In a globalised world, cases of child protection have become more complicated, while Children’s Services have fewer resources to navigate these complexities. Children and Families Across Borders (CFAB) is an independent charity working with children in need of protection across international borders. We conservatively estimate that there are 18,500 children in the UK care system with family connections abroad. Therefore, there are thousands of children who need us to have a proper structure in place to safeguard them with an international perspective.
Care leavers whose family links cross the borders of non-EU countries have faced restrictions and legal issues instances where their immigration status had not been addressed before adulthood. Children of EU citizens in local authority now share in this uncertainty about their settlement status in the UK following Brexit. Social workers will be responsible for resolving their circumstances while they are looked after – to ensure that some of the most already vulnerable children in our society continue to retain access to education, health, employment and civic services.
Research conducted by Children and Families Across Borders in 2018 tells us that incorrect, incomplete or missing details of nationality and citizenship are commonplace in referrals made to our service. Children already in the care system can spend months and years without their birth and travel documentation. Furthermore, social workers are not always aware that children born here are not automatically UK citizens. We are urging social workers to record citizenship and nationality for children as part of everyday practice, as a commitment to safeguarding their futures across borders. It may not seem like a hugely complex system, however the ramifications when nationality and citizenship are not clear extend far beyond the initial issue.
Brexit is coming…
At the time of writing, the UK is set to leave the European Union on March 29th 2019. The government’s citizenship settlement scheme will open fully the following day. While the current state of politics within the UK means anything could happen between now and then, at the moment the government is setting the scene for the settlement scheme, so it’s important to understand the impact it’ll have. The deadline for applications will be on 30 June 2021, although applications after this date may be possible if children are joining family with settled or pre-settled status in the UK. The government announced on 21 January that EU citizens will not be charged when applying for settlement status and those that have will be refunded. Children in local authority care have always been exempt from the £65 registration fee previously in place – and now their family members can access the scheme without a charge.
Children and Families Across Borders have published free guidelines for social workers and our recent research on the protection of children crossing international borders worldwide, plus a range of factsheets, are available on our website. We have launched a #Record2Protect campaign online to highlight the need for social work practice to adapt when it comes to international cases. Professionals can call our free Advice Line from Monday to Friday on 0207 735 8941.
Children and Families Across Borders
CFAB is the UK branch of the International Social Service (ISS) network, with partners in 120 countries. CFAB is also the charity in the UK with a dedicated international social work team. CFAB provides guidance, counselling and practical support on a range of international child protection issues.
Contributed by Carolyn Housman, CEO for Children and Families Across Borders (CFAB)
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