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Border Agency to have a duty to safeguard the welfare of children

Date:25 JUN 2008

The Home Office and the Department for Children, Schools and Families yesterday announced their intention for the UK Border Agency to have a legal duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children as part of the forthcoming Immigration Bill.

During the committee stage debate on the Children and Young Persons Bill yesterday, Childrens Minister, Beverley Hughes, announced that the Government would table an amendment at report stage to remove clause 7 of the bill adding the immigration authorities to the list of agencies which have a duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children whilst carrying out their work.

Ms Hughes said the she wanted to remove the Lords' amendment as it was the Government's intention to introduce the UK Border Agency's new Section 11 duty in the Immigration Bill, which will be introduced in the 2008-09 parliamentary session.

Clause 7 was added to the bill by the House of Lords following lobbying by the Refugee Childrens Consortium, a coalition of more than 30 childrens and refugee agencies

Speaking at Committee Stage of the Children and Young Persons Bill, Beverley Hughes said: Having considered the arguments fully, the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families have agreed that aligning the UK Border Agency with those agencies which are already subject to the Section 11 duty is the right thing to do for children and young people.

"All agencies working with children and young people should be able to consider how they can safeguard and promote the welfare of children. Now is the right time to introduce a Section 11 duty as part of a reformed, streamlined immigration service."

Commenting on the news, the Childrens Society chief executive Bob Reitemeier said: "This is a welcome and significant step by the Government, one which will see an especially vulnerable group of children receive the protection and consideration they need. The Childrens Society and Barnardos hope that a swift introduction of this duty will offer reassurance to those living in a time of great uncertainty."