With one year left before the close of the EU settlement scheme on 30 June 2021, this report looks at what the UK government needs to do to make sure no eligible child living in the UK is left without status.
Coram Children’s Legal Centres new report Children left out? Securing children’s rights to stay in the UK beyond Brexit draws from the lessons and experiences of CCLC’s advice and casework on the EU settlement scheme, through which we have supported hundreds of children and young people since the scheme was piloted in November 2018. The cases we have supported are unusually complex, and as such, they provide insight into the glitches in the scheme, its blind spots and its blurred edges.
These complex cases also foretell the kinds of applications which are likely to be still unresolved towards the end of the scheme when simpler applications have been neatly dealt with, as well as those that will still be yet to be made after the deadline because they have fallen through the cracks.
With more than 900,000 eligible EEA citizen children thought to have been living in the UK in 2017, only 412,820 children had been granted status under settlement scheme by 31 March 2020. Of these, there are an estimated 9000 children and young people in the care system who were eligible, but UK local authorities – with a duty of care to these vulnerable children – have secured status for fewer than 500 according to one estimate.
Many of these children will be British citizens, either automatically by birth or through registration. However, as previously outlined by CCLC, many parents simply do not know whether or not their child is a British citizen or can apply to register as one, in large part due to the complexity of UK nationality law.
The consequences of children missing the deadline
And while the Government is focusing on the high numbers of applications to the settlement scheme overall, there is a real risk that it is not recognising the particular gap when it comes to children’s applications, says the report. If children do not get status, on 1 July next year they will become undocumented, living in the UK unlawfully and subject to hostile environment policies which restrict access to homes, healthcare, education, work, benefits, bank accounts and driving licences. They would be liable to be removed from the UK, even if this is where they grew up.
Children left out? makes a number of key recommendations for the Home Office, local authorities and wider government.
- Scrapping the prohibitively expensive £1012 citizenship fee currently charged to children, which prevents many children from accessing their rights.
- Many children and young people in the care system who need to apply have yet to even be identified. The government must work with local authorities and civil society to make and resource a comprehensive plan to find and support every single child and young person as a matter of urgency.
- In fifteen months just over 400,000 children have applied to the EU settlement scheme, but a great many complex cases remain. The remaining children need more time: the deadline to the settlement scheme must be extended.
- If they do not apply in time, children and young people eligible under the EU settlement scheme must not be brought under existing long and expensive routes in the immigration system that are currently failing other children and young people, once the deadline has expired.
The report also makes recommendations for changes to the scheme that would help the children, young people and families who are currently struggling. This includes care leavers, children and young adults in custody, children and other family members from outside the EEA, and children in single-parent families.