30 Jun 2020

A senior Tory is leading a group of cross-party MP’s, who are urging the Prime Minister to remove the risks of looked after children from the EU becoming undocumented, once we formally end free movement.

An amendment to the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination Bill has been laid by former Children’s Minister, Tim Loughton MP, and Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, Rt Hon Yvette Cooper MP. The amendment has received support from a range of political parties including Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat, SNP and The Green Party, it is also backed by The Children’s Society.

It calls for vulnerable EU, EEA and Swiss children in care and care leavers to be fast tracked through the EU settlement scheme (EUSS). Exactly one year from today, all EU citizens, including children, who wish to stay in the UK, must have gone through the scheme to give them a legal right to stay in the country.

For children still in the British care system it is the responsibility of their legal guardian or council social worker to apply on their behalf, for those who have already left councils should provide guidance through the process.  However, research by The Children’s Society found since the introduction of the scheme in March 2019, only eleven percent (11%)[1] of the identified children, have been awarded the right to stay in the UK. As of January 2020, just 730 applications had been made, with 404 receiving status – 282 settled and 122 pre-settled.

The amendment also places a duty on local authorities to identify these vulnerable children. The Home Office estimated that there are around 9,000 EEA looked after children and care leavers in the UK, however the exact numbers are not known. Research by The Children’s Society found only 3,612 EEA[2] children were identified across the country, meaning thousands more could be slipping through the cracks.

Tim Loughton MP, sponsor of the amendment, said:

‘This amendment would mean all EEA national children in care and care leavers in the UK, who have had the hardest start in life, would be granted settled status through the EU Settlement Scheme.  It would solve the problem of overstretched social workers struggling to locate documents for these children and would also remove the substantial risk that many of these children end up without the right to remain in the UK next June. It would also avoid the risk of another Windrush scandal emerging when these children in care reach adulthood only to find that the necessary applications were not made for them as children for whatever reason, and they have no status to remain in the country.

“The cross party support for this amendment demonstrates that this is not a political

issue, as corporate parents the Government must be willing to fight as hard for children in care as they would for their own.

“The government is right to be proud that more than three million applications to the EU Settlement Scheme have been made, but Ministers need to make sure that this success is not masking a failure to pick up some of the most vulnerable children and young people who are being left out. That’s why it’s imperative to give them a ‘fast track’ through the EUSS and ensure their rights are protected.’

Mark Russell, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society said:

“We know children in care are likely to have already faced numerous hardships and challenges, so when making decisions that will further affect their futures Ministers must do the right thing and ensure they have the best chance in life, this includes giving them the legal right to stay in the country they call home.  

“Yet thousands of children are at risk of being denied that chance because no one knows they are there, or they are yet to have been through the EUSS process.

“It is vital therefore that Ministers recognise the strength of feeling across the house and commit to fast tracking this group through the EUSS. Without it, this generation face a future of uncertainty and instability. This time next year many are likely to be left undocumented and unable to access the vital support, education, employment, health and housing they should be entitled to.”

Yvette Cooper MP, Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee and co-sponsor of the amendment, said:

“Young people in care are already vulnerable. For them to also lose their residence rights or face a bureaucratic nightmare through no fault of their own would be completely wrong and unfair. The fact that so few have applied to the EU Settlement Scheme is deeply concerning - but is also something we warned was likely to happen in our Home Affairs Committee Report when we called for more action by local councils and the Government to make sure these children and young people don’t lose their rights. Many children may not even know they are not British, nor will they know they have to apply for settled status by a certain deadline or be able to manage the application process - this should be sorted by the local authorities and the Government. That’s why this amendment is so important.” 

The MPs are hoping the Bill will be debated today in parliament

Ends

For a copy of the amendment click here

A full list of the MP’s supporting the amendment are: Tim Loughton, Yvette Cooper, Mr Andrew Mitchell, Ms Harriet Harman, Kenny MacAskill, Mrs Emma Lewell-Buck, Debbie Abrahams, Sally-Ann Hart, Caroline Lucas, Ruth Jones, Christine Jardine, Colum Eastwood, Claire Hanna, Gavin Newlands, Stella Creasy, Andrew Gwynne

For more information please contact Charlie.neal@childrenssociety.org.uk or call the media team on 0207 841 4422. For out-of-hours enquiries please call 07810 796508


[1] Data collected up to 6 Jan 2020

[2] We sent FOI requests to 211 Local authorities, of which 26 did not respond. 185 responded - 32 were unable to provide us with information because they were unable to retrieve or find the data, implying a worrying lack of oversight. 153 out of 211 local authorities across the UK were able to provide data