Thousands of children of EU citizens who have been cared for may become “undocumented” adults without the right to work, rent a house or receive benefits, a charity warned.
The Children’s Society has found that only 39% of children in care, or young adults who have recently left care, have received requests to stay in the country after Brexit was made on their behalf. He says this is “unacceptable” and that councils across the UK must work urgently to identify the EU citizens in their charge.
With just three months until the deadline to apply for settled status, the charity fears that many vulnerable young people are unknowingly living in the UK illegally.
Under the new immigration laws, this could mean that they would lose the right to work, claim financial support from the government, rent a house, have a bank account, or access more education, and could even face deportation.
The charity is now asking the Home Office to commit to accepting all after-hours requests for child care and people leaving care and protecting their status in the interim.
“We are very concerned, not only that so many children have yet to apply, but no one seems to know exactly how many children could be affected,” said Children’s Society Executive Director Mark Russell.
He said councils and the Interior Ministry had a responsibility to identify all children and young people who need to apply and make sure they do so on time.
The charity says children in care “have already faced great adversity in their lives” and that being cared for is “often very traumatic” and “years more trauma and heartache could be just around the corner if they become undocumented. “.
When asked who was to blame for the low application rate, Marieke Widmann, the charity’s policy and practice advisor, said the Home Office would point to the millions of people who have already applied for settled status, but that it is simply “not easy for everyone.” ”.
She added: “Children in care and leaving care will often have complicated cases and applications and, with children in care, they depend on their social worker or legal guardian to request them. People leaving care are supposed to be supported by the council to make sure they apply. “
The situation, he said, was complicated by the fact that local authorities sometimes do not always have all the documents they need to apply, such as passports and evidence of living in the UK.
“It can be really difficult for them to obtain these documents after they have been cared for due to difficult family circumstances, such as neglect or abuse,” he said. The closure or downsizing of embassy offices often exacerbates the matter.
Russell added that no child should face undocumentation, “but it seems that thousands of EU children, who are supposed to be in the care of their local authority, could very soon face this abyss. This is simply unacceptable. “
Research by the Coram Children’s Legal Center in 2019 warned that these vulnerable children are at risk of becoming a new “Windrush generation.”
A Home Office survey between July and November 2020 identified 3,300 cared for and caregivers as eligible to apply for the EUSS, about 300 fewer than what was identified in the latest Children’s Society research.
The legal guardian or council social worker of a child in care should apply to the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) on their behalf, while local authorities should practically support or designate those under 25 who drop out. care for them to submit their application.
But the Children’s Society said this does not appear to be happening. Progress over the past year has been slow and there is still uncertainty about how many children should apply.
Through freedom of information requests, the charity found that councils responsible for 3,690 children had submitted only 1,426 requests. Just over 1000 of these had been prosecuted at the time of publication, with 838 children obtaining settled status, granted to those who have been in the UK for five years or more, and 189 being granted the “pre-settlement status”, for those in the UK. for less than five years.
The Children’s Society said it was “doubtful” that all eligible children and those who left care had been identified.
Future Borders and Immigration Minister Kevin Foster said the government was “determined to ensure that all eligible children and people leaving care protect their status” and was working closely with local charities and authorities and he had been in contact with the Directors Association. Children’s Services.
“Rightly our focus is to encourage applications before the June 30 deadline, but we will soon publish guidance on reasonable grounds for late applications, which will include children cared for and people leaving care when the local authority or the parent or guardian didn’t show up for them, ”he said.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism