Posted: 04 March 2019

How Brexit will impact the lives of children and young people

Brexit has dominated the political agenda for the past two years, yet there is one group that has been continually neglected in Brexit discussions: children and young people.

As final preparations are made for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, it is more important than ever that the Government understands fully how children and young people will be affected by Brexit.

As yet, children and young people's voices have been largely unheard, yet it is their future and their rights that will be impacted the most. During Brexit discussions, it is important the Government:

Act in the best interests of EU children living in the UK 

Following our exit from the EU, European children and families living in the UK will become ‘subject to immigration control’, meaning that they will need permission to enter or stay in the UK. This will affect roughly 900,000 children in European families currently in the UK who will need to apply for ‘settled status’ through the new settlement scheme

This opens up the risk of leaving thousands of children undocumented and subject to hostile immigration policies.

As the new Immigration Bill continues its scrutiny through Parliament this week, Government needs to put in place key safeguards for children and families, such as reducing citizenship fees and providing legal aid for all children and families to ensure that no-one is left undocumented and destitute.

Promote and protect children's rights

It is important that children’s rights and interests are fully protected in the process of leaving the EU. EU law provides a stronger, additional layer of protection for children’s rights that does not exist in UK law. The Children’s Minister recently expressed a renewed commitment on behalf of the Government to make sure new policies and legislation give due consideration to the UNCRC.

It is vital that the Government puts this commitment into action and considers children’s direct input as it develops new laws and immigration systems.

Prevent children and young people falling further into poverty

Four million children across the UK live in poverty and child poverty rates are rising. Forecasts indicate that by 2020, as many as five million children could face poverty.

Before the decision to leave the EU, there were already major risks to child poverty caused by the four year freeze on children’s benefits and tax credits – Brexit presents additional risks. The risk of increased inflation rates following our withdrawal will significantly increase the impact of this freeze.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation estimate that by continuing with the benefits freeze for another year will result in 10.7 million people in poverty missing out on £220 per year to help cover the increased cost of living.

It is crucial that Brexit does not push more children and young people into poverty. That’s why we are calling on the Government to end the current benefits freeze to protect low-income families and protect children in migrant families from ‘no recourse to public funds’ restrictions.

Include children and young people in the discussion

Children and young people were not given a say in the decision to leave the EU, yet the decision will have a profound impact on their lives. For this reason, it is more important than ever that the Government listens to their voices as the formal process to leave the EU reaches its final stages. 

By Charlotte Rainer - Policy team
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