Scenario 3 – Children, whose parents are deceased, travel to England with a relative
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The children’s visa should allow them to remain in the UK, even though their legal guardian has returned to the Ukraine. However, it may still be sensible for the children and their carers to seek immigration advice.
Legal responsibilities and status:
The children are living with their aunt and uncle in a private family arrangement, however government advice is to assess the situation under the private fostering framework, as they are not living with either a parent or legal guardian. The local authority should complete a private fostering assessment including a DBS and accommodation check, to assess the suitability of the arrangement. As this is not a statutory private fostering arrangement, a family can decline an assessment, although they may wish to get independent advice before doing so. As the children are living with a close relative, the local authority are not statutorily required to continue with private fostering procedures. However, they can continue to do so if their assessment suggests it will be supportive.
Parental responsibility remains with the uncle living in Ukraine and the local authority will need to involve them in any social work assessment so far as this is possible. There is no one in the UK who can exercise parental responsibility for them.
Children’s services will need to consider how to support the children and their carers. They will need to consider the Family and Friends Care Statutory Guidance, particularly what their local Family and Friends Care policy says about what support might be available to them.
In this scenario, it is likely to be appropriate for practitioners to undertake an assessment under section 17 of the Children Act 1989 (child in need). Any assessment needs to consider the children’s need for legal permanency.
It may be possible to obtain background information on the children’s history from Ukraine, given both of their parents are deceased, via a request for co-operation under 1996 Hague Convention Art 34, subject to the capacity of the Ukrainian Central Authority. It may be appropriate to discuss with the aunt and uncle what orders might be available to them. The local authority may wish to encourage them to seek legal advice about what legal orders they could apply for, and the merits of the different orders. A special guardianship order and ‘lives with’ child arrangements order would both grant them parental responsibility for the children.
The aunt and uncle can apply for child benefit and may also be eligible for other benefits such as universal credit, subject to their own visa statuses.
The local authority can consider any other offers of universal or targeted family support that may be available, including any community resources that are available to support Ukrainian families and local kinship services.
The local authority can signpost the aunt and uncle to potential therapeutic support from Barnardo’s Ukrainian Support Helpline and share the resources regarding the impact of war, loss and trauma.