Undocumented children in care

50% of EU National Children in Care Risk Becoming Undocumented By Settlement Scheme Deadline

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Only 39% of EU national children in care or young adults who have recently left the system have applied for settled status, according to charity The Children’s Society. EU national children in care risk becoming undocumented in the UK’s care system, just three months before the EU Settlement Scheme deadline.

To remain in the UK, an application to the EU Settlement Scheme must be submitted and approved before 30 June 2021, under the new immigration laws.

However, out of the identified EU children in care and care leavers, more than 50% have yet to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme. The Children’s Society obtained data from 175 local authorities across the UK. In contrast, a mere 28% have received secured status with under three months left to apply.

Marieke Widmann, the policy and practice adviser at The Children’s Society, believes the low percentage is mainly due to the complicated situations children in care face. Many rely on social workers and legal guardians to complete such paperwork. However, they may not have access to the correct documents such as passports or proof of address paperwork. 

It can be really tough for them to get these documents having come into care because of difficult family circumstances, like neglect or abuse.

Mark Russell, the Chief Executive of the Children’s Society, commented on the issue, stating: ‘No child should face being undocumented, but it seems thousands of EU children, who are supposed to be in the care of their local authority, could very soon face this cliff edge.’

EU national children in care risk becoming undocumented as over 50% haven't applied to EU settlement scheme
Care leavers are also vulnerable without settled status, despite being in the care of local authorities
(Source: Care4us)

The Children’s Society called on the Home Office and local councils to ‘identify every child and young person who needs to apply and ensure that they do so on time.’

Manchester City Council has begun implementing changes to ensure all eligible children and young people are identified. According to The Children’s Society’s report, they plan to appoint an independent practitioner to overlook cases and actively stress the importance of applying for the EUSS. 

Without settled status, children or young people in the care system face further adversity in the UK post-Brexit. If an application is not submitted, they will be instantly given an undocumented status which means they have no right to work or access to state support, and cannot rent a home.

Katharine Sacks-Jones, the chief executive of Become1992, a charity for children in care, discussed the need for urgent action to safeguard and secure the immigration status of vulnerable young people.

We risk leaving 1000s of children undocumented – storing up huge problems as they leave care – already a challenging time.

In response to the ‘unacceptable’ low number of applicants, Kevin Foster, the minister for future borders and immigration, discussed how the government are currently in talks with charities and local authorities to increase the number of in-care or care leaver applications. He said the government is ‘determined to ensure all eligible children and care leavers secure their status.’

Mr Foster also addressed the application deadline and how the government are encouraging submissions before the 30th of June 2021. He said: ‘We will soon be publishing guidance on reasonable grounds for late applications, which will include looked-after children and care leavers, where the local authority or parent or guardian failed to apply for them.’

[Header image: USA Today]