Today GMIAU has released a new report “Not so straightforward” about the experiences of children in care and care leavers in Greater Manchester affected by Brexit immigration changes.
In spring 2019, bus stops around Greater Manchester started to carry posters – with pictures of cups of tea on – advising European nationals in the city-region to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme. According to radio adverts launched at the same time, all you needed was a passport or ID card and to complete an online form. In contrast charities supporting people to apply during an earlier pilot were voicing concerns about the Scheme not working for particular groups – including the UK’s approximately 10,000 EU children in care and care leavers. We wanted to find out more about the experience of these children and young people in Greater Manchester. During September 2019 we supported local authorities with European national children in care and care leavers to access the EU Settlement Scheme through the Home Office’s EU Exit: ID Document Check app.
What we found is that the EU Settlement Scheme is designed for people leading ordered, uncomplicated lives who have the evidence to prove it; not children with disrupted life histories who have little ownership of documents that show their nationality or where they have been living. None of the children or young people we supported could make an application because they did not have the evidence required. Two of the young people were never likely to be able to get the required evidence. This is despite over half of them having been in the UK for over five years (the requirement for Settled Status) and in our legal opinion having good prospects of success if applying for British citizenship. The experience of children and young people in Greater Manchester should sound alarm bells in central and local government. Without the introduction of a declaratory system (giving automatic status) and other safeguards (including access to legal aid and the Home Office waiving its £1,012 citizenship fee), many children in care and care leavers will face the full force of Hostile Environment policies when Brexit immigration changes mean they are in the UK unlawfully. Simple actions can prevent this, but the time to take them is now.