Members of the audience at Community Care LIVE’s first
Question Time were united last week in their condemnation of
government proposals to remove the children of failed asylum
seekers who refuse to return home.
Children’s minister Margaret Hodge struggled to face down criticism
of the policy, included in the Asylum and Immigration Bill
currently going through Parliament.
She insisted that separating families was not the intention of the
policy, and that responsibility lay with those parents whose asylum
applications had been refused to avoid the problem by leaving the
“The policy is not one where willy nilly we will remove children
from their parents,” Hodge said. “The policy is that we will speed
up the system. If it is an unfounded application then the family
has to go. Then the responsibility does lie with the family to
abide by the law.”
Hodge’s “wait and see” approach to the potential problem did little
to reassure practitioners in the 500-strong audience, who indicated
that they would be unwilling to enforce the plans and questioned
the legality of doing so given their duties towards children under
the Children Act 1989.
Concerns were also raised about what would happen to children once
they had been removed given that there was already a shortage of
The British Association of Social Workers pledged to support
members who challenged any demand by their employer “to act
unlawfully or unprofessionally in unjustifiably separating children
from their parents”.
In a vote at BASW’s annual general meeting, also held at Community
Care LIVE, members passed a motion describing government plans to
coerce families into leaving the UK through the threat of removal
of children from parents by social workers as “insensitive and
Community Care acting editor Mark Ivory told the Question
Time session, chaired by BBC journalist Jeremy Vine, that: “There
is no point hiding behind the fiction that asylum seekers have put
themselves in this situation.
“The fact the state can contemplate doing something of this kind