Full Independent Guardianship | The Support System for Young Refugees

This is a time where we look to the values of the 1951 Refugee Convention and celebrate all humanity who fight for freedom. This agreement has afforded the vulnreable in our society safety, and acts as a guard to ensure that these values and rights are protected. But when we look to vulnerable children, young refugees, are they getting the valued protection they deserve, through a Full Independent Guardianship system?

“We know in reality there is a concerted attack underway on the values which underpinned this convention, and others, European Convention on Human Rights, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and The Convention on the Rights of The Child (CRC), to name but a few.”

These attacks are not new and no doubt attempts to expand and coordinate these will continue.

“However through the actions of organisations and individuals, those dedicated to uphold the values expressed through these conventions, I have no doubt whatsoever, that in the end our humanity and instinct to help those in need will prevail.”

“One example of collective action I wanted to share with you as we approach the close of Refugee Week 2020 is Full Independent Guardianship (FIG), just one of many responses to an issue of the treatment of children and young people, unaccompanied by their parents or caregivers, or who are trafficked to the UK.”

Philip Isohla, Executive Director at Love146UK

So, why the need for Full Independent Guardianship, when we have care support systems in place?

Our UK child welfare, protection and support system does provide the needed support, for British children to navigate the complexities of the care system. But for child refugees dual and, sometimes triple care plans are used. This is due to the uncertainty generated by the use of immigration controls on the child social care system. 

The consequences of this duplication have a hugely negative impact on the provision of care. Resulting in long lasting effects on a child and young persons mental health and sometimes physical health as they, through fear and uncertainty become vulnerable once more to abuse, exploitation. 

“This toxic combination of uncertainty, instability and fear generated for children and young people is no way to treat a child and can be harmful on so many levels.” 

Therefore, Love146 UK and other children’s services have identified that the current social care system does not truly recognise the needs of other highly vulnerable children with complex needs, those who are without parents or caregivers, refugees trafficked from abroad, into the UK. 

To recognise the vulnerabilities, is also to recognise the need for support, not just for a change in systems.

As such, statutory service providers are hampered in their ability to apply a single pathway plan, this generates uncertainty for a young person, for themselves to plan and achieve all that they can into young adulthood.

These entitlements are defined as rights, and yet they are not afforded with consistency and certainty.

This leads to great risk for those who are trafficked and creates situations of vulnerability for those who may not have been trafficked but are placed on the edge of society’s social support. 

However, there is hope through our professional commitment to the core values which underpin our UK child safeguarding, welfare protection and support system. These will not be lost with the creation of the Full Independent Guardianship system, and will only serve to enhance these values and associated positive outcomes, for the children and young people.

Our commitment “Children and young people will be at the heart of developing the Full Independant Guardianship system. Young people will be informing the steering of this focus by advising the task group designing the FIG model. They will also be central to the pilot and the evaluation process.”

“A child in the UK who reaches 18 is entitled to and receive Leaving Care Support, which supports their transition into adulthood through ensuring their basic needs are met, and they are supported to achieve their ambitions as far as they can.”

“For young people from abroad (trafficked or not), those who reach 17½ years of age and receive a negative immigration determination they may become failed asylum seekers. Therefore seen as asylum seeking adults who are liable to arrest, detention and deportation.”

Were they to receive a positive immigration determination it is still only ever for 5 years, and as such their leaving care provision is undermined as there is no ability to plan for the long term.”

These young people are, due to their vulnerability, targets for those who would do them harm.

We must remind you that this is a global humanitarian crisis which is pushing children to be ‘on the move’ around the world. In this, Full Independent Guardianship was developed to ensure there is at least one person, a guardian, who will be there for them when they most need someone who is  solely focussed on them and their best interests.

Only in collaboration will Full Independent Guardianship be deliverable

We are working together with the support of a range of statutory bodies including NGOs and others to deliver the legal change required to ensure the independent system of guardianship and guardians are afforded legal capacity in law.

Focusing on two main issues:

  1. The guardian who can cover all three functions will always be appointed for all children lacking parental care such as unaccompanied children. 
  2. Guardians will help to ensure that the child’s best interests and overall well-being are protected and safeguarded.

Our vision for a better, brighter future for vulnerable children

Through our combined work with children’s services, non governmental, intergovernmental organisations and statutory child care authorities, the Full Independent Guardianship system will be enabled to go far beyond pure representation of a child or just complementing the limited legal capacity of the child.

The FIG model in England and Wales will be designed to ensure all agencies are supported to deliver their statutory duties and where it is needed, guided to ensure in the best interest of the child and young person, and the supported to deliver these.

Our vision “That a Full Independent Guardian system will bring one of the biggest changes to childrens and young persons social care policy and law in four decades. And, will impact the lives of thousands of children and young people in England and Wales, now and who will find their way here in the future.”

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