MPs bid to give EU children in care automatic settled status when freedom of movement ends

Two senior Conservative MPs are trying to force the Government to automatically grant EU children in care settled status in the UK when freedom of movement is ended.

Former minister Tim Loughton (pictured) is leading a cross-party effort to “avoid the risk of another Windrush scandal” with an amendment to legislation this week.

Joined by Tory former cabinet member Andrew Mitchell and senior Labour MP Yvette Cooper , the cross-party bid seeks to give the children automatic and indefinite leave to remain under the EU settlement scheme.

Their amendment would also grant the same right to adults who have previously spent time in care and are also from the European Economic Area or Switzerland.

If Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle selects the amendment to the Social Security Co-ordination Bill, it could be debated when the legislation returns on Tuesday.

The MPs fear the vulnerable nationals may slip through the cracks and become undocumented if their post-Brexit settled status applications are not completed by social workers or guardians by the June 2021 deadline.

Research from the Children’s Society charity, which is backing the amendment, suggested in January that only 11% of the estimated 9,000 looked after children and care leavers in the UK who need applications have been granted the status.

Former children’s minister Mr Loughton said the amendment would help protect those “who have had the hardest start in life”.

“It would solve the problem of overstretched social workers struggling to locate documents for these children and would also remove the substantial risk that many of these children end up without the right to remain in the UK next June,” he added.

“It would also avoid the risk of another Windrush scandal emerging when these children in care reach adulthood only to find that the necessary applications were not made for them as children for whatever reason, and they have no status to remain in the country.”

The Children’s Society chief executive Mark Russell added: “We know children in care are likely to have already faced numerous hardships and challenges, so when making decisions that will further affect their futures ministers must do the right thing and ensure they have the best chance in life, this includes giving them the legal right to stay in the country they call home.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “When you are granted status under the EU Settlement Scheme you guarantee your rights in UK law and get secure evidence of this, something that more than three million people have already done.

“Declaring any group, including children, have status without such evidence risks confusion in years to come, not the certainty that people want.

“There is still a year before the deadline on 30 June 2021, and we are working with local authorities and across Government to make sure young people apply.

“We have also been clear that where someone has reasonable grounds for missing the deadline they will be given a further opportunity to apply, including children whose parent or guardian fails to apply on their behalf.”

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