Select Committee on Health Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by the Child Migrants' Sending Agencies Group


INTRODUCTIONTHE CHILD MIGRANTS' SENDING AGENCIES GROUPThe Child Migrants' Sending Agencies Group consists of the following agencies and representatives:
Barnardo's—Collette Bradford and Nigel Bennett
Family Care Society—Patricia McGrogan
The Fairbridge Society—Diana Scott
The Children's Society—Julia Feast
NCH Action for Children—Jenny Elliot
Catholic Children's Society (Westminster) —Rosemary Keenan (Convenor)
and (Catholic Child Welfare Council)Although NCH are part of the Child Migrants' Sending Agencies Group they are not part of this written submission.The group aims to further, the on-going development of professional services to former child migrants and their families.The objectives of the group are as follows:1. To provide a forum for the on-going development and professional good practice relating to work with former child migrants and their families.2. To share information on the keeping of records and the use of IT.3. To develop working relationships with other agencies and organisations, both in the UK and overseas, currently involved in addressing the needs of former child migrants and their families.4. To provide a professional support network for those individuals employed by sending agencies and working with former child migrants.5. To further the development of policy, links with government and the funding of services.The above aims and objectives of the group will be reviewed during 1998 with a view to enabling us to respond appropriately to the Health Committee's Inquiry into Child Migration. The group is keen to look towards future developments in practice and services to former child migrants and their families so that working together, we may maximise the use of resources.We would envisage as part of this, the development of a national forum to look at issues of child migration and the development of good practice and improved services to former child migrants. We would hope to work with other agencies including the Child Migrant Trust.Inquiry into the welfare of former child migrantsThe group welcomes the Health Committee Inquiry into the welfare of former child migrants and the assessment of what role the British Government and others should be seeking to assist former child migrants to come to terms with their childhood experiences and establish contact with their surviving relations in the UK.All of the agencies within the group have been involved over a number of years in responding to requests from former child migrants and their families for information and assistance, providing details on family background, search for family and reunification. Such work is seen as a professional service to be provided within the remit of aftercare services. The ability of agencies to respond fully has been affected by the lack of external funding for such work.All agencies acknowledge the significant contribution of the Child Migrant Trust in bringing to prominence the needs of former child migrants and their families. As agencies we believes that we have made a similarly significant contribution in assisting those formerly in our care and their families in particular by drawing upon our professionally developed services and expertise in after-care. It is also evident that former child migrants and their families exercise choice in whom they choose to work with, especially those who either identify with a particular organisation as "family" or because of a particular faith allegiance.All of the agencies in the group would wish to develop closer working relationships with other agencies and individuals working within the field of child migration. We also believe that in working with others we need to establish confidence based upon a common understanding of professional issues, such as confidentiality, codes of practice and an agreed approach to historical abuse. Such an approach could acknowledge that children in our care may have been abused, as society today learns that children brought up in institutions appear to be at risk of abuse.A number of our agencies have been involved in looking at the development of principles and standards related to historical abuse. We believe it would be appropriate, when such principles and standards have been developed, for them to be applied to our own agencies when working with former child migrants.As a group of agencies, we are keen to develop professional standards and principles in working with former child migrants and their families. There are many areas for development of good practice, complex issues to explore, not least around the duty of care.One of the biggest barriers to the on-going provision of professional services to former child migrants is the lack of funding. As well as professional research and counselling, there is the cost of reunions, travel, and accommodation for former child migrants and their families. We believe that the UK and Australian Governments have some responsibility for underpinning the cost of such services and to ensure that former child migrants who choose to use our agencies to work with can continue to do so. Long term funding is therefore needed.Working across international boundaries is expensive. Despite lack of funding our agencies have established contacts with a number of organisations and agencies in Commonwealth countries and examples of good practice include working collaboratively with counsellors and social workers abroad in providing information for former child migrants; the sharing of information on the development and uses of databases; the facilitation of group visits to the UK and visits by professionals from the UK to share information on what services are required by former child migrants, what services are currently available, and how those services might be developed further.The Child Migrants' Sending Agencies Group would welcome the opportunity to give oral evidence should the Committee request it to do so.January 1998

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Prepared 10 August 1998