Today in Westminster, I highlighted the importance of making sure that there is flexibility in place for children with care leaving status, under the Children Act 1989, after the EU settlement scheme deadline has passed, and was pleased to receive assurances from the Minister on this. You can read the full exchange below:
What steps her Department is taking to ensure that children in care can apply for settled status after the EU settlement scheme deadline has passed.
We will take steps to ensure that children in care are handled sensitively. As I mentioned in answer to previous questions, if someone misses the 30 June deadline, where they have reasonable grounds for doing so—that could conceivably very well apply to children in care—discretion will be exercised and a late application accepted.
I welcome the Government’s commitment that we will learn lessons from Windrush and ensure that vulnerable people, especially children, do not find themselves with a question mark over their status in years to come. Will my hon. Friend confirm that the offer of support to care leavers making applications out of time includes those who were aged 18 to 25—and therefore had care leaving status under the Children Act 1989—before 31 December 2020, not just those who were under 18 at the time? Will he consider tweaking the case study provided in the Home Office guidance to make that absolutely clear?
As I mentioned earlier, we are doing a great deal of active outreach via grant-funded organisations, in particular with local authorities, to make sure that vulnerable people of the kind my hon. Friend describes are reached. I can give him an assurance that the care leavers he describes are potentially included, because the reasonable grounds provision potentially applies to anybody. Anyone who misses the deadline, whether they are a care leaver or, indeed, anyone else, can make the case that they have reasonable grounds for having missed the deadline, so they are absolutely included. The list of case studies is, of course, non-exhaustive; it is designed not to list everything, but to give a few examples. Anybody can apply for the reasonable grounds exemption. I repeat that anyone who thinks that they are eligible should apply by 30 June. That is the best way to make sure that their case is handled properly and fairly.