I am pleased to publish this statement about the safeguarding of unaccompanied asylum-seeking and refugee children jointly with my Right Honourable Friend Brandon Lewis MP, Home Office Minister of State (Immigration and International).
Today the Department for Education and the Home Office are publishing three documents relating to the care of Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking and Refugee Children.
The new safeguarding strategy for unaccompanied asylum seeking and refugee children
This new safeguarding strategy sets out the additional actions the Government will take to safeguard and promote the welfare of unaccompanied asylum seeking and refugee children that recognises the increasing numbers and specific needs of these children in the UK.
The strategy includes commitments to:
increase placement capacity, improve the skills and confidence of foster carers, and review funding available to local authorities;
improve information and advice available to children and families who are reunited through the Dublin Regulation;
support professionals caring and working with these children through revised guidance, information and resources;
improve processes for transfer of children from Europe and supporting local authorities to assess and provide support for both them and their families.
Alongside the safeguarding strategy, we are publishing two related documents: the Government’s response to the consultation to revise the statutory guidance; and the updated guidance, now called: Care of unaccompanied migrant children and child victims of modern slavery, for local authorities on the care of unaccompanied asylum seeking and trafficked children - first published in 2014. This updated guidance acknowledges the safeguarding challenges that local authorities and partners continue to deal with to give these children stability. I will place a copy of these documents in the House Libraries.
Events around the recent migration crisis have meant that it was necessary to update the guidance to be of maximum use to local authorities who are caring for a bigger and more varied cohort of children. A number of respondents during the public consultation requested that there should also be further recognition of the needs and vulnerabilities specific to unaccompanied children and the measures required to keep them safe and the guidance has been expanded accordingly. The updated statutory guidance also reflects the legislative developments such as the Modern Slavery Act 2015, and policy developments such as the National Transfer Scheme for unaccompanied asylum seeking children.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank all the local authorities, non-governmental organisations and carers who have helped us develop the safeguarding strategy. They will play an integral part in delivering its commitments and we continue to be immensely grateful.
We would also like to express our deep thanks and gratitude to Edward Timpson for all of his work supporting vulnerable children. We are pleased that we can fulfil the commitment to publish this strategy, set out in a joint Written Ministerial Statement in November 2016, in our new roles as Minister of State for Children and Families and Minister of State (Immigration and International).
This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: