Local offer for care leavers

Part of Children and Social Work Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee am 2:15 pm ar 13 Rhagfyr 2016.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Edward Timpson Edward Timpson Minister of State (Education) 2:15, 13 Rhagfyr 2016

I thank the hon. Member for South Shields for her amendments on clause 2, particularly about the local offer and care leavers. I am also grateful to her and to the hon. Members for Walthamstow and for Birmingham, Selly Oak for being generous in their reading of the motivation and spirit behind the clause.

Far from being relaxed about the outcomes for care leavers, I am as determined today as I was the first moment I set foot in this place to do all I can to improve their prospects. That is reflected in the fact that we have the Bill before us, as a product of what can be a difficult bargaining arena, with many other Departments wanting to get legislation before Parliament. Through that renewed effort—as well as the cajoling and persuasion needed—we managed to make this a key priority for the Government, which is why it has now come before the House for the necessary scrutiny.

This group of amendments would seek to provide additional support to care leavers. I do not hesitate to agree that these young people do need help and support, but I do not consider the amendments to be the best way to provide that additional support. I will respond to each amendment in turn to explain why.

Amendment 26 would extend the definition of care leavers to cover all unaccompanied asylum-seeking children up to the point when they leave the UK, in the event that their asylum application is not granted. I recognise that the amendment seeks to safeguard a particularly vulnerable group of young people. I assure the Committee that I appreciate the sentiment and desire behind that. We know that local authorities are now looking after increasing numbers of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children and supporting more care leavers who were formerly asylum-seeking children.

Bearing those points in mind, I want to make an important clarification. Most care leavers who were formerly unaccompanied asylum-seeking children have refugee status, humanitarian protection or another form of leave to remain or an outstanding human rights application or appeal. That means that they qualify, like any other care leaver, for the support under the Children Act 2004 care leaver provisions, to assist their transition into adulthood. In addition, they will benefit in the same way as other care leavers from the improvements to the framework contained in the Bill, including the local offer for care leavers.

It is only those leaving care whom the courts have determined do not need humanitarian protection, who have exhausted all appeal routes and rights and subsequently have no lawful basis to remain in the UK, with the court having said there is no barrier to their removal, who will need, in those circumstances, to be supported to return to their home country, where they can embark on building their lives and futures, with assistance from the Home Office in the form of financial and practical support. The Government believe that that is the right approach for that specific and clearly defined group, whose long-term future is not in this country but who need support and assistance before they leave.