Project 17 - Not Seen and Not Heard report
At Together with Migrant Children, we are pleased to have contributed to the development of this report and fully support this campaign, including recommendations to improve Local Authority responses to destitute migrant children and families.
Since this charity started nearly 3 years ago, we have worked quite closely with Project 17, working together particularly in cases where needs are not being met by local authorities. It is troubling that a lot of the work we have done together surrounds provision to children with disabilities. It was a pleasure to support the development of this report in our own small way as we feel it is a very important report into the state of provision provided by local authorities to migrant children and families.
Project 17’s new campaign, ‘Seen and Heard’ explores children’s experiences of support under Section 17 Children Act 1989 as well as children’s emotional and psychosocial needs when they are facing destitution and how these can be, but often are not, met by Local Authorities.
From our own casework, we see practice from Local Authorities that falls well short of standards we would expect as children’s practitioners. We remain appalled at 'threats’ to accommodate children only when families present as destitute and how, without advocacy, the path of seeking support for destitute migrant families is fraught with risk and danger. Children’s services should be accessible for all children, to encourage and maintain good development and prevent harm, however, aggressive gatekeeping often means that without advocates and in some cases legal representation, support remains out of reach for this group of children.
Perhaps when you think the danger is over and a family is accommodated this is the end. But we see huge numbers of families where the accommodation they are placed in is simply unsuitable and does not meet their needs. From being cold and damp, to unfinished, to a family of 5 sharing a single bedsit room. Simple things like the accommodation being a 4 hour journey from a child’s school, or away from the hospital where they attend specialist appointments.
Subsistence rates, in our experience, often barely meet the most basic needs of children and in some cases we have worked on, involve parents choosing between food and electricity. We have lost count of the amount of school uniform we have had to source, toys and books for stimulation and travel to legal appointments which would actually make the time on support less.
What we have never understood is the hostility of services and indeed some individual practitioners towards families approaching the Local Authority for support. The various ‘tactics’ that local authorities employ, such as refusing to provide interim accommodation, suggesting families who are street homeless wait for 45 days for the completion of an assessment, through to local authority practitioners providing immigration advice, and worse, incorrect immigration advice and assessing the merits of a family application to the Home Office.
There are many things wrong with this system. There are many things that need to change. We believe that this campaign is a start in achieving that. Watch the video below of a child’s experiences of approaching the Local Authority for support.
The local authority charter
Alongside this report, the charter has been released which encourages Local Authorities to better meet the needs of those seeking destitution support, to quite simply put the support on par with that all other children receive. A copy of the charter can be found here.
We fully support this charter as a step towards more humane and holistic practices, away from gatekeeping and hostile practices that we too often experience.
You can find out more about the campaign, including signing up to updates on the Project 17 website.