The Council has renewed its promise to help young people living in Manchester affected by Brexit immigration changes.
Last March the council became the first local authority to sign up to a pledge launched by Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit for local councils and others to demonstrate their determination and commitment to do the right thing by these young people.
At the time the council pledged to identify all its looked after children and care leavers affected by Brexit, to connect them with legal advice to enable them to make the most appropriate immigration applications, and to support all those eligible to apply for British citizenship under the EU Settlement Scheme.
With the closure of the EU Settlement Scheme now less than four months away however, time is fast running out for anyone who has not yet made a successful application to the scheme. From 1 July all those people - including children and young people - who haven't yet made a successful application will be in the UK unlawfully.
After successfully supporting 110 young people during the last twelve months and seeing first-hand the immediate and positive difference it makes to young people's health and well-being - knowing that someone is trying to help them navigate a system they couldn't hope to find their way through alone - the council is re-affirming its commitment to providing this vital support where and when it's needed, and has updated its pledge from last year.
The council is also going a step further by making it standard practice for the immigration status of all children and young people they come into contact with to be considered by its social workers, and for them to take action to help young people navigate the immigration system if they need to.
Councillor Garry Bridges, Executive Member for Children and Schools, Manchester City Council, who last year became the first signatory on the joint pledge with Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit, said: "The children and young people we're helping now are the forgotten face of Brexit and and the fallout from it could easily impact them for the rest of their lives, as through no fault of their own they continue to face insecurity about their status. This is both unacceptable and frightening for them.
"We've had a dedicated senior member of staff leading on this work throughout the last year with the help of Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit to support young people and to help them access the documents they need to make applications to the Home Office to secure their futures.
"Time is fast running out however to help them and others in similar situations and it's clearly not right that children and young people as vulnerable and alone as they are, have been left in this position. We're determined to keep doing everything in our power that we can to support them through this and to make sure they don't become part of a new Windrush generation - let down and forgotten by the state - when the reality is that the state should clearly be looking out for and protecting them.
"This last year has been an eye-opener for us and as a result we're also going a step further and making it standard practice for our social workers to consider the immigration status of all children and young people they come into contact with, and to provide them with all necessary support they need to help them navigate a difficult system that, as things stand, is in no way child or young person friendly."
Denise McDowell, Chief Executive, Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit, said: “We are delighted that Manchester City Council is renewing its commitment to children and young people affected by Brexit. The learning the Council has gained over the last year means this updated pledge is a model of good practice for local authorities across the country.
We remain extremely concerned that flaws in the government’s EU Settlement Scheme, made worse by the impact of Covid, will mean children across the country are at risk come July. This pledge will put Manchester in the best position to support and advocate for all its children, whatever their immigration needs. We look forward to continuing to work with the Council to make good these commitments – we know it will bring life-changing benefits for the children and young people affected.”
The council's new updated pledge:
Identify all our looked after children and care leavers with insecure immigration status
Connect them with legal advice so they can be supported to make the most appropriate immigration applications and challenge immigration refusals
Support those who are eligible to apply for British citizenship
Continue to provide access to leaving care services