah Allbrooke said they'd written to the Home Secretary 'within 24 hours' of hearing that they had used a hotel in the city without having obtained the consent of the council.

What is being done? The council has agreed to request council CEO Geoff Raw write to the Home Secretary to ask her:

  • To explain on which legal basis upon which they are moving unaccompanied asylum seeking children outside of the local authority area of their arrival in the UK into hotels in Brighton & Hove being used as “intake centers"
  • For legal clarity about whether the Home Office accepts responsibility of ‘corporate parent’ for the “children placed in those 'intake centers'"
  • For an urgent meeting with the Home Office to discuss the welfare needs of and adequate funding for unaccompanied children

The council has also agreed to a report or briefing to the next Children, Young People and Skills Committee to clarify:

  • At what point in the process Brighton and Hove City Council is informed by the Home Office that a child is being transferred out of area to a hotel or “extension of an intake center” located by the HO in Brighton and Hove
  • What specific steps are being taken to safeguard children once officers are made aware of their arrival.

This is meant to be a city of sanctuary... It is, and Sanctuary on Sea, Brighton's City of Sanctuary group, spoke out about last week about this, calling for an investigation into what has happened and vowing their support. They said that the council has duties under the Children Act 1989 and 2004, to 'safeguard and promote the welfare of all children in need', and that it needs to do more 'to discharge that duty for unaccompanied asylum seeking children'.

We are shocked to learn of the appalling number of children going missing.  One child is too many and, if they were British, it would cause serious alarm and concern.  

But the fundamental problem is that hotels are no place for lone children.  Only local authorities can be 'corporate parents'. The Home Office must find a way to put children directly into Councils’ care as soon as they arrive in the country and not place them in limbo in hotels where they are vulnerable to the traffickers who prey on them.

Asylum hotels are no place for any child. Some children in Brighton & Hove have been living in an hotel funded by the Home Office for more than a year. We hear from doctors and teachers, as well as their parents, that they are simply not thriving: their physical and mental health is suffering. It is vital that the Home Office speed up its asylum decisions, clear the backlog and stop warehousing people in hotels.
That's all for this week—please subscribe, and forward to friends who might be interested.