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Applicants: Child experts recruited to Family Returns Panel

25 April 2012

Child welfare experts have been appointed as full members of a panel advising the government on the removal of families found to have no right to be in the UK.

The Independent Family Returns Panel makes recommendations to us on the best method of returning individual families to their home country, ensuring the specific welfare needs of children are met.

Following an open recruitment process, Immigration Minister Damian Green has appointed 11 panel members including the chair, Chris Spencer, a former director of Education and Chi... ldren's Services in the London Borough of Hillingdon.

Other panel members include former directors of local authority children's services departments, members of Local Safeguarding Children Boards, a former head teacher and doctors who will be able to provide to provide professional medical advice.

Damian Green said:

'Our more humane approach to family returns places the welfare of children at the heart of the process and the Independent Family Returns Panel has a vital role to play.

'These appointments mean that our decisions will continue to be guided by a group which boasts an exceptional level of expertise, experience and dedication to the welfare of children.

'We always take a compassionate approach in this sensitive area of our work but individuals with no legal right to be in the UK must return home.'

The appointments announced today mean that the panel now exists in its full permanent form, having operated on an interim basis since March 2011.

Mr Green also announced today that representatives from our agency and Department for Education who sat on the panel as interim members during its initial phase are to withdraw from full panel membership. Our officials will continue to support the panel, providing operational information and answering the questions of panel members.

Chair Chris Spencer said:

'Once the decision has been taken that a family has no right to remain in the UK it is important that the plan to remove them reflects the children's best interests and considers carefully any safeguarding issues.

'I am pleased that independent members appointed to the permanent panel bring with them years of experience from across the children's landscape including the police, local authorities, health services and the third sector which will ensure that this happens.'

Minister of State for Children and Families Sarah Teather said:

'The reforms to the immigration system for children and families have been about putting compassion and children's welfare at its heart.

'The appointment of members to the full panel contributes to that by ensuring that there is independent expertise on how best to manage returns of individual families.'

The Independent Family Returns Panel is one part of a wider, four-stage process designed to ensure the return of families with no right to remain in the UK with dignity, ensuring the welfare of children at all times.

The new approach emphasises close engagement with families and provides a range of structured opportunities for families to take up assisted return or their own choice to leave, to make further representations or seek further legal compensation.