Children and Social Work Bill briefing: migrant care leavers


This is a briefing for the Children and Social Work Bill, at Committee Stage in the House of Lords. See also our briefing on corporate parenting principles and access to legal advice and representation.

PROPOSED AMENDMENT NUMBER 14

LORD RAMSBOTHAM

Clause 1: Corporate parenting principles for English local authorities

Page 1, line 18, after clause (1)(1)(d), insert –

(e)  to promote access to legal advice and representation for children and young people, including independent advice and representation where appropriate;

We ask the Government to:

  • Use statutory guidance to ensure that permanence planning for stability takes place under all care plans, and that where young people need legal intervention, this is identified at the first opportunity and acted upon.
  • Make it clear, when updating both the statutory guidance on care planning under the Children Act 1989 and the statutory guidance on the care of unaccompanied and trafficked children, that local authorities can apply for care orders for these children in certain circumstances. And that even where children are accommodated under s20, their long-term needs are set out in their care plan at the same standard as if they were looked after under a care order.

Overview

The Refugee Children’s Consortium is proposing an amendment to the first clause, and has questions for the Minister which go to the heart of issues of permanence for separated refugee and migrant children and young people who are in the UK. We believe that these young people, many of whom have suffered violence, trafficking and trauma, will benefit from permanence and security about their status and support networks while they are in the UK. To this end we propose:

  1. An amendment to promote access to legal advice and representation for young people at the earliest possible opportunity; and
  2. A discussion point in relation to extending the provisions of clause 8 on permanence planning for children’s long-term futures to children who are accommodated under s20.

These amendments look to permanence for children who are the responsibility of the local authority. “The objective of planning for permanence is therefore to ensure that children have a secure, stable and loving family to support them through childhood and beyond and to give them a sense of security, continuity, commitment, identity and belonging.”1The Children Act 1989 guidance and regulations, Volume 2: care planning, placement and case review, June 2015 The UK’s commitments to children, particularly under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, set out that these principles should apply to all children regardless of national origin or immigration status.2UNCRC Article 2

Of the 69,540 children looked after at 31 March 2015, 2,630 (4%) were unaccompanied asylum seeking children, and in 2015, 3,043 unaccompanied children sought asylum in the UK,3Home Office (2015) Asylum statistics https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/immigration-statistics-october-to-december-2015/asylum#unaccompanied-asylum-seeking-children-uasc although this remains a lower number than arrived in 2008.4Home Office (2010) Control of immigration statistics, United Kingdom, 2009. Many separated children are granted a temporary form of leave to remain called Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Child leave (UASC-leave). This is granted for a period of 30 months, or until the child is 17½ years old, whichever is shorter. UASC leave fails to represent a lasting, permanent solution, leaving young people anxious and uncertain about their future and storing up problems until the young person begins their transition into adulthood, making it more difficult for them once they turn 18 years old.

At the same time, children are usually accommodated by the Local Authority under section 20 Children Act 1989, as there is no one in the UK who has parental responsibility for them. This raises a number of issues:

  • Some children may be particularly vulnerable, lack capacity, or be at risk of exploitation;
  • The proposed permanence provisions (clause 8) under s31 will not apply to the majority of unaccompanied young people, although permanence and long-term planning are key to securing stability for this group;
  • Child victims of trafficking from abroad are commonly left to navigate both the immigration system, the criminal and family justice systems and the National Referral Mechanism without the support of anyone with parental responsibility for them, and there has been no further announcement on the second pilot for independent child trafficking advocates.

References   [ + ]

1. The Children Act 1989 guidance and regulations, Volume 2: care planning, placement and case review, June 2015
2. UNCRC Article 2
3. Home Office (2015) Asylum statistics https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/immigration-statistics-october-to-december-2015/asylum#unaccompanied-asylum-seeking-children-uasc
4. Home Office (2010) Control of immigration statistics, United Kingdom, 2009.