SIGN OUR PLEDGE
Do you work with NRPF families?Pledge to provide child and family centred S17 support to migrant families WITH NRPF!
UPDATE! We have contacted unison who are taking this issue forward to the LGA on our behalf - if you have evidence of inadequate practice in this area email us: email@example.com and we will submit your evidence anonymously.
Social Workers Without Borders is deeply concerned by two recent articles Destitute Immigrants in UK are Threatened with Having Children Removed and Children Trapped in Poverty by UK Government's 'Dysfunctional System' and discussions with colleagues in the voluntary sector.
There is evidence that Local Authorities across the UK are providing inadequate support to families with NRPF and in some cases threatening to separate children from their families.
Migrant and failed asylum seeking families with NRPF rely on S17 support as a last resort. S17 of the Children Act gives Local Authorities the power to support families so that their children do not go into care.
Voluntary sector organisations are criticising how this power is exercised by Local Authorities across the UK. They claim that, often, rather than a child-centred assessment, that focuses on the needs and best interest of the child, assessments of NRPF families are designed around intense scrutiny of the parents, their means and resources, and of their claim to destitution. Where homelessness is a presenting factor, charities say, local authorities are telling families that their children will be housed and supported, but not them; equating to a threat to remove children into care.
Project 17, a voluntary organisation helping families to access S17 support in London, released this statement via the Guardian in May, criticising the response of local Councils to destitute families.
Legal experts say that separating children from families with NRPF would be in breach of the Children Act, which states Local Authorites should 'promote the upbringing of such children by their families'.
SWWB volunteers in UNISON have previously contacted the Local Government Authority to ask how local authorities should interpret their duty to destitute families under the Immigration Act 2016. We were advised that LA's should support the entire family rather than take the child into care and should follow the guidance set out by the NRPF network.
Project 17 have told SWWB that provision under S17 for NRPF families is often poor. They have worked with over 800 families, this is their experience:
Referrals for families with NRPF are not treated as Safeguarding Concerns in the same way as referral for non-migrant families.
Assessments for NRPF families under S17 often focus on 'fraud checks' and proving destitution, not on the needs and best interests of the child.
There is a culture of disbelief that shrouds NRPF applications under S17.
There is a qualitative differences in the way that some practitioners approach CIN assessments for NRPF families than children from non-migrant families who have recourse to public funds; attitudes, thresholds and models of assessment vary.
We want to ensure that ALL families have access to the support they need to ensure their children thrive. As such SWWB PLEDGES to advocate for fair and just access to S17 support for families with NRPF. JOIN US.
We pledge to
▪ SPEAK OUT - Remind our colleagues and employers that local authorities are required to support children in need and “so far as is consistent with that duty, to promote the upbringing of such children by their families”. (Children Act S17 / S22 Scotland).
▪ And that “If there are no safeguarding issues identified in addition to the child’s destitution, then failing to consider whether support can be provided to the family as a whole under section 17 is likely to be unlawful and not in the best interests of the child.” (NRPF Network).
▪ Challenge any systemic pressures to tell families that they will be separated (unless there are additional safeguarding concerns – as above). This is scaremongering and does not promote ethical social work in service of children and families.
▪ EDUCATE OURSELVES - Seek advice and support from colleagues, Unions and independent legal/advice groups like the Family Rights Group, Project 17 and Coram Children's Legal Centre.
▪ The NRPF network website releases up to date resources so that we all have the latest guidance.
▪ PARITY IN PROVISION - Ensure that CIN assessments are the same for ALL children regardless of their parents immigration status; and that they are child-centred and promote the upbringing of the child by their family.
▪ Ensure adequate subsistence and housing is provided for families to support their children to thrive. This especially applies to interim support and emergency housing – we should not be placing families in houses that are unfit for their children's needs.
▪ Ensure timescales, thresholds and parents rights are explained thoroughly and in a timely manner – and ensure parents who do not speak English as a first language are supported to understand their rights. This may mean taking more time and finding an appropriate translator that the family are comfortable speaking via.
▪ Support families to raise their voices and complaints should they be dissatisfied with the service they have received. Families with uncertain immigration status must not feel that their status or family security will be jeopardised by speaking out.
▪ Arrange an independent advocate for the family. Find out if there is an organisation in your area offering an accompanying scheme. NELMA in London are a brilliant example, if there isn't a scheme in your area could you set one up?
▪ PROMOTE EQUALITY AND CHALLENGE OPPRESSIVE PRACTICE - treat ALL parents the same regardless of their immigration status; with fairness and respect.
▪ Challenge racism and xenophobia. As social workers we are in a powerful position and should never turn a blind eye to oppressive language, behaviour or ideas.
▪ Remember – we are not gatekeepers we are advocates with our own professional values. If the funding isn't available, why not? Families should not bear the brunt of diminishing funding for local Councils. Central Government must be responsible for providing Councils with the funds required to meet the needs of ALL children.