Unaccompanied children in hotels are councils’ responsibility – judge

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Social Work Recap is a weekly series where we present key news, events, conversations, tweets and campaigns around social work from the preceding week.

From a ruling over who’s responsible for unaccompanied migrant children living in hotels to the exploitation of overseas staff recruited to work for a social care provider, here’s what you might have missed this week in social work:

Councils responsible for unaccompanied children, judge rules

Asylum-seeking child

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Local authorities are responsible for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in hotels run by the Home Office, a family court judge has ruled (source: CYPNow).

In a ruling, published last week, Mrs Justice Lieven stated that young people who arrived in the UK without a parent or carer and were housed in hotels were entitled to protection under the Children Act 1989 on the same basis as other children.

This was on the back of children’s rights charity Article 39 issuing a wardship application for 76 children who had been reported missing from a Home Office-run hotel in Brighton and Hove earlier this year.

The charity had warned that it was not clear whether the children were the responsibility of the Home Office or relevant local authority, risking them going without statutory support. If successful, the wardship application would have brought them under the protection of the court, but the judge ruled that there was no gap in the law.

“This judgment has brought vital clarity to a wholly unacceptable situation where extremely vulnerable children have been treated as being in ‘legal limbo’, outside the protection of the Children Act 1989,” said Carolyne Willow, director of Article 39.

“The Home Office has no power to house children outside the care system, and government should be properly funding and supporting local authorities to meet their comprehensive duties.”

In response to the ruling, a Department for Education spokesperson said: “The wellbeing of children and minors in our care is an absolute priority. Robust safeguarding and welfare measures are in place at all temporary hotels to ensure children are safe, secure and supported as we urgently seek placements with a local authority.”

Migrant staff at care provider left in debt – investigation

distraught woman

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Migrant nurses hired by one of England’s biggest children’s care chains have been left without income for months and stuck in debt, an investigation by The Observer has found.

The nurses, hired through agencies to help fill 400 vacancies at Cambian children’s services, were paid lower wages than initially agreed and, in some cases, were also given ‘false promises’ about accommodation and employment terms, reported the paper.

The group consisted mostly of women from India, who had spent as much as £18,000 on relocation costs, training charges and other fees.

Despite being promised financial support from their 11th day in the UK, they were told, on arrival, that they would only be paid after shifts started. However, some were left waiting up to four months to start working, with their visa preventing them from finding another job.

One nurse, hired from India, said she had been waiting for three months without pay and paying 20 times as much for rent as she had back in India.

“Our family is dependent on us. We came here to work for them,” she said, adding that the nurses were now asking for help from those same relatives to “eat and pay the bills”.

Cambian has denied suggestions that it was in any way responsible for “shortcomings” in the recruitment process, including fee arrangements between agencies and workers. The company added that agency partners were responsible for accommodation, arranging English lessons and for setting expectations of what working in the UK would be like.

It added that it had gone beyond its contractual obligations to support recruits by offering interest-free loans and hiring a transition officer.

Share your experience of social work

Post-it writing 'Share Your Experience'

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Social Work England is looking for practitioners or people with lived experience of social work to join its national advisory forum.

The forum’s role is to act as a “critical friend” to the regulator, with its members providing feedback on Social Work England’s work from the perspective of practitioners and those who had been involved with social work services.

“The National Advisory Forum makes sure that Social Work England takes the views of real experience of social work into account,” said Sally Parker, member of the forum since 2020.

“We have co-produced over 50 pieces of work this year and we been involved at all stages from planning to implementation and then evaluation. The group is dynamic, and we bring together diverse knowledge and perspectives, whilst maintaining a culture that is open and supportive.”

The deadline to sign up is 29 June, and anyone who has had social workers in their lives, social workers and social work educators can apply.

Majority of home care staff not paid for travel, finds survey

Care worker putting a bandage on a man's arm in his home.

Photo: dglimages/Adobe Stock

Three-quarters of home care staff in England are not being paid for the time they spend travelling between visits, a survey has found.

The results, published by UNISON this week, showed that 18% of the 310 staff surveyed reported been provided with pay slips accurately detailing their time spent travelling and what they had been paid for this.

According to data from the Homecare Association, home care workers spend one-fifth of their working day (19%) travelling between appointments.

One worker who responded to the survey said they had completed a 12-hour day, including travelling, but had only been paid for nine hours.

“I’m only paid for the time spent in someone’s home,” said Sandra, who works in Yorkshire. “I’m out working eight hours minimum but get paid for six This dramatically reduces my hourly wage. I’ve thought long and hard about going into a different sector to get a fairer wage,”

For UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea, this was a matter affecting both care workers and those they looked after.

“Vulnerable people suffer when their already rationed care visits are cut short or delayed,” she added.

“These appalling working practices must be tackled urgently if more people are to be encouraged to work in a sector desperately short of staff.”

Tweet of the week: social work and AI

Fears about artificial intelligence’s impact on humanity have been rife recently, but could it potentially have a positive impact on social work? That was the suggestion from a presentation this week from US-based social work academic Anamika Barman Adhikari, at the European Social Services Conference.

For more information, check out this TED Talk she did on how social workers can use AI to assess risks to homeless young people and thereby improve support for them.

For a sceptical take on the technology, check out this piece for Professional Social Work magazine from UK academic Christian Kerr.

Do you want to share your views and reflections on social work with fellow practitioners by writing for us? Check out our guidelines page for information on how to share your ideas.

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One Response to Unaccompanied children in hotels are councils’ responsibility – judge

  1. Phil Sanderson June 18, 2023 at 11:47 am #

    Good result by article 39 the robust measures at hotels have seen some 200 children go missing this is an absolute disgrace but at least these vulnerable children are entitled to support and protection and hopefully the terrible and unsafe hotel option will come to an end