UK Border Agency Children’s Champion Lisa Killham Refugee Council Conference 10 October 2012
The Children’s Champion “There shall be a senior member of staff (the “Children’s Champion”) who is responsible to the Chief Executive of the UK Border Agency for: • promoting the duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children throughout the UK Border Agency; • offering advice and support to UK Border Agency staff in issues relating to children; and • identifying and escalating issues of concern.” Para 2.9, Statutory guidance to the UK Border Agency on making arrangements to safeguard and promote the welfare of children
The Office of the Children’s Champion: what do we do? • Champion the interests of children within UKBA and Border Force • Seek to promote a change in agency culture in respect of children • Provide the agency with professional child welfare advice (from seconded social workers) on a case-by-case and a strategic basis • Manage UKBA training on Keeping Children Safe • Advise on the interests of children in policy development (but we don’t own policy) • “Sponsor” the Independent Family Returns Panel • Advise on relationships with local authorities
The Office of the Children’s Champion: how do we do it? • We act as a critical friend to the Agency – offering support, advice and challenge, and escalating where necessary • We are not independent and we do not make decide cases • Our aim is to work with business areas and to support them in carrying out their functions taking account of the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children • This involves close working with, and through, operational line management, and safeguarding leads across UKBA and Border Force. • We operate an inbox for casework queries (c 80 cases a month)
The UK Border Agency & children: increasing priority • November 2009: coming into force of section 55 of the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009 (the children’s duty) • May 2010: Coalition commitment to end the detention of children for immigration purposes and subsequent review • December 2010: closure of Yarl’s Wood to children • March 2011: national roll-out of the new family returns process
Family returns process:key elements (rolled out 1 March 2011) Assisted Return Required Return Ensured Return Decision 2 3 1 4 • Families are offered the chance to manage their own return with a self check-in removal • New Independent Family Returns Panel advises on individual plans for ensured returns • New options for ensured return include Cedars pre-departure accommodation (Barnardo’s) • Creation of specialist family case-owners in every region (or access to specialism) • Every family has a family conference to explain return options, including AVR (Refugee Action), and manage barriers
The UK Border Agency & children: wider gains • Children’s issues have much higher profile within the agency (including through senior safeguarding leads and Deputy Chief Executive) • Better relationships with local authorities and other statutory partners (LSCBs) • Better engagement with families (family conferences) • More scrutiny, challenge and partnership working (Independent Family Returns Panel and Barnardo’s)
The UK Border Agency & children: going forward • Responding to recommendations in the annual report of the Independent Family Returns Panel (published 19 September) • Independent evaluation of the family returns process (currently underway) • UNHCR audit of decision-making in family cases (currently underway) • Thematic inspection by Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration of the treatment of unaccompanied children arriving in the UK.
The UK Border Agency & children: going forward • Unaccompanied children can be especially vulnerable – hence tailored process with additional safeguards. • Important that those in the asylum process understand what is happening to them and are able to present their case. • Looking at how people gain access to the asylum process and the information provided to them to ensure they understand what is expected of them. • Within that, looking at the specific needs of children in the asylum process – setting up meeting with NGOs to listen to your views.
The UK Border Agency & children: going forward • What do you think? • Want to hear your views