Steve McCabe MP (Birmingham Selly Oak) is set to demand that the Government give automatic settled status to all looked-after children and care leavers who are EU citizens during a debate in Parliament when MPs return to Westminster tomorrow, Tuesday 3 September.
The Birmingham MP, who is the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Looked-after Children and Care Leavers, is leading a cross-party Backbench Business Debate in Westminster Hall at 11.30am on Tuesday 3 September. Mr McCabe will be raising serious concerns that without government action looked-after children and care leavers are at risk of falling though the gaps in current government thinking and paving the way for another Windrush Style scandal affecting very vulnerable children.
Steve McCabe MP will be asking the government to grant automatic settled status to looked-after children and young people who have left the care system and also waive the citizenship fee application for youngsters who are entitled to register as British Citizens.
Although no official figures are collected, the Government estimates that as many as 5,000 looked-after children will need to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme to regularise their immigration status. This number does not include care leavers or children classified as ‘in need’ who will be receiving significant care and support from Children’s Services.
The burden is left on cash strapped local authorities to make applications to the settlement scheme on behalf of children in the care system. The rules are complicated and it’s extremely unlikely that social workers will have the legal expertise or resources to deal with such applications. We already know that there will be real problems with obtaining identity documents such as birth certificates and passports which the Home Office insist on.
Many children and young people in the care system will have automatic rights to British Citizenship but again this is down to local authorities to make applications on their behalf and they face a fee of £1,012 per child which will be a financial disincentive for many children’s departments.
Commenting ahead of the debate, Steve McCabe MP said:
“Looked-after children and care leavers are one of the most vulnerable groups and as their corporate parent the Government should be doing everything in its power to protect them.
“We have already heard many appalling stories of EU citizens being denied settled status despite having lived and worked in the UK for decades. We know it will be even more difficult for looked-after children and care leavers to provide identity documents and there is a real risk that they will be wrongly denied settled status.
“We should not leave this up to cash strapped local authorities and social workers, who are already under huge pressures, to navigate a complex immigration system when the government could protect these vulnerable children and young people now by granting them automatic status. If we don’t there is a real danger that the government is deliberately walking into another Windrush style scandal.”
Katharine Sacks-Jones, Chief Executive of Become, said:
“In all the political debate over Brexit it can be easy to lose sight of the human impact. Without urgent action thousands of children & young people are likely to be left in legal limbo with no certainty over their futures. Government as their “corporate parent” has a clear moral obligation to ensure that this doesn’t happen. Government must act now so that all children in care and care leavers are properly supported to gain citizenship or settled status – this has to include removing the financial barriers they currently face.”