Joint statement on the urgent need to safeguard unaccompanied children

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 of Sunday 14th August 2022:

Kathy Evans, CEO, Children England
Patricia Durr, CEO, ECPAT UK

Andy Elvin



Nick Watts


Together with Migrant Children

Jane Collins 



Sherry Peck

Chief Executive

Safer London

Navinder kaur

Chief Executive

Voluntary Action Islington

Mark Lee

Chief Executive

Together Trust

Debbie Hughes


Hounslow Action for Youth (HAY)

Ian Soars



Andrea Maddocks 


Mentor Link 

Andrew Varley

Chief Executive Officer

St. Vincent's Family Project

Jackie Rosenberg


One Westminster

Christine Freeman

Acting Chair

Enfield Children and Young People's Services

Simon Barrow


Ekklesia (think tank)

Vivienne Evans

Chief Executive 


Maggie Jones



Carolyne Willow


Article 39

Hannah Baynes

Paediatric Consultant


Katharine Sacks-Jones

Chief Executive


Clare Scherer

Chief Executive

Naval Children's Charity

Katie Clarke


Bringing Us Together

Sara Robinson

Centre Director

St Augustine's Centre

Mark Simms

Chief Executive

P3 Charity

Anna Khan

Chief Executive Officer


Shaqib Juneja

Interim Chief Executive Officer

My Family Group

Temi Mwale

Executive Director

The 4Front Project Ltd

Andrea hunt

Foster carer

Warwickshire county council

Andrew Evans


METRO Charity

Zara Mohammed 

Secretary General 

Muslim Council of Britain 

Sabah Gilani 


Muslim Mind Collaborative 

Fadi Itani OBE 


Muslim Charities Forum 

Kashif Shabir


Muslim Aid

John McGowan

General Secretary 

Social Workers Union

Anna Feuchtwang

Chief Executive

National Children's Bureau

Brigid Robinson

Managing Director

Coram Voice

Dr Razia Shariff


Kent Refugee Action Network (KRAN)

Carole Littlechild


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



National IRO Managers Partnership (NIROMP)

Alison Pickup


Asylum Aid 

Philip Ishola



Richard Hammond

Chief Executive

The Separated Child Foundation

Tim Naor Hilton


Refugee Action

Martin Sexton

Chair, Policy Ethics and Human Rights Committee

British Association of Social Workers

Bella Sankey


Detention Action

Dr Paul Rigby 

Senior Lecturer, Social Work 

University of Stirling 

Dr Natalia Paszkiewicz

Project Lead

Da'aro Youth Project

Emily Crowley

Chief Executive

Student Action for Refugees

Dr Carol Homden CBE

Group Chief Executive


Hamida Ali


ECYPS-Children & Young Persons Services

Alison Birch



Celia Sands


South London Refugee Association

Jimmy Zachariah

Chief Executive


Dr Edie Friedman

Executive Director

The Jewish Council for Racial Equality (JCORE)

Kayte Cable and Vicki Felgate


Big Leaf Foundation

Catherine Gladwell

Chief Executive

Refugee Education UK 

Enver Solomon

Chief Executive

Refugee Council

Andrew Sirel

Legal Director & Partner

JustRight Scotland

Cathy Ashley

Chief Executive

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

Chief Executive


Lynn Perry MBE

Chief Executive


Beth Wilson


Bristol Refugee Rights 

Matt Blacker 


Hope for the Young

Karen Pearse


Positive Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers

Ellen Broome

Managing Director


Molly Brech

Head of Services (Brent)

Young Roots

Rebecca Ives

Associate Solicitor

Wilson Solicitors LLP

Signatories after publication on Sunday 14th August 2022

Anna Fisher


Nordic Model Now!

Carolyn Housman


Children and Families Across Borders

Philip Townsend

Director of Operations

St Christopher's Fellowship

 Magdalen Bartlett



Lesley Gladwell


Rebuild East Midlands

Leigh Elliott


Children North East

New organisations can add their support to our statement here. Please note, sign-up must be by a CEO or Director who has authority to speak for the whole organisation.