Over half of children in care who are EU nationals yet to register for settlement scheme

New research suggests over 50% of the identified EU/EEA and Swiss looked after children and care leavers have yet to submit an EUSS application, with applications to the scheme set to close in June 2021.

31/03/21

Over half of children in care who are EU nationals yet to register for settlement scheme

New research has found that more than half of the children in care and care leavers who are EU nationals have yet to submit an application to the Government’s EU Settlement Scheme with just three months left.

The report from the Children’s Society estimates this will affect the status of more than 2000 children in the care system.

As the UK has now left the EU and the Brexit transition period has ended, only a few months remain for European Union, European Economic Area and Swiss nationals (or their family members) who were in the UK by 31 December 2020 to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS).

Previously, with free movement, EU nationals could visit or live in the UK without needing a visa. However, as a result of Brexit, this has now changed and EU nationals – including children – already living in the UK must now take the proactive step of applying to the EUSS and securing either pre-settled (if they have been in the UK for less than 5 years) or settled status.

The Children’s Society says this will mean children – particularly those who are vulnerable – may now unknowingly find themselves living in the UK unlawfully.

The research used freedom of information requests sent to 210 local government bodies in the UK with responsibility for children’s services, finding 3690 eligible looked after children and care leavers, which the Children’s Society says is likely an underestimate.

The research showed that less than 40% of the looked after children and care leavers identified as needing to secure status have in fact made applications to the EUSS, in addition to the Home Office's own survey which also highlighted that more than 50% of identified looked after children and care leavers still need to apply.

“Instead of making the process simpler for these children to ensure they do not become undocumented, the Home Office have confirmed that anyone who has not applied by the deadline will have no lawful status in the UK as of 1 July,” the report confirmed.

The Children’s Society says the responses received from local authorities “raised serious concerns of the confidence [they] could have in the numbers to provide a full picture of EUSS eligibility across the country.”

“Some local authorities dropped their figures by hundreds when queried, others identified a doubtfully low number of eligible children in light of their demographics, while others identified significantly more applications made than eligible children and young people,” the report stated, adding: “this inconsistency suggests a lack of understanding as well as oversight.”

The British Association of Social Workers says that as these children will have a social worker, this puts professionals in a “key position” to ensure the children that they work with have taken all the available steps to secure their status before the deadline.

As a result of the research, the Children’s Society is calling on all local authorities to “recognise the corporate responsibility” for ensuring no looked after child or care leaver finds themselves without lawful status in the UK after 30 June 2021.

They have also called on the Home Office to extend the deadline, as well as “support and resource” local government bodies to continue identifying children.

The charity also suggests accepting any out of time applications, as well as offering automatic settled status (rather than pre-settled status), for all looked after children and care leavers.

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