Haringey Council needs to work better with voluntary sector partners when providing support to refugees to avoid “storing up problems for the future”.

A scrutiny review on support to children from refugee families found Haringey’s approach was “harsh” compared to other boroughs and called on the council to look at other ways of providing funding and support.

The review was debated by councillors at a meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee on Monday (March 26).

Many refugees cannot claim welfare benefits and social housing until their immigration status changes, but they can sometimes receive assistance from local authorities to help with complex health needs or to prevent a child becoming destitute.

In the past year, the council assisted 254 children and 155 families in these circumstances, with current spending totalling £635,000 a year.

But the Children and Young People’s Scrutiny Panel heard evidence that the assessment process used to determine whether support could be provided tended to focus on the finances and status of parents rather than the welfare of children.

Financial support to cater for children’s basic needs was also low compared to other parts of London.

Mark Blake, Labour councillor for Muswell Hill and member of the Children and Young People’s Scrutiny Panel, said the review showed Haringey was “not working as cohesively with voluntary partners” as other boroughs.

He said: “In comparison to Islington, I felt we were losing out by not working as effectively and in as collaborative [a] fashion as I would have expected.

“Personally, I felt taking an approach that could be more harsh could be counterproductive – as a public authority, we could be storing up issues for us further down the line.”

Pippa Connor, Liberal Democrat councillor for Muswell Hill and vice-chairman of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, added that concerns had been raised over refugee children’s lack of access to free school meals.

Although many primary schools have provided free meals out of their own funds and by setting up food banks on the premises, the council is not allowed to provide such support.

Nevertheless, despite limitations on the support it can provide, the Overview and Scrutiny Committee agreed the council needed to “step up a bit more” and made a recommendation to a future panel to look at “other recourses for funding”.