We write in response to ECPAT UK’s new report Outside the Frame, which gives chilling statistics on how many children arriving in England without a parent or guardian in the last year were denied the urgent care the state owes them. We are a wide range of organisations who want children in the UK to be seen as children first and foremost and to be protected and cared for safely and without discrimination.

1,606 children who arrived alone in England between July 2021 and June 2022 were placed in hotel accommodation directly by the Home Office, instead of in the care of local authorities where they could receive the support and protection that, by law, every child in the UK is entitled to. 45 children, some as young as 11, went missing over a 10-month period.

Our concern for these children cannot be overstated. Already vulnerable, separated and traumatised, isolated from family support networks, they are at greatest risk of going missing and of exploitation and trafficking. Some may have already been trafficked and are at significant risk of being re-trafficked. They need - and are entitled to - care in supportive foster or residential homes, with skilled professionals to help them recover in safety.

The Home Office is breaching the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009 and the Children Act 1989 by continuing to assume direct responsibility and to house children in Home Office-acquired accommodation, undermining the legal framework all our children rely on and creating an unofficial shadow system in which children, as the data now shows, may disappear from sight.

This unacceptable policy, condemned by Ofsted, the Home Affairs Select Committee and also over 70 organisations this time last year, has been explained by the Department for Education and the Home Office as an ‘emergency measure’ but has been in practice for two years. It amounts to negligence in corporate parenting duties and is void of respect for children’s rights. We urge government to step up to its most vital role - protecting and caring for children.

Action is urgently needed: this is the time of year when Kent County Council may consider its capacity to take responsibility for unaccompanied children is exceeded by the numbers of children arriving, and the council may once again consider it cannot fulfil its duties to any of them. We repeat our concerns of July 2021 that the response of the government should not be to place children in hotels, outside of the care system.

The care system across all local authorities is severely stretched, and children’s services departments are in the impossible position of having to accept children they don’t have appropriate homes and services to support. We therefore support the recommendations in ECPAT UK’s report: use of Home Office hotel accommodation must cease and central government must invest in proper care for children, so that local authorities can accept and
support every child who arrives on our shores without a parent or guardian, as the law dictates.

Signatories as at Friday 12th August 2022:

Kathy Evans, CEO, Children England
Patricia Durr, CEO, ECPAT UK
Andy Elvin CEO TACT
Nick Watts Director Together with Migrant Children
Jane Collins Director FosterSupport
Sherry Peck, CEO, Safer London
Navinder Kaur, CEO, Voluntary Action Islington
Mark Lee Chief, CEO, Together Trust
Debbie Hughes, Director/CEO, Hounslow Action for Youth (HAY)
Ian Soars, CEO, Spurgeon's
Andrea Maddocks, CEO, Mentor Link
Andrew Varley, CEO, St. Vincent's Family Project
Jackie Rosenberg, CEO, One Westminster
Christine Freeman, Acting Chair, Enfield Children and Young People's Services
Simon Barrow, Director Ekklesia,
Vivienne Evans, CEO, Adfam
Maggie Jones, CEO, CVAA
Carolyne Willow, Director, Article 39
Hannah Baynes, Paediatric Consultant, NHS
Katharine Sacks-Jones, CEO, Become
Clare Scherer, CEO, Naval Children's Charity
Katie Clarke, Director, Bringing Us Together
Sara Robinson, Centre Director, St Augustine's Centre
Mark Simms, CEO, P3 Charity
Anna Khan, CEO, Welcare
Shaqib Juneja Interim, CEO, My Family Group
Temi Mwale, Executive Director, The 4Front Project Ltd
Andrea Hunt, Foster Carer, Warwickshire County Council
Andrew Evans, CEO, METRO Charity
Zara Mohammed, Secretary General, Muslim Council of Britain
Sabah Gilani, Director, Muslim Mind Collaborative
Fadi Itani OBE, CEO, Muslim Charities Forum
Kashif Shabir, CEO, Muslim Aid
John McGowan, General Secretary, Social Workers Union
Anna Feuchtwang, CEO, National Children's Bureau
Brigid Robinson, Managing Director, Coram Voice
Dr Razia Shariff, CEO, Kent Refugee Action Network (KRAN)
Carole Littlechild, Chair, Nagalro – Professional Association for Children’s Guardians, Family Court, Advisers and Independent Social Workers
Sariya Cheruvallil, Contractor Associate Professor in the Sociology of Islam, Centre for Trust, Peace and Social
Relations, Coventry University
Sharon Martin, Chair, National IRO Managers Partnership (NIROMP)
Alison Pickup, Director, Asylum Aid
Philip Ishola, CEO, Love146
Richard Hammond, CEO, The Separated Child Foundation
Tim Naor Hilton, CEO, Refugee Action
Martin Sexton, Chair, Policy Ethics and Human Rights Committee, British Association of Social Workers
Bella Sankey, Director, Detention Action
Dr Paul Rigby, Senior Lecturer, Social Work, University of Stirling
Dr Natalia Paszkiewicz, Project Lead, Da'aro Youth Project
Emily Crowley, CEO, Student Action for Refugees
Dr Carol Homden CBE, Group Chief Executive, Coram
Hamida Ali, Director, ECYPS-Children & Young Persons Services
Alison Birch, Director, After18
Celia Sands, CEO, South London Refugee Association
Jimmy Zachariah, CEO, Baca
Dr Edie Friedman, CEO, The Jewish Council for Racial Equality (JCORE)
Kayte Cable and Vicki Felgate, Co-Founders, Big Leaf Foundation
Catherine Gladwell, CEO, Refugee Education UK
Enver Solomon, CEO, Refugee Council
Andrew Sirel, Legal Director & Partner, JustRight Scotland
Cathy Ashley, CEO, Family Rights Group
Katie Fennell, National Coordinator, Kids in Need of Defense UK (KIND UK)
Melian Mansfield, Chair of Trustees, London Play
Naomi Jackson, Development Lead, Social Workers Without Borders
Justin Humphreys, CEO, Thirtyone:eight
Lynn Perry MBE, CEO, Barnardo's
Beth Wilson, CEO, Bristol Refugee Rights
Matt Blacker, CEO, Hope for the Young
Karen Pearse, Director, Positive Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers
Ellen Broome, Managing Director, CoramBAAF
Molly Brech, Head of Services (Brent), Young Roots
Rebecca Ives, Associate Solicitor, Wilson Solicitors LLP