Children entering and leaving the UK

This section of the procedure outlines actions to be taken and issues to be considered when addressing the needs of children who arrive from abroad and where there are concerns when they leave the UK unexpectedly.

Assessment

Practitioners should never lose sight of the fact that children and young people from abroad are children first, which may be forgotten in the face of legal and cultural complexities.

Assessing the needs of these children and young people is only possible if their legal status, background experiences and culture are understood, including the culture shock of arrival in this country.

Practitioners should be prepared to actively seek out information from other sources and should ensure they do not ‘interrogate’ the child or young person.

Children or young people who arrive to be with carers who are not their parents and children or young people who are unaccompanied should be assessed as a matter of urgency, as they may be very geographically mobile and as a result their vulnerabilities may be greater.

In any assessment or enquiries by children’s social care, there is always to be separate discussion with the child or young person, in a setting where, as far as possible, s/he can talk freely and in their first language. This will always entail the services of an Interpreter where English is not the child’s first language.

Where there is a concern that the child may be a victim of trafficking, an NRM referral should be submitted to the UKHTC. Any information from the child in respect of route and method of entry into the country, identity or contact details of facilitators and method of approach to child in home country should be submitted on an Operation Shield form to Cleveland Police intelligence hub at force.intelhub@cleveland.pnn.police.uk

 Children and Young People Residing with their Parents

Whatever the status of a child or family in relation to immigration legislation, there are responsibilities to children and young people in terms of their health, education, welfare and safety. Any practitioner coming into contact with a family from overseas are to satisfy themselves that contact has been made with appropriate Health and Education services for the children or young people. If not, appropriate referrals are to be made. As professionals continue to be involved with families, the children and young people should be seen and their views sought.

Irrespective of a child or family’s immigration status, if it appears at any point that a child or young person is in need, or at risk of significant harm, local arrangements for referrals to Children’s Social Care are to be followed without delay.

 Child or Young Person with, or to be with, Adult who is not the Parent

If there is an indication that a child or young person has come from overseas and is in the care of an adult who is not the parent, or one whose relationship is uncertain, a referral must be made to Children’s Social Care immediately.

Such children and young people are to be assumed to be in need, unless assessment shows otherwise. Where it is considered there may be a risk of significant harm, a Strategy Meeting is to be held within 24 hours, to share information and plan for the protection of the child or young person.

Where assessment/child protection enquiries show that it is not safe for the child or young person to be looked after by the adult concerned, Children’s Social Care are to ensure the welfare and safety of the child. This may require Police Protection or Emergency Protection Order or other legal proceedings, whichever will provide the greatest protection.

An assessment is to be completed as quickly as possible to assist in formulating a longer term plan for the child or young person.

Where the assessment concludes that the child or young person’s needs can be met by the adult in question, then Private Fostering and Care by Relatives and Friends legislation, regulations and procedures, are to be followed by Children’s Social Care and other agencies.

 Unaccompanied Children and Young People

Children and young people who arrive in the UK alone or who are left at the point of entry by an agent are particularly vulnerable to commercial, domestic or sexual exploitation. All such children and young people are to be referred to Children’s Social Care.

Where such a child or young person is being interviewed by the Immigration Department a Social Worker should attend as an appropriate adult. Thereafter the child or young person becomes the responsibility of children’s social care.

Where there is a concern that the child may be a victim of trafficking, an NRM referral should be submitted to the UKHTC. Any information from the child in respect of route and method of entry into the country, identity or contact details of facilitators and method of approach to child in home country should be submitted on an Operation Shield form to Cleveland Police intelligence hub at force.intelhub@cleveland.pnn.police.uk.

Children and Young People leaving the UK unexpectedly

There may be cause for concern when it is established that children have either failed to return to the UK from a holiday break or it is confirmed that a family have unexpectedly left the UK.

Professionals must first consider if the leaving/ failure to return would potentially place the child/ren at risk of significant harm. Consideration must be given to whether the child is at risk of:

> FGM,

> Radicalisation,

> Forced Marriage,

> Being sent to extended family members as punishment for displaying challenging behaviour toward parents/carers

> Family evading professional intervention

If any of the above are deemed the rationale for child/ren leaving/failing to return the UK, a discussion must be had with the Police immediately and a referral must be made to Children’s Social Care.

Where it is considered there may be a risk of significant harm a Strategy Meeting is to be held within 24 hours; to share information and plan for the protection of the child or young person where there is a strong possibility that child/ren are due to leave the UK imminently or if it is known that child/ren have already left the UK, the strategy should create a Recovery Plan and together with Police arrange for the retrieval of the children.

There may be occasions where it will be necessary for Children’s Social Care to request a visit to the child/ren abroad from Children and Families Abroad (CFAB) to check on their safety or to gather information to help determine level of risk.

Liaison with the Home Office should take place to seek evidence of Passport details, Immigration status and citizenship of the child/ren as well as gaining an understanding of the place of visit; whether or not the country visited is safe, or would it heighten the level of risk to the child/ren.

If the children are of school age, it may be possible for colleagues to check social media or family/school friends for all possible communication to identify the country the family have visited.

Legal advice should be taken upon the children's return to the UK to ascertain legal status of the child/ren. Thereafter the child or young person becomes the responsibility of children’s social care.

Where schools become aware of an intention to take children on extended leave abroad, they should seek to speak to the child in advance of departure to ascertain the child’s views of the intended trip and consider whether the child has concerns around the trip such as forced marriage. Schools should also speak to children following their return to assess if anything happened to them whilst abroad that has caused them concern.