Families need answers. An open letter to the London Borough of Hackney in solidarity with NELMA

Since late 2016, Project 17 and NELMA have been challenging Hackney over the application of S17 with migrant families. You can read in detail about the concerns raised here and here. NELMA was promised a robust response to the many concerns they raised including internal investigation and independent review, but since their initial challenge last year, they have had no further communication from the London Borough of Hackney. 

We fully support the actions of NELMA in bringing these concerns to the London Borough of Hackney and have seen some concerning evidence and read some concerning accounts of incredibly poor and in some cases potentially unlawful practice towards migrant families. We have today sent Mayor Glanville and open letter expressing our concerns and calling on the London Borough of Hackney to provide an immediate response to NELMA with regards to their concerns. 

Open letter dated 31st May 2017. 

Concerns over the treatment of migrant families when seeking support under S17 Children Act 1989. Responding to NELMA and Project 17 concerns.

We, as a non-profit consisting of children’s practitioners working with migrant families are deeply concerned over the ill treatment of migrant families when approaching London Borough of Hackney for support under S17 of the Children Act. These concerns were raised by NELMA and Project 17 in 2016 and several actions were promised, including a review of practice in children’s social care and clear policy on the subsistence rates paid to families currently receiving S17 support.

It is very troubling that it would seem no progress has been made on the actions that arose as a result of these concerns being raised, especially given the very vulnerable situation migrant children and families with NRPF often encounter, including street homelessness. We find particularly concerning the evidence that suggests that Hackney are not providing families with interim support while awaiting the outcome of a child in need assessment, something that places children in a position of significant risk and represents what any practitioner should recognise as an immediate and pressing safeguarding concern. All the evidence that NELMA has presented that we have seen paints the picture of a gatekeeping practice that seeks to disprove destitution in families, as opposed to taking a child-centred approach that is required by statutory guidance and professional ethics, with all actions taken being in the best interests of children.

It is our view that there are also significant concerns with regards to child rights in the way these cases appear to be being managed, particularly going against the spirit and intention of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The embedding of immigration control within children’s social care is also very concerning and in our experience means that very often, vulnerable families in need of support will not seek it, establishing significant barriers to the good and safe upbringing and development of children in your area.

We fully support NELMA and Project 17 in the raising of their concerns and as children’s safeguarding practitioners, it is disheartening to hear of so many examples of poor practice which place an enforcement emphasis on what should, both legally and morally be a child-centred process. It is most concerning to have read the evidence and points made by NELMA that the best interests of children are often not being taken into account, something which is paramount in practice involving children and fundamental to achieving good, safe and effective practice and services for all children.

We look forward to seeing your immediate response to NELMA and for your report on the progress made in conducting your review of Hackney’s treatment of migrant families who approach you seeking support. Urgent action needs to be taken to ensure safe and humane practice with migrant families.

On behalf of the entire team at Migrant Family Action

You can download a copy of the letter here


Show your support

NELMA is running an on-going campaign challenging the support received by migrant families from the London Borough of Hackney. Join in with their various events (online and off) and keep in the know here.

If you are a practitioner and would like to express your concern at the practices identified at Hackney. Let them know by sharing a copy of our letter and joining in with NELMA's campaign. We believe it is all practitioners responsibility to challenge poor practice at every level.