Children’s charity warns Leeds Council to secure settled status for EU looked-after children

Leeds City Council has been warned that there are EU national children in care who could become undocumented by the end of the month, if more work is not done to ensure they have the right to remain in the UK.

A recent report by the Children’s Society has claimed dozens of children who have been taken into care in Leeds are at risk of becoming undocumented by the end of this month, due to an urgent need to complete applications for EU settled status.

However, Leeds City Council officers say all bar one looked-after EU national child in the district either now has settled status, or is in the process of having their application completed or processed.

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

Numerous children in care still don't have EU settled status.

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 their parents to apply on their behalf.

According to a Children’s Society report, as of February 2021, there were still 13 children in care or having recently left care in Leeds who are eligible but yet to apply for EUSS. In addition to this, 21 children who have applied for EUSS via Leeds City Council have had their applications “not result in status”.

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.

It added that, of the remaining children, “child 1” and “child 2” have had applications made on their behalf, while “child 3″‘s status is in place, as their parents made the application before the child came into care.

Applications for “child 4”, “child 5” and “child 6” are thought to have been completed by last week, while in-date passports are not in place for “child 7”, “child 8” and “child 9”, and their applications have been completed.

Applications have, she added, been sent for “child 10”, “child 11” and “child 12”, by recorded delivery, as no passports were available, despite the council’s social work team trying to secure passports for “several months”.

It concluded: “We have one child looked after where the application needs to be made however work is urgently being completed to ensure the application is made by the deadline.

“We also operate a tracking and monitoring system for Care Leavers. All of the young people on the original list have either applied for EUSS or do not need to apply as they have British Citizenship, or have already been granted settled status. There have been a small number of new care leavers who have been added to the list in recent weeks.

“Again applications have been made for those young people. There are two young people who are having difficulty getting status because of a criminal record issue, we have funded legal advice for these young people.”

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.

“To ensure the best interests and welfare of these looked after children and care leavers, local authorities must without fail increase the number of applications being made before the EUSS deadline.

“The responses we received from local authorities raised serious concerns of the confidence we could have in the numbers to provide a full picture of EUSS eligibility across the country – some local authorities dropped their figures by hundreds when queried, others identified a doubtfully low number of eligible children in light of their demographics, while others identified significantly more applications made than eligible children and young people.

“This inconsistency suggests a lack of understanding as well as oversight.

“Local authorities, scrutiny committees and corporate parenting panels must continue working to ensure all eligible children and young people have been identified and their applications have been made.”

Leeds City Council’s Children and Families Scrutiny Board will discuss the report on Wednesday, June 9.