EU citizens watchdog reviews Welsh local authorities provision for looked after children and care leavers

The Independent Monitoring Authority for the Citizens’ Rights Agreements (IMA) has outlined concerns following a request for information about the way Welsh local authorities ensure looked after children and care leavers from EU and EEA EFTA countries have their rights protected in the UK post-Brexit. The IMA is responsible for monitoring the rights of EU, EEA EFTA citizens and their family members.

Local authorities have duties to support, and in certain cases to make, applications to the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) for children under their care, as well as to identify those who need to make applications to the EUSS. Each authority’s response to the IMA’s queries on these issues has been categorised as either green, amber or red based on the IMA’s opinion of the quality of responses received.

The IMA wrote to all 22 local authorities in Wales seeking information about three key areas; how authorities identified children and care leavers who need to apply to the EUSS, the procedures they have in place for record keeping and whether retrospective checks are being carried out which could identify those who may have left care and may not have been identified as eligible to apply to the EUSS.

The IMA’s review found that only one council’s response (Wrexham) was categorised as green across all the three areas assessed, while a further six councils (Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly, Cardiff, Denbighshire, Flintshire, Pembrokeshire) were categorised as green in two areas. In addition, some local authorities referred to ethnicity as opposed to nationality to identify a person’s eligibility to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme.

The IMA also found that there was a lack of reference to the identification of non-EU and EEA EFTA family members of EU and EEA EFTA citizens, whose rights are also covered by the Withdrawal and Separation Agreements. While most authorities outlined a record keeping process, many lacked the necessary detail to assure the IMA of accurate record keeping. There were also concerns in relation to whether Welsh local authorities are accurately capturing and storing all data on eligible children and care leavers and their EUSS applications in line with Home Office guidance.

Some local authorities also confirmed that retrospective checks had not taken place to identify children and care leavers up to the age of 25 who may have left care up to seven years ago and may not have been identified as eligible to apply to the EUSS.

Following the initial findings, the IMA is taking further action by opening individual compliance investigations with some Welsh local authorities. The IMA needs to be clear that within Wales, all local authorities have sufficiently demonstrated they are discharging their duties in respect of these vulnerable cohorts, to ensure their rights under the Withdrawal and Separation Agreements are protected.

Pam Everett, IMA Director of Operational Delivery said:

“This is the first review of its kind carried out by the IMA to initially assess how local authorities are supporting children in their care and those who have left care in making applications to the EU Settlement Scheme.

“We now want to assure ourselves that each authority in Wales has the correct systems and procedures in place to ensure looked after children and care leavers who are EU and EEA EFTA citizens, and their eligible family members, can access all the rights to which they are entitled.

“We look forward to working closely with authorities in Wales to improve processes and share best practice to ensure this cohort can continue to access their rights.”

Read the review in full on the IMA’s website.

The review is being undertaken in stages across all local government in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Separate reviews will be provided for each nation in the UK while England will be separated into nine different regions with reviews for each region. Further information about the review can be found on the IMA’s website.