At least one in every 10 children in care and more than 10,000 young care leavers in England have unresolved immigration or citizenship issues. Without better immigration support from local authorities, these children face uncertain and unsafe futures.
This report, ‘Taking Care: How local authorities can best address immigration issues of children in care’, finds that delaying providing help on immigration and nationality issues could be costing local authorities hundreds of thousands of pounds per year. A citizenship application for a child costs £1,012. By comparison, waiting to resolve immigration issues until the young person leaves care can cost as much as £130,000 per young person in Home Office fees and support with living when that young person is barred from claiming benefits.
Lack of immigration status or citizenship prevents children from being able to lead full lives. For older children in care and care leavers, resolving these issues early means they avoid unnecessary complications with everyday activities like applying for jobs or university, seeking scholarships, grants, or student loans, setting up a bank account, getting a driving licence or renting accommodation.
The charities that endorse this report are calling on local authorities to sign a pledge, which commits them to:
- identify all looked-after children and care leavers with immigration and nationality issues;
- connect looked-after children and care leavers with good quality legal support as soon as possible;
- take a proactive and informed role in supporting looked after children and care leavers through any immigration applications and appeals;
- enable those who are eligible to apply for permanent status and British citizenship.
We recognise that many local authorities may be near the beginning of a journey to build systems and new practices which meet the specific needs of non-British children. Signing the immigration support pledge is an important first step.
The organisations which have co-signed this pledge are sources of practical support, information and advice for both local authority leadership and frontline staff. This support and guidance is available to any local authority interested in signing the pledge and on that basis implementing changes to how they meet the needs of non-British children.
For more information about the pledge and support in implementing it, or endorsing the report, please contact Maya Pritchard, Youth Casework and Policy Manager at South London Refugee Association (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Read and download the report below.