Watchdog “assured” that Welsh local authorities are protecting rights of EU looked after children and care leavers following review
The Independent Monitoring Authority (IMA) has announced it is “assured” that all 22 local authorities in Wales have confirmed they have “appropriate measures in place” to ensure the rights of eligible EU and EEA EFTA looked after children and care leavers are protected.
In October 2022, the IMA launched a review of local authorities across the UK to establish how they identify looked after children and care leavers who need to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS), and the “procedures put in place to monitor those applications”.
Following the UK’s departure from the EU, all eligible citizens, including children, are required to apply to the EUSS to guarantee their rights to live, work, study, and access benefits in the UK, the organisation noted.
The initial review sought information on identification, record keeping and retrospective checks, with each local authority categorised as red, amber or green in a grading system.
An interim report for all local authorities in Wales found only one local authority’s response achieved a green grading for each of the three key areas, with six other local authorities meeting the green status in two of the three key areas, the IMA revealed.
The report highlighted that half of the 22 LA responses outlined unclear record keeping practices, described as a “key concern”.
Following the report, the IMA worked collaboratively with each local authority during a compliance period before a final review was made.
The IMA noted that due to further engagement, it identified that the majority of local authorities in Wales had outlined “robust processes in place to identify and support eligible cohorts in line with Home Office guidance”.
The assurance review found: “Local authorities demonstrated they were recording the nationality of children who entered their care which assisted with the identification of potentially eligible applicants to the EUSS.
“Most local authorities were able to evidence they had clear record keeping procedures and that retrospective checks had taken place and remain ongoing.”
The review found that two local authorities reported not having any children or care leavers who were eligible to apply to the EUSS, however they were able to “evidence a clear process for identifying such individuals using Home Office guidance, along with confirmation that retrospective checks had been completed”, the IMA revealed.
According to the report, some local authorities told the IMA they had attended ‘knowledge sharing’ sessions with the Regional Safeguarding Board and had shared best practice as part of a ‘cluster’ of local authorities.
The IMA said: “Several authorities have reported taking proactive measures to improve their processes and procedures and management information and reporting systems, and others have developed additional guidance for staff delivered through awareness and training.
“Notably, this has led to better identification by local authorities of eligible children and care leavers for the scheme, as well as being able to signpost eligible family members.”
As a result of the measures taken, the IMA announced that it is assured that all 22 local authorities in Wales are protecting the rights of EU looked after children and care leavers.
Pam Everett, IMA Director of Operational Delivery said: “The IMA has welcomed the positive collaboration with local authorities in Wales, along with the support of Albert Heaney, Chief Social Care Officer for Wales, The Welsh Government in encouraging local authority engagement.
“Most importantly however, this work has resulted in additional numbers of children being identified as eligible for the EU Settlement Scheme, and upon successful application will guarantee their rights to continue to live, study and work in the UK.”