The following blog is an open letter on behalf of Will Quince MP, David Burrowes MP, David Warburton MP, Derek Thomas MP, Geoffrey Cox QC MP, Tim Loughton MP and Jason McCartney MP
When the Government announced that no further child refugees would be brought over under the Dubs Scheme, we were deeply disappointed. We did not accept that there was only room for 400 vulnerable children, not when there are 217 local authorities with responsibility for safeguarding children. This is why we tabled an amendment to the Children and Social Work Bill.
To be clear, what this amendment didn’t do was require the Government to re-open the Dubs scheme. Whilst many have painted this as a way of bringing further children over to the UK from Europe, there was nothing in the wording to make this happen.
Rather, New Clause 14 to the Children and Social Work Bill would have required local authorities to report annually to the Secretary of State on their capacity to safeguard children in their area, including unaccompanied child refugees who could be transferred into the area from abroad.
In addition to joining up information from different councils so that we could make sure that individual areas aren’t being put under disproportionate pressure, we could get transparency about just how much capacity there is for vulnerable child refugees to be brought over.
However, when this was pushed to a vote, we abstained on the motion.
Because the Government has listened to our concerns and has moved in the right direction.
The Government has committed to publishing a safeguarding strategy for unaccompanied asylum-seeking and refugee children by 1 May. They have also committed to updating Parliament annually on delivery against the safeguarding strategy, and will be publishing regular updates on the number of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children transferred to the UK.
Further, they are in contact with local authorities on their capacity to take unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. No-one will deny that councils such as Kent and Croydon continue to take the bulk of spontaneous arrivals, and will be seeking to ensure a fairer distribution.
Can more be done to help vulnerable children currently in Europe? Of course – we will continue to raise this matter with the Home Office and we will be holding the Minister to his commitments. However, the Government made moves to address our concerns on this issue and should be commended for doing so. Whilst more can always be done, we fully recognise the significant contributions the Government has already made to hosting, supporting and protecting the most vulnerable children affected by the migration crisis in Europe and in the Middle East.
In brief, the Government gave sufficient commitment to do what our amendment asked which is to regularly publish a safeguarding strategy in May providing details of the capacity of local authorities to support vulnerable children in the UK and including unaccompanied asylum children. The challenge before May is now for the Home Office to not close the Dubs scheme prematurely and clarify capacity of local authorities.
Will Quince is the Conservative MP for Colchester
David Burrowes is the Conservative MP for Enfield Southgate
David Warburton is the Conservative MP for Somerton and Frome
Derek Thomas is the Conservative MP for St Ives
Geoffrey Cox QC is the Conservative MP for Torridge and West Devon
Tim Loughton is the Conservative MP for East Worthing and Shoreham
Jason McCartney is the Conservative MP for Colne Valley