Leeds ‘on with’ securing rights for looked after EU children, council says

Leeds City Council says it is on with securing “settled status” for looked after children and care leavers who are EU nationals, but stressed more cases may emerge as time goes on.

Wednesday, 9th June 2021, 4:50 pm
Updated Wednesday, 9th June 2021, 4:52 pm

It follows a report from the Children’s Society which warned EU children in care could become undocumented by the end of this month if more work is not done to ensure they have the right to remain in the UK.

Previously, EU nationals could visit or live in the UK without needing a visa. Now, they must apply to the settlement scheme to secure either pre-settled or settled status to remain in the country.

These rules also apply to children, which causes difficulties when it comes to under-18s in local authority care, as they may not be able to rely on parents to apply on their behalf.

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The council acts as a corporate parent to all children in care.

The applications have to have been made before June 30 this year.

A briefing note from Leeds City Council’s chief officer for children’s social work Ruth Terry stated that, of the 63 known looked after children in the city with an EU background, 50 children have had their status secured.

At a meeting of the council’s Children’s Scrutiny Board this week, members were reassured that there was now only one outstanding application for EU national children in the council’s care.

Leeds City Council’s head of children’s services Saleem Tariq added: “There is a great deal of movement in some of the activities that happen.

“Part of the issue is that we could end up with a cohort of looked after children on any day of the week where there may not have been applications made.

“Sometimes children are looked after and there is a clear plan that they will return to their families in their home countries, so there is no reason to have those applications processed.”

Mr Tariq added that, while the report into the issue showed there was 13 ongoing applications, only one application now still needed to be submitted.

He said: “We are confident that will be resolved by June 30.”

Leeds City Council executive board member Coun Fiona Venner added: “I have been discussing this for over a year that we need to support looked after children and care leavers to apply for settled status.

“I think most people hearing about this are quite shocked children have to apply.

“Most children will have their parents apply for them, but that leaves looked after children and care leavers reliant on us as corporate parents to make sure they are either doing that themselves or we are doing it for them if they are children.

“The danger with this is that young people might not know they need to do this, which would leave them in a precarious position when it comes to accessing services and having a right to be here.

“I want to reassure you that we have been on with this for a long time – it’s not something we have been alerted to and suddenly are in a panicked way applying for people.”

Committee chair Coun Alan Lamb agreed to write to the Children’s Society to let them know about “the reassurances”.

According to the Children’s Society report published in the Spring, less than 40 per cent of the UK’s looked after children and care leavers identified as needing to secure status have in fact made applications to the EUSS.

The report added: “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 July 1.