Eleventh Report Contents

Drawn to the special attention of the House

Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules (HC511)

Date laid: 20 July 2022

Parliamentary procedure: Negative

The Government announced on 22 June 2022 that they are expanding the Homes for Ukraine Scheme to allow children who are not applying with or joining a parent or legal guardian in the UK to be granted a visa where the requirements are met. While we are all aware of the humanitarian impetus to act quickly, bringing the scheme into effect during recess allowed the House no opportunity to ask practical questions on how it will operate in practice. For example, what happens to the children at the end of the three year visa? Would they be sent back to occupied parts of Ukraine? Who takes responsibility for a child if it is orphaned during the period of sponsorship?

We also note that an Office for National Statistics survey found that 26% of current sponsors are already proposing to leave the existing scheme after less than six months due to cost of living increases. The House may wish to ask what happens to a child if the sponsor withdraws or if the relationship between the child and the sponsor breaks down. Around 1,000 eligible children under the age of 18 have already applied, so the House may wish to enquire whether there are sufficient caseworker resources to deal with them and to what extent the different approaches taken in the Devolved Administrations have been accommodated in the new scheme. We are concerned that neither these children, nor those already in the care system, should be put in jeopardy because caseworker resources are spread too thinly.

This instrument is drawn to the special attention of the House on the grounds that it is politically or legally important and gives rise to issues of public policy likely to be of interest to the House.

Background

1.The Government announced on 22 June 2022 that they are expanding the Homes for Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme to allow children who are not applying with or joining a parent or legal guardian in the UK to be granted a visa where certain requirements are met. To enable that, with effect from 10 August 2022, this instrument amends the Immigration Rules, made under the Immigration Act 1971, that are used to regulate people’s entry to, and stay in, the UK.

2.The conditions are:

Duties on the local authority

3.The Home Office states in its Explanatory Memorandum (EM) that the local authority should check the parental consent is genuine. In supplementary material it said:

“All children applying to the Homes for Ukraine Scheme, who are not travelling with or joining a parent or legal guardian, must provide two different forms of parental or legal guardian consent:

1) Proof of parental or legal guardian consent for the child to leave Ukraine notarised by an authority approved by the Ukrainian Government:

If in Ukraine, then this must be certified by either the notary authorities or the Guardianship Service of the city or regional council in Ukraine.

If in another country, then this must be certified by the notary authorities in that country or by the Ukrainian Embassy or Consulate.

2) A completed and signed UK sponsorship arrangement consent form1 for the council (or Health and Social Care Trusts in Northern Ireland) where the child will be living. This form collects various information pertaining to the child.

Our guidance to caseworkers2 suggests that as part of the Local Authority sponsor suitability assessments, councils should contact the parent and/or legal guardian.”

4.Paragraph 7.7 of the Home Office’s EM also states that local authorities will need to approve sponsorship arrangements before any visa is issued and, in doing this, consider the individual needs of each child (as set out in the documentation required). Council approvals will be informed by the relevant DBS3 checks on sponsors as well as an in person visit to the prospective sponsor and accommodation checks. Councils will also be expected to undertake post-arrival and ongoing safeguarding checks.

5.As part of the safeguarding arrangements, the legislation also introduces a requirement that a person sponsoring a child cannot have already been refused sponsorship by a local authority for the same or another child.

Further detail is set out in extensive guidance on how these children will be supported in the UK. This includes guidance for councils,4 guidance for sponsors,5 guidance for parents,6 a UK sponsorship arrangement consent form7 and a welcome guide for children.8

Numbers involved

6.Paragraph 7.9 of the EM states that the Home Office had already accumulated a backlog of applications before this legislation came into effect, and that the scheme is uncapped. In supplementary information the Home Office told us:

“Around 1,000 eligible children under the age of 18 applied under the wider Home for Ukraine scheme without a parent or legal guardian. These applications were initially placed on hold. On Friday 15 July we ‘unpaused’ these applications. As of Thursday 28 July, the Homes for Ukraine scheme opened for new applicants who are under 18 and not travelling with or joining their parent or legal guardian.

The latest statistics are published on the Gov.uk website.”9

New Burdens

7.This instrument imposes a significant number of additional duties on local authority staff both in checking whether the visa should be granted initially and then requiring extensive post-arrival and on-going safeguarding checks. We therefore asked whether the Home Office had undertaken the required “New Burdens” assessment (required when legislation imposes new duties on local authorities). The Home Office responded:

“We have worked in close partnership with local authorities to develop and design the scheme. As set out in guidance, the government will provide further funding (above that provided for all arrivals under the Homes for Ukraine scheme) to support councils with costs arising from cases where eligible children’s sponsorship arrangements break down after arrival in the UK, and children are placed into the care of a council, at a rate of £64,150 per child per year (for the first year).

The Government will also support councils with the costs of supporting any eligible children who have arrived via this route, been placed into the care of a council, and leave the care system once they reach the age of 18, at a rate of £16,850 per care leaver per year (also for the first year).”

8.This is an accountant’s response rather than one which looks at the practicalities of delivering this scheme and the emotional challenges to a child arriving in even the best of households under this scheme.

9.We are somewhat reassured by the Home Office’s statement that it has worked in close partnership with local authorities in developing the scheme, but on the ground child services are reportedly already under strain. The House may wish to enquire further into whether the caseworkers actually have the capacity to take on this additional work, particularly when the children concerned may not speak English.

Conclusion

10.We are generally critical of significant policy changes that are brought into effect while Parliament is in recess. While we are all aware of the humanitarian impetus to act quickly, the House may wish to ask for more detail on how this scheme will operate in practice. For example, what happens to the children at the end of the three year visa? Would they be sent back to occupied parts of Ukraine? Who takes responsibility for a child if it is orphaned during the period of sponsorship?

11.We also note reports that an Office for National Statistics survey found 26% of current sponsors are already proposing to leave the existing scheme after less than six months due to increases in the cost of living.10 The House may wish to ask what happens to a child if the sponsor withdraws or if the relationship between the child and the sponsor breaks down. The House may also wish to enquire whether there are sufficient resources to deal with this number of children and to what extent the different approaches in the Devolved Administrations have been accommodated in the new scheme. If child services are already under strain, we are concerned that neither these children, nor those already in the care system, should be put in jeopardy because caseworker resources are spread too thinly.


1 Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC), ‘Homes for Ukraine: UK sponsorship arrangement consent form’: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/homes-for-ukraine-uk-sponsorship-arrangement-consent-form [accessed 5 September 2022].

2 Home Office, ‘Homes for Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme: caseworker guidance’: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/homes-for-ukraine-sponsorship-scheme-caseworker-guidance/homes-for-ukraine-sponsorship-scheme-caseworker-guidance-accessible-version--2#child_concession [accessed 5 September 2022].

3 The Disclosure and Barring Service.

4 DLUHC, ‘Homes for Ukraine: Guidance for councils (children and minors applying without parents or legal guardians)’: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/homes-for-ukraine-guidance-for-councils-children-and-minors-applying-without-parents-or-legal-guardians [accessed 5 September 2022].

5 DLUHC, ‘Homes for Ukraine: Guidance for sponsors (children and minors applying without parents or legal guardians)’: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/homes-for-ukraine-guidance-for-sponsors-children-and-minors-applying-without-parents-or-legal-guardians [accessed 5 September 2022].

6 DLUHC, ‘Homes for Ukraine: Guidance for parents or legal guardians (children and minors applying without parents)’: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/homes-for-ukraine-guidance-for-parents-or-legal-guardians-children-and-minors-applying-without-parents [accessed 5 September 2022].

7 DLUHC, ‘Homes for Ukraine: UK sponsorship arrangement consent form’: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/homes-for-ukraine-uk-sponsorship-arrangement-consent-form [accessed 5 September 2022].

8 DLUHC, ‘Homes for Ukraine: welcome guide for Ukrainian children under 18’: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/homes-for-ukraine-welcome-guide-for-ukrainian-children-under-18 [accessed 5 September 2022].

9 Home Office, ‘Ukraine Family Scheme, Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme (Homes for Ukraine) and Ukraine Extension Scheme visa data’: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/ukraine-family-scheme-application-data/ukraine-family-scheme-and-ukraine-sponsorship-scheme-homes-for-ukraine-visa-data--2 [accessed 5 September 2022].

10 Office for National Statistics, ‘Experiences of Homes for Ukraine scheme sponsors, UK’: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/populationandmigration/internationalmigration/datasets/experiencesofhomesforukraineschemesponsorsuk [accessed 5 September 2022] which was cited in ‘Homes for Ukraine: Quarter of refugee sponsors do not want to carry on’, BBC News (10 August 2022): https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-62493852.




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