The Home Office has published some guidance on helping children in care apply for post-Brexit immigration status through the EU Settlement Scheme. It reminds social workers that they must either apply on the child’s behalf, or help older children do it themselves, where the child is the subject of a care order, interim care order or placement order.
Young people who have left care should be offered support to make sure they apply. This is particularly important when social workers have secured pre-settled status for a child in care which needs to be upgraded to settled status after they have left care. The guidance says:
In the case of a pre-settled status outcome, plans for applying to convert this into settled status, including the deadline for doing so, must be documented in the care leaver’s pathway plan.
While giving immigration advice is a heavily regulated area, the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC) has confirmed that those with parental responsibility for a child do not have to be legally qualified to help them with the Settlement Scheme. Where this is no care order, however, the council or health trust “will need to ensure its support does not stray into that of giving ‘immigration advice’”.
NGOs have expressed concern that children in care are at risk of falling through the cracks of the Settlement Scheme. Steve McCabe MP — a former social worker himself — raised the issue in Parliament last year.