Keeping children safe from harm - Refugee Council
February 25, 2008

Keeping children safe from harm

By Judith – Policy Team

To describe the recent period as a busy one for those of us working with refugee children would be an understatement!  Now that I’ve had time to reflect a little, I’ll attempt to share some of the experience of the last few weeks with you.

At the end of January the Border and Immigration Agency published two documents relating to children. The first was a consultation paper on keeping children safe from harm. The BIA acknowledges that it hasn’t always put children at the heart of what it does so we’re pleased that it’s asking it’s staff to think about children more and make sure they play their part in protecting them. Our underlying aim is to try and work out what the likely impact on our clients will be and make suggestions for how the draft plans can be improved. We will read the proposals in detail, talk to colleagues who work directly with children and draft a response.

The second paper is the next stage of what many of us refer to as ‘reform of unaccompanied children’s services’. It follows a period of consultation last year – you can read our views here.

This paper is a mixed bag – the tone is much improved from previous papers but we’re still worried about some of the proposals and some don’t give us enough detail to analyse. Proposals include the setting up of specialist authorities for the care of unaccompanied children; these authorities will work more closely with the BIA to ensure that care planning matches the decisions made on the child’s asylum claim. Part of the difficulty is trying to imagine how the government’s aims will work in reality – what looks OK on paper sometimes has drastic results, particularly when new policies and practices are rushed in. I really hope they take things steadily and make real change for the better this time.

Government announcements create lots of work for policy people like me.   Consultation papers need to be responded to and announcements of firm plans mean lots of reading  – often  between the lines – analysis and discussion with colleagues, as well as the more immediate task of responding to media enquiries.   It is critical that we get our response right as we play an important role in informing those working directly with the people affected by any policy changes.  But also because by passing on the experience of those affected by policies on the ground, we can help change them for the better.