ADCS response: Homes for Ukraine scheme extended to under 18s
Commenting on the written ministerial statement confirming that the Homes for Ukraine scheme will be extended to some unaccompanied children, Steve Crocker, ADCS President, said:
“The continuing war in Ukraine is devastating the lives of children and families, many of whom have been forced to leave everything they know behind in search of safety and protection. Local authorities have welcomed many Ukrainians into their communities via the Family Visa and the Homes for Ukraine schemes and are helping them settle in and access essential services, such as GPs, childcare, and school places.
“We have been involved in ongoing conversations with government, LGA, Solace and others, about how to open a safe route to the UK for unaccompanied children and the additional safeguards that will be needed, over and above those already required as part of the Homes for Ukraine scheme. The government has, today, confirmed that the Homes for Ukraine scheme will be expanded to under 18s who have already applied to the scheme but are not travelling with a parent or legal guardian. Local authorities urgently need robust guidance, and sufficient funding, to support us to keep children safe and to meet their needs, we are disappointed that this was not published as this announcement was made. We eagerly await the guidance to understand better what the expectations are for local authorities.
“Local authorities want to play our part in this humanitarian crisis, but we need government’s support with this. There are outstanding issues with the two schemes in place to welcome Ukrainian refugees which need to be quickly resolved, including the disparity in funding between the two schemes. To keep children safe and to ensure their immediate and future needs can be met, it is vital that all the necessary checks are completed prior to visas being issued and that funding is forthcoming before checks are undertaken. Should the situation arise where a child’s placement breaks down, the legal status of those children and the role of the local authority needs to be clearly set out in guidance. Furthermore, there are currently several schemes in place to welcome refugees and unaccompanied asylum-seeking children into the UK, and so it will be important for government to consider these schemes together to understand the pressures on the system as a whole and to ensure equity between the different schemes.”