Some have come from war-torn countries, surviving bloodshed and losing their loved ones – where is our compassion, journalist Tasnim Nazeer writes
There is currently a worrying number of unaccompanied child refugees that are in urgent need of support and safe entry into the UK. Many unaccompanied child refugees are left in vulnerable circumstances, exposed to harmful situations such as trafficking and abuse and this is unacceptable.
It is heart-breaking to hear that child refugees in Dunkirk, France, are living in “filthy camps, in rain-soaked flimsy tents” and exposed to sexual exploitation as they share camps with large groups of older men. The poor conditions in which these children live in and the increased police violence are pushing children into vulnerable situations, at the hands of those who wish to abuse and exploit them. Leaving any child to wait in such dire circumstances for safe sanctuary is shameful.
The UK government should be taking immediate action to facilitate more funding, legal and safe entries for children and give them the support they need. As a mother myself, I have to question those in power who would not even keep their own children in such conditions for one minute, let alone days on end. Why are these children’s lives any different?
Lord Alf Dubs and his charity Safe Passage along with many other charities had sent an open letter to PM Theresa May urging the government for more places and adequate funding under section 67. The legislation of section 67 of the Immigration Act was proposed by Lord Alf Dubs and came into action on May 12th 2016. This act gave unaccompanied refugee children who were living in camps, on the streets of Europe access to a legal route to safety in the UK and has been a life changing move in the law to help child refugees to safety.
According to Safe Passage ‘councils and foster carers across the country have welcomed over 220 children under section 67, while organisations on the ground in Europe have worked tirelessly to ensure children are able to access this legal route’. However, the British government have only given 480 spaces for child refugees to gain sanctuary in the UK and thousands of other children coming into the country as refugees are either still waiting or may not even get a place.
The Home Office had announced that they would increase funding towards the care of unaccompanied asylum seeking children, who are currently left in limbo, yet the funding has still not been put in place at the time of writing. Frustratingly, children are left to fend for themselves whilst we wait for the government to follow through on their promises.
The UK has the capacity to provide these children with safe sanctuary and it is the responsibility of the government and whoever comes into power after PM Theresa May leaves to ensure that justice is served. The situation we are facing now is an injustice of human rights, as every child should have a system of support in place to have their right to safety. Children cannot be left trapped by our immigration system waiting on a life line from the British government.
In addition, many child refugees in Calais and in the UK have been preventedfrom being reunited with their family members, causing more distress and upset for all those involved.
The UK government has failed in showing compassion and humanity for these children and if they don’t act now I fear that more children will fall victim to disastrous consequences. Some child refugees have come from war-torn countries, surviving bloodshed and losing their loved ones. These children should not have to face any more turmoil in order to gain safe sanctuary which is why it is imperative that the government acts immediately to ensure that these children are brought to safety. Every child deserves to have a safe place to live with support, love and stability and I hope that these children will not have to wait any longer for a chance to rebuild their lives.
Original article available here: https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/child-refugees_uk_5cfe6927e4b0da7434622756
Children whose parents are divorced are more likely to get fat than those whose parents stay together, say researchers.
The weight gain is particularly marked in children whose parents divorce before they are six, the study found.
Researchers from the London School of Economics and Political Science analysed data on 7,574 children born between 2000 and 2002.
The authors say their findings back calls for better health support for families going through a break-up.
The paper suggests a range of reasons why children might put on weight after a divorce, both economic and non-economic.
- less money in separated households for fresh fruit and vegetables
- parents having to work more hours, leaving less time to prepare nutritious food
- less money for extra-curricular activities, including sport
- parents with less time and energy to establish healthy eating habits in their children
- emotional problems leading to parents who overfeed and children who eat too much sugary and fatty food
The information on the children was collected by the UK Millennium Cohort Study, which followed the lives of a representative UK-wide sample of children born at the start of the new millennium.
The children were surveyed at the ages of nine months, three years, five, seven, 11 and 14, although this particular study excluded the data collected at 14, as the researchers wanted to focus on the period before adolescence.
Of the children studied, 1,573 – or about one in five of the total – had seen their parents separate by the time they were 11.
The study also looked at the children’s heights and weights, ages and genders to calculate their body mass index (BMI) – a widely used measure of whether individuals are a healthy weight, overweight or obese.
The results showed that children of separated parents gained more weight during the 24 months after their parents separated, than children whose parents stayed together over the same period.
And children of separated parents were more likely to become overweight or obese within 36 months of the separation, the study found.
The paper says the results underscore the idea that parental separation is “a process with potentially long-lasting consequences”.
The authors suggest that, as the study stopped when the children were 11, the data might underestimate the full extent of the children’s weight gain over time “because the magnitude of this association becomes stronger as the time since separation increases”.
The authors argue that efforts to prevent children at risk from gaining weight should start soon after separation.
“Intervening early could help to prevent, or at least attenuate, the process that leads some children to develop unhealthy obesity,” they write.
The study focused on the consequences of the first separation of children’s biological parents, so children whose parents were later reconciled were not included in the analysis.
The authors also controlled for socio-economic disadvantage.
The article is published in the journal Demography.
Original article available here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-48664323
More and more people are turning to surrogacy to start a family, yet the laws governing surrogacy came into effect in the mid-1980s and need updating, says the Law Commission.
The laws around surrogacy are outdated and should be improved to better support the child, surrogates and intended parents, the Law Commission of England and Wales and the Scottish Law Commission have announced today (06 June 2019).
Surrogacy is where a woman bears a child on behalf of someone else or a couple, who then intend to become the child’s parents (the intended parents). Surrogacy is legal in the UK, and is recognised by the Government as a legitimate form of building a family.
However, change is needed to make sure the law works for everyone involved. To reflect the wishes of surrogates and intended parents, the Law Commissions are proposing to allow intended parents to become legal parents when the child is born, subject to the surrogate retaining a right to object for a short period after the birth.
This would replace the current system where the intended parents must make an application to the court after the child has been born, and do not become legal parents until the court grants them a parental order. The process can take many months to complete.
This proposal for the creation of a new surrogacy process or “pathway” is one of several that the Law Commissions are now consulting on which aim to bring greater certainty, put the child at the heart of the process and provide comfort and confidence to both the surrogate and the intended parents. Other proposals include:
- The creation of a surrogacy regulator to regulate surrogacy organisations which will oversee surrogacy agreements within the new pathway.
- In the new pathway, the removal of the requirement of a genetic link between the intended parents and the child, where medically necessary.
- The creation of a national register to allow those born of surrogacy arrangements to access information about their origins.
The Law Commissions also ask a number of questions to open the debate on the important topic of the payments that intended parents should be able to make to the surrogate, while provisionally proposing that surrogacy organisations should remain non-profit.
Sir Nicholas Green, Chair of the Law Commission said: “More and more people are turning to surrogacy to have a child and start their family. We therefore need to make sure that the process is meeting the needs of all those involved.
“However, the laws around surrogacy are outdated and no longer fit for purpose. We think our proposals will create a system that works for the surrogates, the parents and, most importantly, the child.”
Lady Paton, Chair of the Scottish Law Commission said: “Surrogacy has become a significant issue in today’s society. The interests of all the parties involved must be properly regulated and protected. That is the focus of our proposals.”
Dustin Lance Black, surrogate father and campaigner said: “Without our wonderful surrogate and clear surrogacy law, we would not have been able to have our first child or begin building the family we’ve always wanted.”
“Good, clear law helps people make stronger, clearer decisions. Solid, definitive surrogacy law in the UK will have the power to keep surrogates, egg donors, intended parents, children, and families safe. This consultation is vital for ensuring the UK succeeds in building the best surrogacy law in the world. I hope as many people as possible can get involved and respond.”
The current system: Not fit for purpose
More and more people are turning to surrogacy to start a family, yet the laws governing surrogacy came into effect in the mid-1980s and need updating.
Currently, intended parents have to wait until the child has been born and then apply to court to become the child’s parents. The process can take many months to complete. This process doesn’t reflect the reality of the child’s family life, and affects the intended parents’ ability to take decisions about the child in their care.
Insufficient regulation makes it difficult to monitor the surrogacy process and those involved in it and ensure that standards throughout the process are kept high. There is also a lack of clarity around surrogacy payments. The law currently permits intended parents to pay ‘reasonable expenses’ to the surrogate, however this is unclear and difficult to apply in practice.
The new pathway to parenthood
The Commissions’ proposals for a new pathway for domestic surrogacies would overcome many of these concerns by allowing intended parents to become the child’s legal parents at birth. This would be balanced with the rights of the surrogate who would have a short period to object to the intended parents becoming legal parents at birth.
The new process would also require safeguards – such as counselling and independent legal advice – for those entering into the surrogacy arrangement. These would reduce the risk of the arrangement breaking down which can cause great distress for all involved.
A surrogacy regulator and regulated surrogacy organisations would oversee these arrangements and ensure standards can be monitored and kept high.
For surrogacy arrangements that do not qualify for this new regulated process, the Law Commissions are also proposing amendments to improve regulation of the existing parental order route which will make the law clearer, easier to apply and more cost-effective.
At this point, the Commissions are not putting forward any proposals around payments to the surrogate. However, as part of the consultation, the Commissions want to understand public views on surrogacy payments. The consultation therefore includes questions around the categories of payment that the intended parents should be able to pay to the surrogate, to seek a consensus on this issue.
Original article available here: https://www.politicshome.com/news/uk/home-affairs/law/opinion/law-commission/104360/surrogacy-reforms-are-needed-improve-law-all
Campaigners describe ‘real sense of justice and vindication’ for vulnerable children, who can now bring claims for compensation against local authorities who fail to investigate and take action to protect them
A landmark judgment has ruled that local authorities can be sued if they fail to protect vulnerable young people and children in their area who are considered to be at risk, regardless of whether they are officially in care.
The Supreme Court has restored the right of children to sue for negligence where a local authority has failed to protect them from harm, overruling a previous Court of Appeal decision which gave social workers exemption from liability in such cases.
Campaigners said the ruling brought a “real sense of justice and vindication” for children at risk of possible sexual, physical or emotional abuse and neglect, who can now bring claims for compensation against local authorities who fail to investigate and take action to protect them.
Peter Garsden, a partner at Simpson Millar, who represented the two children’s charities involved in the litigation, said that following the conclusion of the legal action many abuse and negligence cases against local authorities that were put on hold pending a decision would now be able to progress – providing “much comfort” to the victims.
He continued: “This is a groundbreaking decision that has served to clarify the law as far as the duty of care that social workers have towards young people and children who are not necessarily in a care institution, but are known to be at risk.
“This decision affects some of the most vulnerable members of our society and we are delighted that those affected will continue to have access to the justice that they deserve in instances where they are let down by those they have put their faith in.”
The decision follows a UK Supreme Court hearing which took place last July relating to a case in which Poole Borough Council was accused of failing to protect two children in the care of their mother from the antisocial behaviour of neighbours.
Simpson Millar represented Article 39 and The Care Leavers’ Association during the hearing, both of which felt the need to intervene in the case in order to draw attention to the “terrible impact’” abuse can have on children.
Carolyne Willow, director at Article 39, which fights for the rights of children and young people who live in children’s homes, prisons and other institutions, said the charity was “incredibly relieved” by the ruling.
“We are particularly concerned about the continuing scandals of mistreatment in child prisons and local authorities’ failures to take robust, protective action,” she added.
David Graham, national Director of The Care Leavers Association, which provides supports care leavers of all ages, said the judgement would give care leavers a “real sense of justice and vindication, as well as financial compensation for harm that should never have happened”.
He added: “We hope the courts will now quickly deal with the backlog of cases from adults who were failed as children.”
The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents councils in England and Wales, said: “Looking after and protecting vulnerable children is one of the most important challenges that councils tackle every day, making sure they have the care, support and stability they deserve.
“We will consider today’s ruling carefully to assess any implications for local authorities.”