The guidance pack issued to local authorities in England, Wales and Scotland and to Health and Social Care Trusts in Northern Ireland on 3 April is not statutory guidance. The pack puts together in one place, information readily available on gov.uk to provide a useful tool for front line local authority and HSCT staff tasked with supporting looked after children and care leavers. The Children Act 1989 provides the legal framework for local authorities to promote the child’s welfare and best interests, setting out statutory duties in relation to looked after children in England, with respective authorities for the devolved administrations. Statutory guidance is provided by Department for Education in relation to this. This statutory duty to promote best interests, coupled with funding provided to local authorities under a new burdens as-sessment should ensure that this important work will be done.
The Home Office engaged with the Department for Education, the Association of Directors Childrens Services and other Local Authority stakeholders across the UK in advance of publishing the guidance. The Home Office also conducted a private trial phase of testing where five local authorities were asked for detailed information on the children in their care eligible to apply to the EUSS, including what ID evidence they had access to and family situations in order to ascertain difficulties in obtaining identity documents.
The participating local authorities, along with the seven other community organisations participating in the trial phase provided detailed feedback on challenges they encountered during the test phase, which was considered before drafting the guidance.
The Home Office is committed to continuing to engage with local authorities as they undertake their responsibilities to ensure that all eligible looked after children and care leavers are supported to make an application to the EUSS. The Home Office will ensure that caseworkers liaise with and support applicants to get the status they require.
We consulted with the Department for Education in advance of publishing the guidance to ensure adequate consideration was given to other categories of looked after children, where the local authority does not hold full PR, under section 20 of the Children Act 1989. It has been confirmed that in those cases there is a duty on the local authority to raise awareness of the EU Set-tlement Scheme to those with PR for those eligible child(ren) and to provide practical support where needed, or signpost to relevant community support where deemed more appropriate to do so.