CFAB’s work is complex but essential. The children we work with have no one else to turn to. These are the children who have fallen through the cracks of society. They often have no safe place or family nearby and may be thousands of miles from home. Without CFAB’s help they will remain in dangerous situations or quite simply be forgotten.

Beyond our practical support, CFAB undertakes advocacy work to uphold every child’s right to family. We work with partners to inform and reform policy – this keeps international child protection on the agenda with policy makers and ensures that our unique technical expertise is fed into wider discussions about child protection.

Submitting Evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights

The Joint Committee on Human Rights held a session on Wednesday 23rd November 2022 on the Human Rights of Child Asylum Seekers in the UK, during which CFAB’s CEO Carolyn Housman was invited to give oral evidence regarding CFAB’s views on a child’s right to family as well as our recommendations for the committee. You can find the full recording here.

This session was held at a critical period due to the increased recognition of a lack of safe and legal routes for migrants entering England, as well as suitable accommodation, social care and access to legal aid.

Children and Families Across Borders’ Recommendations to the Joint Committee on Human Rights:

1. We would like to recommend an augmentation of safe and legal routes for asylum-seeking children to join family in the UK. The current barrier in the form of needing to evidence compelling compassionate reasons to be able to reunite with extended family members in the UK who do not have refugee status or who are not here on grounds of humanitarian protection, be removed if there is no other safe and appropriate family option for them.  The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children, the European Convention on Human Rights and our own legislation and statutory guidance recognise that family is a right and should be the first consideration in a durable solution if it is in a child’s best interest. 

2. We would like to recommend that where a child’s right to join extended family remains restricted to ‘compellingly compassionate’ grounds, then the criteria for assessing the application should be made clear.

3. We would like to recommend a reduction in the length of time for becoming eligible to apply for a right to work by asylum-seekers. The inability to work puts many families and children at risk as they are reliant on state support which is often less than £6 a day which does not cover the basics such as clothing, powdered milk and nappies.  This makes asylum-seeking children more vulnerable to being removed from their families and entering the care system

4. We recommend that guidance on suitable placements for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in the UK include exploration of family members not only in the country of origin but also in third countries. The existence of Central Authorities in each UK nation to assist with checking and assessing of family in Hague Convention member countries should facilitate this as well as CFAB’s position as a member of the International Social Service network as well as our partners in over 130 countries.

Written Parliamentary Questions

CFAB have worked with various Members of Parliament in posing Written Parliamentary Questions (WPQs) to the Department of Education seeking further accountability and transparency in recording the numbers and outcomes for Looked After Children placed with kinship carers abroad. In August 2021, on account of a WPQ submitted for us by Tulip Siddiq MP, we were able to confirm by the then Minister for Children Vicky Ford, that the Department does not measure outcomes for Looked After Children abroad as they do for those UK-based. Although dissatisfied by her response, we received acknowledgement for the first time that local authorities must not use lack of jurisdiction as an excuse not to ensure the well-being of a child in a placement overseas.

In September and October 2021, we worked with Andrew Gwynne MP on a WPQ to the Department of Education, if they had considered researching the outcomes for children placed overseas. Will Quince, the then Minister for Children, responded that no assessment in this area had been made. This research is vital to ensure children placed with family overseas are safe and given the same support as children placed with family in England. We worked on a subsequent WPQ seeking a rationale for the Department of Education’s not measuring long-term outcomes of children placed across borders and if they are willing to reconsider conducting research into long-term outcomes. Although he did not commit to recording any further data on Looked After Children placed overseas, he did acknowledge the need for significant reset of the current care system.

In October 2022, we worked with Helen Hayes MP – the Shadow Children and Early Years Minster – and Rachael Maskell MP on WPQs. They asked multiple questions about the number of special guardians and foster carers in receipt of financial allowance for children overseas from an English local authority in 2021. There is inconsistent data on the number of children placed overseas and knowing the number of children indirectly receiving local authority payments overseas would begin help fill that gap. Kelly Tolhurst, the Minster for Children and Schools, responded saying “the department does not hold data on the number of looked after children who have been placed overseas” either on kinship foster placement or special guardianship order allowances. While we are disappointed with the lack of data, gaining more clarity on what data the Department for Education holds is useful and we will continue to campaign for greater data collection on overseas placements from the Department.

We will be working with Mr Gwynne, Ms Siddiq, Ms Hayes and Ms Maskell’s offices to continue to highlight that lack of care for and support of children in multinational families as part of our Safe, Secure and Thriving campaign.   CFAB have worked with various Members of Parliament in posing Written Parliamentary Questions (WPQs) to the Department of Education seeking further accountability and transparency in recording the numbers and outcomes for Looked After Children placed with kinship carers abroad.  

The Independent Review of Children’s Social Care

In June 2022 the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care Final Report was released. CFAB engaged with the Review since it began in early 2021 at every stage – writing letters, submitting evidence and offering our expertise to the Panel. We continue to offer our expertise to the Department of Education and Parliamentarians as the Review enters the implementation period.

We welcomed the Report’s focus on rebalancing children’s social care away from crisis intervention and more towards preventative action.  We endorsed the recommendation to make a substantial investment to support children to stay with their families.  In particular, we whole-heartedly approved of the recommendations that local authorities should make a financial allowance paid at the same rate as their fostering allowance available for Special Guardians and kinship carers, that legal aid should be provided in a range of circumstances and that training should be facilitated for all kinship carers.

CFAB continuously called for the Review to include international kinship care and is disappointed it was not sufficiently explored as an option, but believe there is still scope for this to be considered in the implementation phase. If a new legal definition of kinship care is to be developed, as recommended by the Report, it would be a fundamental deprivation of child rights if international kinship carers were not included. CFAB will continue to ensure international kinship care is an option that is explored for Looked After Children and will extend our offer to the Department of Education to assist in the development of international kinship care guidance for local authorities.  

As a member of the Kinship Alliance (KCA), in October we wrote to the recently appointed Minister for Schools and Childhood, Kelly Tolhurst. This joint letter welcomed the current Governments commitment to publishing an implementation plan in response to the Review and reaffirmed the urgency of a shift from the status quo in confronting escalating issues within the current system. As organisations with ample experience and expertise in this field, the KCA also set out our joint response to the Review, in hopes of encouraging an implementation plan with the best interests of children and families at its core. View the joint letter here.

The impact of Brexit on cross-border child protection

When Britain left the EU, we left many arrangements and agreements that underpinned many of the UK's cross border child protection and family reunion cooperation with the European Union.

We left the Brussels IIa Regulation, altering how cross-border care proceedings with EU countries are now managed. We left The Dublin Agreements on reuniting asylum-seeking families. The free movement of people officially ended, meaning European children in the UK must settle their status by June 2021 to avoid losing any of their fundamental rights in the UK.

To tackle these challenges, we have been preparing a range of activities and resources:

  • We have produced a number of Guides around leaving Brussels IIa and using The Hague Convention 1996 which can be found on our Guides page.
  • We have written an in-depth article on the legal framework around cross-border care proceedings for children connected to the EU which can be accessed on Community Care Learn.
  • On 7th July 2021, we hosted a webinar for Consular staff entitled The UK's EU departure and the end of the EU Settlement Scheme in partnership with The Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit. The Guides produced for this event can be found here.
  • As Chair of the Cross Border Child Safeguarding Working Group, CFAB’s CEO, Carolyn Housman recently engaged with the Association of Directors of Children's Services, asking them to lay out their plan to ensure all European children in care are supported regularise their status. We are awaiting their response. 

CFAB’s contribution to The Centre for Social Justice’s Report, Safely Reducing the Number of Children Going into Care

In early 2021, we were delighted to be asked to contribute to a report compiled by The Centre for Social Justice, Safely Reducing the Number of Children Going into Care.

This report focuses on the failings of the current children’s care system, the poor outcomes for children in care and the alarming increase in the number of children entering the care system – an increase of 3% in the last year.

Importantly, the report also provides potential solutions, focusing on impact of relationships and recommending that the care system should be structured in such a way that continuous stable relationships, both within the family and with professionals, can be encouraged.

Within the report, CFAB’s CEO Carolyn Housman points out that there are currently 18,000 Looked After Children in England and Wales who may have family members abroad who could – and should – be explored as options for their long-term care. The report highlights CFAB’s Freedom of Information request which demonstrated that over half of the local authorities in England and Wales had not considered family overseas as a care option for children between 2015 - 2017. Given the high number of children in England with family overseas, and to improve the chances of future family reunification, CFAB has launched a campaign – Safe, Secure and Thriving – which calls for improved data on the number of children in care who have family abroad, on the number of placements of children from care with family abroad, and on the outcomes for these placements.  

To find out more and read the report, click here.

To find out more about CFAB’s Safe, Secure and Thriving campaign, click here.