TWO of the county council’s leading cabinet members have sparred over claims the number of asylum-seeking children in the county has put a strain on social services.

In a letter Councillor Alan Amos said the world knew the UK was a “soft touch” and Worcestershire would be forced to take care of “designer economic immigrants” after the Home Office and the “monumentally incompetent and useless Border Force” allowed immigration to spiral out of control.

The cabinet member for highways said: “When the numbers get sufficiently out of control, the Home Office will again disperse them around the country and force counties like Worcestershire to take in more.

“So-called asylum-seeking children have already put unsustainable pressure on social services budgets.”

But Cllr Andy Roberts, cabinet member for children and families, dismissed the claims made in his colleague’s "passionate remarks" and sought to put the numbers into context.

Last year, Cllr Roberts said, 23 of the county’s 120,000 young children – or about 0.019 per cent – were unaccompanied asylum-seeking children.

He said: “These children often arrive with no personal possessions and most have been trafficked and are vulnerable to exploitation.

“The children may have been badly treated and can be experiencing mental health difficulties.

“Most of them get ‘leave to remain’ – permission to stay in the UK – until they turned 18 and, in the meantime, help for funding comes from the government.”

Cllr Roberts said the “overwhelming predictor” for children going into care was babies born into families where mental health problems, alcohol and drug abuse and, most significantly, domestic abuse occurred."

He added: “I suggest we continue to concentrate on our efforts on facilitating a prosperous county and focus on helping families stay together, managing their difficulties and playing to their strengths.”

Proposals for an almost four per cent rise in council tax announced in December last year were in reaction to the rising cost of social care, the council said.