SWWB have serious concerns with the Home Office guidance issued around the Best Interest Determination process.
Below you can find their initial response, endorsed and co-signed by BASW and SWAN as well as SWWB. With so many of the most vulnerable children missing since the demolition of the Jungle, the concerns of social workers regarding the abject refusal of the government to enable good and ethical practice need sharing loudly and widely:
Social Workers without Borders has viewed the Home Office Document : Guidance: Implementation of section 67 of the Immigration Act 2016 in France v2.
We wish to express our concerns regarding some of the processes outlined in this guidance, as follows;
1. Stage 2 Best Interest Determination: “Where there is evidence that a detailed Best Interest Determination with the intention outlined above has already been conducted by another social worker or child protection expert for a child, you may choose to accept this evidence in lieu of conducting an assessment”.
Response: There has been Best Interests Assessment conducted by social workers from social workers without borders and also from social workers working with Safe Passage / Citizens UK. However, there are currently no mechanisms in place in order for these Assessments to be immediately shared with the Home Office.
2. Stage 2 Best Interest Determination: "Social workers should, wherever possible, lead the Best Interest Determination, with input from UK Visa and Immigration (UKVI) staff as necessary. There may occasions where, due to operational constraints, the Best Interest Determination interview will be conducted by UKVI staff. In such cases, at a minimum, a social worker should review the information collected and make a recommendation on best interests based on this information".
Response: We would express deep concerns over such assessments being conducted by anyone other than an experienced social work practitioner. Assessment is not just a means of reaching a decision, it is a process whereby a skilled practitioner is able to obtain information sensitively from a young person, particularly those who have experienced trauma, and ensure that a child or young person is given every support in being able to relay their current experiences. Many young people who have suffered trauma may seek to minimise its effects, as a coping strategy. We are concerned that Home Office staff have neither the training nor experience to recognise such defensive mechanisms and this may affect the information they receive and ultimately the Best Interest decision being made. In addition, there are serious risks to young people in the context of human trafficking and we would query whether Home Office personnel have received the necessary training in order to be aware of risk factors and safeguard children and young people appropriately. Will the Home Office be explicit in how many social workers have conducted these assessments and how many have completed by Home Office staff.
3. The language contained in the Report:
Response: Children and Young People are consistently referenced throughout the document as ‘individual’ rather than ‘child or young person’. This terminology could result in a view being adopted that seeks to negate the particular needs of children and young people by effectively transposing an adult identity.
Finally, we are deeply disappointed that the Government has chosen to forsake the proposals agreed in the ‘dubs amendment’ and have tightened the criteria of this amendment, in respect of the children and young people in France, to exclude young people over the age of 12 who are not from Sudan or Syria, and to exclude all young person’s under the age of 15. The exception to this arises when a young person is at risk of ‘sexual exploitation’. We would consider that all vulnerable young persons, who are stating they will continue to try and seek sanctuary in the UK, are liable to be at risk from sexual exploitation, domestic servitude and enforced labour.
Co-signed by Social Work Without borders; British Association of Social Work and Social Work Action Network