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Greg Davies, barrister at 4PB (who represented the children in Re Z), looks at the implications of the decision in W and Re Z (EU Settled Status for Looked After Children)  EWHC 783 (Fam) as to important questions of law and procedure concerning children’s immigration status under the UK’s European Union Settlement Scheme (EUSS). Specifically, in W and Re Z , the court provided clear and comprehensive guidance for all local authorities in respect of looked after children, care leavers and children in need.
Two cases (W and Re Z) came before the court sequentially to consider applications under the inherent jurisdiction for the issuing of Polish passports and settled status for the subject children. In the first case, the mother’s consent to the applications was predicated on the children being returned to her care. The father opposed. In the second case, neither parent engaged save to state their unreasoned opposition to the applications.
The court addressed the following urgent questions:
In relation to parental responsibility and consent, the court undertook a review of the relevant law and guidance, in particular:
The court carefully considered the line of Court of Appeal authority concerning the proper exercise of parental responsibility by a local authority. The court was satisfied that, ordinarily, it will not be the case that the consequences of a local authority overriding the wishes or views of a parent to acquire passports or settled status for children are so profound or enduring that it would be wrong to exercise the statutory power conferred by ChA 1989, s 33(3) or ACA 2002, s 25.
The court acknowledged there may be some limited cases that require an application under the inherent jurisdiction but this should not be the first port of call in such situations.
In their submissions in the Re Z case, counsel for the children (myself, led by Henry Setright QC) suggested that there could be a cohort of children who may meet the threshold for proceedings under ChA 1989, Pt IV. While not speculating in that regard, the court noted that the submissions served to highlight the need for local authorities to remain alive, when discharging their obligations to looked after children for whom they do not share parental responsibility, care leavers and children in need, to the possibility of cases that may, exceptionally require the intervention of the court.
The court’s guidance
MacDonald J summarised the court’s guidance (at para ) as follows:
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