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Care Review needs to protect non-British children in care

The Care Review will be failing some of the most vulnerable children in the care system today if it does not challenge the government’s increasing refusal to protect the rights of non-British children and young people under children in care law, policy and practice.

The Refugee and Migrant Children’s Consortium states that every child in the care system deserves equal treatment and equal protection, no matter how that child came to be in care, no matter whether they have a disability or not, and no matter where they are from.

“The fact is that thousands of children who live within the UK’s care system, and thousands more who have recently left it, are not British citizens. Some came to the UK seeking safety as refugees. Some were trafficked by adults who wished to exploit them here. Many were born in the UK to parents who did not happen to be British, and many more migrated to the UK as a part of a family unit which – just as British families sometimes do – broke down due to neglect, abuse, or personal catastrophe,” said a letter from the consortium to the Independent Review into Children’s Social Care.

It is estimated that one in 10 looked after children in England, and more than 10,000 care leavers, are not British citizens.

However, whether British or non-British, these children may have additional needs due to their past experiences and may also need additional support around trauma, disability, or education needs.

But non-British children will also need help to address their immigration and nationality issues in the long-term so that their immigration status is not a barrier to their care, and so that ‘home’ in the UK really can mean ‘home’.

“The legal foundation of our care system, the Children Act 1989, makes no distinction based on a child’s paperwork. In practice, sadly, children are often treated very differently on the basis of their immigration status and nationality,” says the letter from the consortium to the care review.

“We cannot accept a 12-year-old being sent to live in a hotel alone because they carry the label ‘asylum seeker’, or children subjected to extreme levels of poverty because their parents are barred from claiming benefits, or access to vital services, education and support being withheld while children’s ages are routinely disbelieved. There is no place in our child protection system for this. A lowering of the standard of care received by any child degrades the system as a whole. Every single child in the care system deserves equal treatment and equal protection,” the letter adds.

The Independent Review of Children’s Social Care states its ambitions as ‘a once in a generation opportunity to transform the children’s social care system and improve the lives of children and their families’.

However, the Refugee and Migrant Children’s Consortium states that for this to be achieved for all children in care, the specific needs of non-British children and young people must be included in the Review’s recommendations and the government’s subsequent Care Review implementation plans.

The consortium is a group of NGOs working collaboratively to ensure that the rights and needs of refugee and migrant children are promoted, respected and met in accordance with the relevant domestic, regional and international standards. The consortium includes Article 39, Action for Children, Asylum Aid, BASW, Coram Children’s Legal Centre, NCP, NSPCC, Refugee Council, Refugee Action and ILPA.

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