Posted: 29 March 2017

Brexit – We must talk about children

Now that Article 50 has been triggered, attention must be paid to protecting the needs of children and young people, who are among the most vulnerable in this process.

What impact will Article 50 have on the lives of children?

The government will now begin the process of transferring approximately 30,000 pieces of EU legislation into UK law.

For over 40 years, the European Union has often set the legislative direction for member countries, but it is time for the UK to choose its own course.

So far in the Brexit discussions, the voices of young people have been unheard and the specific impact on children has gone un-debated. As negotiations begin, we believe the government should consider the following questions. 

Will children fall further into poverty?

There remains uncertainty about the economic fall-out from Brexit.

If there is economic instability, there is a risk that this will lead to extended austerity policies which would likely negatively affect child poverty rates. The four-year benefit freeze that is currently in place - plus rising prices - means that more families will become poorer.

We already know that lone parent families could be worse off by as much as £2800 by 2020. What is more, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has recognised that previous welfare reforms have had a disproportionate impact on children of lone parents, children with disabilities and children belonging to ethnic minority groups.

Certain areas of the UK also face losing funding currently received from the European Social Fund.  From 2014-2020, the European Social Fund and the European Regional Development Fund will be worth 11.8 billion euros across the UK. This fund is primarily focused on areas of deprivation and aims to alleviate poverty. With the potential loss of this money, it should be ensured that children do not face further disadvantage.

give children the voice that has been lost throughout Brexit

How will safeguarding and child protection be impacted?

Leaving the EU could have implications on how we keep children and young people safe in the UK.

Cooperation between EU member states has been essential for tackling crimes such as production and sharing of child sexual abuse imagery and trafficking. However, the UK’s role in this process will change as it will not be a member of Eurojust, Europol or the European Arrest Warrant after leaving the EU. The UK will have to negotiate alternative relationships so that justice for these crimes does not slow down.

What will Brexit mean for refugee and migrant children?

Triggering Article 50 puts a significant question mark over the future of thousands of European children living in the UK, especially for the most vulnerable.

Most children of parents from EU countries have rights to live in this country, go to school, or to work as a result of their parents’ status and right to be in the UK. For children that are estranged from their parents, or in the care system, their right to be in the UK will need to be established as a matter of urgency.

In recent years, the war in Syria and other conflicts have posed a significant challenge to the EU as families flee their homes in search of safety; a coordinated approach to this has been guided by the EU.

The Government’s step back from its commitments under the Dub’s amendment is not a good sign in this regard. There are real concerns that, following Brexit, the UK’s obligation towards refugee children will significantly reduce.

We must talk about children

As they did not get to have a vote in the referendum, it is more important than ever that the sector and politicians join together to give children the voice that has been lost throughout Brexit.

By Sam Royston - Policy team
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