More lone asylum-seeking children were being cared for by the council in Hampshire this year, new figures show.

Action for Children said the figures are depressing, adding they show an "overstretched and underfunded" care system that is letting down vulnerable children.

Unaccompanied asylum-seeking children often present themselves at points of entry into the country in their own right and are separated from their parents or any other responsible adult.

Figures from the Department for Education show there were 239 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in Hampshire being cared for by the council as of March 31 – an increase from 108 the year before.

It follows the overall trend in England, where the number of lone child asylum seekers rose by almost a third.

This year there were 7,290 looked-after children who were unaccompanied child asylum seekers, compared to 5,670 the year before.

The department said it also marked a 42% increase on pre-pandemic 2019 figures.

Paul Carberry, chief executive at Action for Children, said: "We need to see a clear shift from the current system. That means urgent cash from central government and a fire lit under its social care reform plans.

"It must ensure proper funding for early help services to reduce the numbers of children going into care, better support for those leaving care to return home so they don’t end up back in the care system, and improved standards of care.

"This approach will not only benefit those children and their future life chances, but also the taxpayer, who is currently footing the bill for an expensive and broken care system."

The figures show unaccompanied child asylum seekers made up 9% of all looked-after children. In Hampshire, they made up 13% of children being cared for.

Unaccompanied child asylum seekers across England were generally older, with just 14% under 16 years old. And the majority (96%) were male.

The Local Government Association, which represents local authorities, said the latest figures "emphasise how vital it is that next week’s autumn statement ensures that children’s services are adequately funded so councils can meet this rising demand and ensure children and their families get the support they need".

A DfE spokesperson said: "Every child deserves a safe and secure home, no matter their background, and local authorities have a responsibility to provide appropriate support for all children in their care.

"We are supporting them by improving the recruitment of foster carers and increasing the number of places available locally in both secure and open children’s homes."