28 Aug 2015

The Government is failing to provide thousands of vulnerable children who come to the UK on their own with the long-term measures crucial to their stability and well-being, leaving them in a legal limbo, causing many to face homelessness and feel anxious, new research from The Children’s Society reveals.

Many of these children are in the UK seeking safety from war, violence and persecution. Others have grown up here after being sent to this country to live with friends or relatives, or have been left on their own after their parents died or they were abandoned.

The situation becomes particularly acute for many when they turn 18 and have to leave local authority care and return to a country they may not know or that is dangerous, where they have no connections, the report Not Just a Temporary Fix: The search for durable solutions for separated migrant children shows.

The Government needs to develop policies that provide lasting solutions for these children, not just ones that focus on their short-term needs. And all agencies involved in their lives — including immigration and care — need to work together to make sure their best interests are always at the heart of any decisions taken about them.

Currently, there is no formal process in place to assess these children’s best interests for the long-term. As a result, children face an ad hoc system to determine what will happen to them as they approach adulthood, based on their immigration status rather than their needs. This violates the Government’s commitment under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to prioritise children’s welfare.

Furthermore, making it possible for local authorities to prepare for a child’s future is part of the care system’s core responsibility. But because many of these children get at most 30 months leave to remain in the UK at a time, they cannot plan. And once they reach adulthood, many are left stranded with no status, even in cases where they have grown up here.

Matthew Reed, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society said: 'This group of children is among the most vulnerable in the country, yet they are left with no sense of what will happen to them as they reach the brink of adulthood. It is crucial that the Government helps children who are in the UK on their own over the long-term. The authorities need to make sure children have the stability necessary so they can develop, thrive, and have the best possible chance in life.'

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Media enquiries:

For more information, please call The Children’s Society media team on 020 7841 4422/07810 796 508 (out-of-hours) or  email media@childrenssociety.org.uk For out-of-hours enquiries please call 07810 796 508.

Notes to Editors:

  • Find the summary and full text of Not Just a Temporary Fix
  • There are 3,612 unaccompanied/separated migrant children in the care of 107 local authorities that responded to our Freedom of Information. Many others will be living in private fostering arrangements. We have estimated that there could be between 9,300 and 12,400 migrant children living in private foster care arrangements in the UK., See The Children’s Society’s Cut Off From Justice report
  • For unaccompanied asylum seeking children, this leave is called Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Child leave. It is granted for 30 months or until the child is 17½, whichever is shorter. Download the Home Office policy instruction for processing applications from unaccompanied children.
  • The Children’s Society is a national charity that runs local projects, helping children and young people when they are at their most vulnerable, and have nowhere left to turn. We also campaign for changes to laws affecting children and young people, to stop the mistakes of the past being repeated in the future. Our supporters around the country fund our services, volunteer with us, and join our campaigns to show children and young people they are on their side.