4.2.1 Unaccompanied Migrant Children and Child Victims of Trafficking and Modern Slavery
SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This document provides guidance to social care staff working in the Children Social Care Division working with unaccompanied asylum seeking children in Northamptonshire (UASC). The policy and procedure is applicable to all unaccompanied asylum seeking children up to the age of 18 years. This document sets out a process for best practice to assist unaccompanied asylum seeking children to obtain services.
This policy and procedure applies to all staff involved in the care and planning of children and young people who are Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC).
RELATED LEGISLATION AND GUIDANCE
The law around asylum and immigration has grown and developed over time, the chief references for those working in Children's Social Care Service is the Children Act 2004.
- Human Rights Act 2000;
- Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000;
- Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need and their Families DHSC 2000;
- Local Authority Circular (2003) Guidance & Hillingdon Judgement 2003;
- The United Nations Convention on the Status or Refugees (UNHCR) of 1951, amended by the 1967 Protocol;
- UNHCR Refugee Children: Guidance of protection and care. Geneva 1994;
- Immigration and Nationality Policy for Asylum Seekers;
- A myriad of legislation dealing with Immigration and Asylum rules and process - Immigration Act 1971, (and the Immigration Rules published under this and updated and amended) Immigration and Asylum Appeals Act 1993, Asylum and Immigration Act 1996, Immigration and Asylum Act 1999, the Nationality Asylum and Immigration Act 2002 and Asylum and Immigration (treatment of Claimants etc) Act 2004;
- Children Act Regulations and Guidance April 2011;
- Care of unaccompanied migrant children and child victims of modern slavery (DfE).
In February 2021, Further Information was updated to include a link to Statutory Guidance Modern Slavery: How to Identify and Support Victims.
The changing pattern of wars, conflicts and persecution tends to dictate where asylum seekers originate. For each of them there is the reason why they started their journey and their experiences on the way. It may be social care staff are amongst the first people they meet on arrival. For many their experiences prior and up to leaving their homes will have been traumatic, complicated and experienced the loss of significant family members and community, and for many their experience of the journey will also have been traumatic. Therefore they are likely to be the victim of what has been described by Sheila Melzak, Head of Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy, Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture” Triple Jeopardy” which includes the trauma experienced in their country of origin, their experiences on route and the treatment they are subjected to on arrival i.e. treated as second class citizens, racism and xenophobia (Research in Practice 2005, On New Ground: Supporting unaccompanied asylum seeking children and young people).
People seeking asylum may arrive in Northamptonshire in several ways and this will dictate where they are in the immigration process. They may be new in-country applicants who have found their way to Northamptonshire and are not known to the Home Office. In other words they have not been identified at a point of entry. For those people seeking asylum and claiming to be aged under 18 years, then the Local Authority is responsible for making its own assessment of age. The Local Authority where an UASC first arrives is responsible for them under the Children Act 1989. There are exceptions to this under the Immigration Act 2016 in relation to transfer and redistribution of UASC within the Home Office scheme.
For information on where Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children should be placed please refer to: National Transfer Scheme Protocol for Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children Version 2.0 March 2018.
The protocol is aims to ensure that unaccompanied children can access the services and support they need. It forms the basis of a voluntary agreement made between local authorities in England to ensure a more even distribution of unaccompanied children. It is intended to ensure that any participating local authority does not face a disproportionate responsibility in accommodating and looking after unaccompanied children, pursuant to its duties under parts 3, 4, and 5 of the Children Act 1989, simply by virtue of being the point of arrival of a disproportionate number of unaccompanied children. The scheme is based on the principle that no local authority should be asked to look after more UASC than 0.07% of its total child population, (according to the Office for National Statistics' 2016 mid-year population estimates)
The cohort of unaccompanied migrant children and child victims of modern slavery includes a wide range of children in a variety of circumstances that a local authority will need to be aware of in order to ensure that the child receives appropriate legal advice and support. Some will have been trafficked or persecuted and may have witnessed or been subject to horrific acts of violence. Other migrant children may have been sent in search of a better life, or may have been brought to the UK for private fostering and subsequently exploited or abandoned when the arrangement fails.
There are a wide range of status possibilities for migrant children that the local authority will need to be aware of. In brief, the following categories regarding status are the most likely to be encountered. However this list is not exhaustive and legal advice should be sought wherever there is uncertainty about a migrant child's status.
Categories of unaccompanied children include:
- Unaccompanied asylum seeking children: children who are claiming asylum in their own right, who are separated from both parents, and who are not being cared for by an adult who in law or by custom has responsibility to do so. Some will not qualify for refugee status but may require 'humanitarian protection' (where an individual is found not to be a refugee under the Refugee Convention but they are nevertheless at risk of serious harm on return to their country of origin - see Home Office Guidance on Humanitarian Protection. Others may not qualify for any leave to remain in the UK. Their status will be determined by the Home Office;
- Unaccompanied migrant child not seeking asylum: a child who is not seeking asylum because their reasons for being here are not connected to seeking protection, or who may be undocumented, or is not seeking asylum because they have not been advised of the need to do so. The child may be separated from both parents and is not being cared for by an adult who in law or by custom has responsibility to do so;
- Unaccompanied EEA national child: a child who is a national of a European Economic Area country and who has entered the UK with a family member and has been separated from them, or has entered independently. They have a right to reside in the UK for an initial period of 3 months. After this time, an EEA national child will only have a right to reside in the UK if they are exercising their free movement rights or they are the family member of an EEA national exercising free movement rights in the UK;
- Asylum seeking child: a child who is in the UK with family members and may have been transferred to the UK under the Dublin III Regulation to join a close family member and have their claim for asylum processed here.
2. Responsibilities of the Local Authority
It is the policy of Northamptonshire Children and Young Persons Department that irrespective of any other label they may be assigned these are children first and foremost.
Therefore all unaccompanied children and young people must receive a full assessment in line with the Department of Health and Social Care's National Framework for Assessment of Children in Need and their Families.
After concluding a visual assessment, if the claimant is identified as a child or appears to be borderline, then we have a duty to accommodate under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989 and to undertake any other relevant assessments. UASC are an extremely vulnerable group and as such should be given the maximum provision of care and support under the Children Act until they reach the age of 18. Therefore it is the policy of the department not to discharge any young person from care until they reach the age of 18. This does not mean that they are required to be accommodated in LA accommodation, they could be supported with their accommodation needs and assisted to begin to learn to live independently with the support of the Local Authority.
The local authority should have procedures in place to monitor their policies and performance and should record any modern slavery concerns on the child's Care Plan
The majority of unaccompanied children and young people will be entitled to leaving care services under the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000, to ensure that:
- Young people do not leave care until they are ready;
- They receive more effective support once they have left.
Care Leavers are entitled to this support up to the age of 25 at least, as long as they were previously supported under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989 for at least 13 weeks subsequent to their 14th birthday and either continue to be 'looked after' up to age 18 or have been 'looked after' at some time while 16 or 17. They are known as 'former relevant children'. Local Authority support will continue for as long as the young person has a right to public services. For those young people who are refused asylum, this right to public services may end after they reach 18 years. See section relating to transitions post 18.
Young people who arrive within 13 weeks of their 18th birthday will not qualify for full leaving care services even if they have been provided with Section 20 or 23 support under the Children Act 1989 for the weeks leading up to their 18th birthday, as they have not been 'looked after' for 13 weeks or more. They are known as 'qualifying children' and although they are not entitled to the main leaving care entitlements, they are entitled to advice, assistance and befriending. For UASC living with family / extended family in the UK see the policy for placement of young people back with families.Where a UASC becomes Looked After, the procedures in this Manual relating to Looked After Children apply. Independent Reviewing Officers (IROs) need to be aware of Local Authority duties to take regard of the child's needs as an unaccompanied or trafficked child when planning and providing for care. They must also have an awareness of the particular needs and issues children may face as a result of being an unaccompanied or trafficked child so that they can provide appropriate challenge at review. Foster, supported lodgings, supported living and residential care providers need to be aware of appropriate steps to reduce the risk of trafficked children returning to their traffickers.
3. Managing the Case
All professionals involved in the care of unaccompanied children and child victims of modern slavery should be able to recognise indicators of trafficking, slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour and should have an understanding of the particular issues likely to be faced by these children.
If there are concerns around the trafficking, modern slavery, criminal exploitation, consideration should be given to undertaking a National Referral Mechanism. A decision needs to be made in regards to which agency should make the referral. This can be the Local Authority, the child's legal representative, the police or the Home Office. It is essential that the NRM referral is not duplicated as this will cause delays in asylum decision.
In cases where there is disclosure around radicalisation, the case needs to be addressed in the same way as a Section 47 and a referral need to be sent to Prevent.
This is a highly complex area of work, and professionals will need to have available to them a solid understanding of the asylum process or colleagues or other professionals with such expertise.
The kinds of issues that may need to be negotiated include:
- An understanding of the Welfare Interview, Statement of Evidence Form;
- The purpose of the asylum case review;
- The importance of the substantive asylum interview;
- The different possible outcomes of a child's asylum claim and how that impacts on pathway planning.
Social workers should also have a basic understanding of the immigration system - for example, the immigration application process, different types of leave, making further leave to remain applications and the appeals process. Social workers should also have a understanding of the trafficking referral process and the wider child protection system around child victims of modern slavery, including how and when to refer a child to the National Referral Mechanism Digital Referral System: Report Modern Slavery.
One of the most crucial aspects of the social worker's role will be accessing specialist asylum and/or immigration legal advice and representation for all unaccompanied children and child victims of modern slavery. Legal advice can only be provided by a registered immigration advisor, who is either a regulated solicitor or registered with the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC) to provide immigration advice to the relevant level. Ideally the solicitor should also have expertise in working with children. This specialist advice will be required to ensure the child can fully present their case for asylum or leave to remain.
Details on where to find immigration legal representation can be found using the Adviser Finder function on the OISC website.
Where a child is undocumented this should be identified as soon as possible as the child will need to access specialist immigration legal advice.
Legal Aid is available for asylum cases and Looked after Children will generally be eligible for their initial asylum application.
Independent Reviewing Officers should be aware of the need to have regard to the child's needs as an unaccompanied child or child victim of modern slavery, including trafficking, when planning and providing care. They should also have an awareness of the particular needs and issues children may face as a result of being an unaccompanied child or child victim of modern slavery so that they can provide appropriate challenge at review.
Service providers should ensure that foster carers and all other care staff in placement settings are aware of appropriate steps to reduce the risk of trafficked children returning to their traffickers.
UASC National Transfer Scheme
At the time of update (October 2019), Northamptonshire County Council are not currently participating within the National Transfer Scheme.
The crisis in Syria and events in the Middle East, North Africa and beyond have seen an unprecedented number of migrants and asylum seekers arriving in Europe. Some have gone on to reach the UK via Northern France, including many UASC. Other children are still in the Middle East or North Africa or are in Europe and the UK Government has committed to resettle a number of these vulnerable children in the UK. That is why, in close consultation with the Local Government Association and Association of Directors of Children's Services, the Home Office has introduced a National Transfer Scheme underpinned by the powers in the Immigration Act 2016 (formerly identified as the Immigration Bill).
Co-ordinated by the East Midlands Strategic Partnership, Northamptonshire Social Care alongside the other Local Authorities made up of Nottingham City, Derbyshire, Derby City Leicestershire, Leicester City, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, and Rutland are requested to engage with an allocation of UASC up to 0.07% of their total regional child population.
This scheme is designed to distribute UASC across the UK in a more fair way. In the main, it is dispersing young people under 18 who have already arrived in the UK, usually through the port of Dover (Kent). The current process under the scheme is for the Regional Office to contact the Leads in the Local Authority area, via email, to notify of UASCs requiring transfer under the transfer scheme.
If Northamptonshire County Council are participating within the NTS, then Sally Hodges and Abigail Marsden are as the Local Authority strategic managers.
The Lead Officer (East Midlands Strategic Migration Partnership) emails the Unique Unaccompanied Child Record (UUCR) of the UASC waiting to be transferred to the LA Lead Professional(s) enquiring if the Local Authority is in a position to accept responsibility of the UASC. The strategic managers will review the UUCR and make a decision whether to accept responsibility of the UASC. Prior to this decision being made, a consultation will take place with the CiC, Fostering and Placement Teams to ascertain available resources and to alert the Teams to the potential reception of the UASC.
If the decision is made that the Local Authority will accept the UASC, the LA strategic managers will inform the LA Lead Administrator(s) with the attached UUCR.
It will then be the UASC managers responsibility (via secure email) to:
- Acknowledge the acceptance of responsibility of the UASC to the Lead Officer (East Midlands Strategic Migration Partnership), Regional Officer (Home Office) and the Entry Local Authority where the UASC is currently located (details on the UUCR);
- Update and maintain a local database;
- Forward the UUCR to the Duty and Assessment Team to raise an Enquiry (within 24 hours).
Duty and assessment will raise an Enquiry using the information from the UUCR and then transfer the case to the UASC Team and the normal CiC process is followed from this point:
- Completion of the Placement Management Request for Supported or Emergency Accommodation;
- Once the UASC team (have identified when collection of the UASC will be facilitated this will need to be notified to the LA Lead Administrator(s) to complete Part D of the UUCR and send this via secure email to the Lead Officer (East Midlands Strategic Migration Partnership), Regional Officer (Home Office) and the Entry Local Authority where the UASC is currently located (details on the UUCR).
The receiving team allocated Social Worker will then receive details and liaise with the Entry Local Authority to confirm the whereabouts and collection arrangements for the successful transfer of the UASC. It is the responsibility of the Receiving Local Authority (in this case Northamptonshire) to facilitate and provide the transport arrangements for the UASC. The Social Worker will then initiate the Looked After Child process of a Placement Planning Meeting within 72 hours and notification to the Independent Reviewing Officer.
Referred to as Dubs Cases due to the initiate being part of the amendment to the Immigration Bill (Immigration Act 2016) as revised by Lord Dubs. This is in relation to the resettlement of UASC within the UK mainly from Europe. This scheme is being co-ordinated by the Home Office and links with the co-ordination of the National Transfer Scheme for the East Midlands region. Sally Hodges and Abigail Marsden are the Local Authority Lead Professionals in relation to any Dubs cases that are presented to Northamptonshire.
As any Dubs UASC will not have LAC status in UK, then the referral will be received by the Duty and Assessment Team in order to complete the actions of accommodating the UASC under Section 20 (Children Act initiation of the Child and Family Assessment, Placement arrangements and Age Assessment (if required). All Dubs cases will then transfer to the UASC Team.
Dublin III Cases
Some UASCs when reaching the UK will identify that they have family members already residing within a UK Local Authority. If there is an UASC who after arriving in the UK identifies that they have family members in Northamptonshire, then they will be referred to Northamptonshire Social Care via the National Transfer Scheme contacts. A viability assessment will need to be completed on the identified family members to see if this is an appropriate arrangement for the UASC. If the viability assessment is deemed appropriate then the family are able to make arrangements for the child to be collected by them and reside in their care. As the child is not unaccompanied then they would not be classed as an UASC and therefore not be accommodated under Section 20 (Children Act 1989). This would be identified as a private family arrangement and so there would be no further involvement by Northamptonshire Social Care unless identified that there is a need for services under Section 17 (Children Act 1989) or further Child and Family Assessment.
If the family members' are not identified as being viable for caring for the UASC following the Viability Assessment, then unless there are any alternative family accommodation options, then the child will remain being identified as an UASC and will be accommodated under Section 20 (Children Act 1989) by Northamptonshire Social Care. The usual process for UASC on the National Transfer Scheme will then be followed.
Other Issues relating to UASC on the National Transfer Scheme, Dubs or Dublin III Cases
The UUCR contains information about the UASC's claimed age and the Entry Local Authority's initial observations. If there is a dispute with these ages, then it is a decision for the Receiving Local Authority as to whether to accept the UASC's claimed age or to undertake an Age Assessment at the point of accepting responsibility for the UASC. If an Age Assessment needs to be completed then procedures on completing Age Assessments (see Section 4, Assessments) should be followed. The same decision can be taken by the receiving local authority (Northamptonshire Social Care) in relation to any Dubs or Dublin III cases.
If an UASC goes missing from the care of either the Entry or Receiving Local Authority, then the responsible Local Authority should follow Department for Education (DfE) Statutory guidance on children who run away or go missing from home or care. The UASC should be reported missing to the police of the local area and the Local Authority. All available information (including biometric information) should be shared with the police and the local authority without delay.Where a child arrives 'unaccompanied' in the UK, and after being accommodated by Northamptonshire Social Care they then declare the presence of a responsible adult in another Local Authority, and the responsible adult is willing and able to care for them, and it is assessed as being in the best interests of the child to be reunited with them, the responsible Local Authority will make arrangements to move the child to live with the adult. At the point where a child is reunited with family members then they cease to be a Looked After Child, and the UASC Team Manager) will complete Part E (Looked after Transfer Status Update) of the UUCR to notify the Lead Officer (East Midlands Strategic Migration Partnership) and the Regional Officer (Home Office).
Social workers should consider all unaccompanied migrant children as potential victims of modern slavery in the first instance until this possibility is either confirmed or discounted and they should also have an understanding of the trafficking referral process (NRM). For further information on the indicators of Modern Slavery and Trafficking, see Northamptonshire Safeguarding Children Partnership Procedures, Children from Abroad, including Victims of Modern Slavery, Trafficking and Exploitation Procedure. The social worker must ensure that all unaccompanied children have access to specialist asylum and/or immigration legal advice and representation in their assessment so as to ensure the child can fully present their case for asylum or leave to remain.
The Assessment will take account of:
- The immigration status of the child;
- The young person's ethnicity and religion;
- Any safeguarding issues or factors that may indicate the child is or has been trafficked or may be a victim of compulsory labour, servitude and slavery;
- The fact that many unaccompanied and/or trafficked children are at risk of going missing from care, often within the first 72 hours, whilst others may be at risk of repeated missing episodes due to ongoing exploitation. Photographs of the child should be kept on file for use if they do go missing and be shared with the police in that instance. Photographs may include one of their full body length, one of their face and any others that depict distinguishing features (see Northamptonshire Safeguarding Children Partnership Procedures, Children Missing from Care, Home and Education Procedure). Unaccompanied migrant or asylum seeking children, who go missing immediately after becoming looked after, should be treated as children who may be victims of trafficking;
- Any family links that may be available to support the child (ensuring that any search for family members does not jeopardise the safety of the child). The child should always be consulted with and informed if family tracing is being undertaken or commissioned on their behalf (see British Red Cross - Find my missing family);
- The young person's accommodation arrangements and needs;
- The child's education needs and how these will be addressed through a Personal Education Plan;
- The young person's local connection with the local authority area;
- The young person's financial and other support;
- The age assessment of the young person (where relevant) and any available information on their agent (i.e. the smuggler or trafficker), their access into this country, the length of time they have been in this country and possible other connections; and
- The child's health needs and any particular psychological or emotional impact of experiences as an unaccompanied or trafficked child, and any consequent need for psychological or mental health support to help the child deal with them.
Unaccompanied migrant children and child victims of modern slavery will need access to legal advice and support. This will be in relation to immigration and asylum applications, and decisions and any associated legal proceedings. If they have been a victim of modern slavery, it may also be in relation to criminal proceedings or compensation claims. The assessment should note that specialist legal support is required and how it will be provided. The child's social worker should ensure that the child is accompanied in all meetings, including this meeting, with legal professionals. The person accompanying the child does not have to be the child's social worker.
In determining an unaccompanied young person's accommodation needs, the Assessment must have regard to their age and independent living skills, and consider the intensity of service required. This may range between semi-independent accommodation foster or residential placements, or in specific cases, a specialist residential therapeutic unit.
No assumptions should be made about the child's language skills. An appropriately qualified and vetted interpreter must be used to assist in all assessments. This can be face-to-face or telephone.
The allocated social worker must complete a Case Record in all cases. Social workers should seek to pay particular attention to the detail of spelling names and of descriptions of familial relationships.
Planning for the child should include planning for a variety of possible outcomes regarding the child's immigration status - see Section 14, Asylum Process - Possible Outcomes.
Do you need to Undertake an Age Assessment?
Statutory guidance on the care of UASC states that:
'Age Assessments should only be carried out where there is significant reason to doubt that the claimant is a child. Age assessments should not be a routine part of a local authority's assessment of unaccompanied or trafficked children'.
The phrase “significant reason to doubt that the claimant is a child” has led to considerable discussion amongst professionals involved in Age Assessment practice. What one social worker deems a “significant reason” may differ from another social worker's opinion the ADCS interpretation of this guidance is that Age Assessments should not be carried out on every person approaching a Local Authority seeking support, but should be used to ensure that appropriate services (including education) are offered. In order to be able to assess the needs of a child, the social worker must be satisfied that the individual is a child, but children should not be subjected to multiple assessments for administrative purposes only. A social worker should be clear what the “significant reason” is to doubt the age, and this should be conveyed to the person claiming to be a child.
This guidance is also relevant where all parties accept that the person is a child but where the exact age is not clear. Many UASC will not be able to provide evidence as to their age, and some may not even know their own chronological age. However, for any individual in the UK to receive services including health, education and identity documents, they will require a date of birth. Any assessment should be limited to the minimum necessary to ensure the UASC receives the appropriate services and educational support for their age and development.
In other circumstances, the child or young person will be able to produce clear information about their age, for example, from documents or from reference to education.
In the majority of cases the need for an Age Assessment will be identified when a person is newly arrived in the UK and is claiming to be under the age of 18 years, but with no identification to confirm this. In such cases, the Local Authority will aim to complete all assessments within 28 days, and where unable to do so, need to notify the Home Office of reasons for any delay within 28 days.
Other than in exceptional circumstances, persons believed to be under the age of 18 years will be Looked After under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989 whilst the Age Assessment process is completed and verified.
This term is used in relation to UASC. The Merton judgment was handed down by Burnton J in the High Court on 14th July 2003, and gives 'guidance as to the requirements of a lawful assessment by a local authority of the age of a young asylum seeker claiming to be under the age of 18 years'. All Local Authorities are required to follow the Merton judgment, to ensure that their Age Assessments are full and comprehensive, and that the process for assessing age is clear, transparent and fair.
Location / Venue of Age Assessment
In order for an Age Assessment to be Merton Compliant and therefore legal, the venue of the assessment needs to be conducive to helping the child or young person feel safe, comfortable and able to participate to the best of their ability in their interview(s). However, if a person claiming to be under 18 years requests a specific venue for the Age Assessment interview then that should be facilitated if it is appropriate and possible.
Facilities such as police stations are not considered appropriate for conducting Age Assessments (Home Office 2012). Mainly in cases involving the Emergency Duty Team (EDT), a visual assessment of age can be made 'without prejudice' in a police station either to secure release to the Local Authority Care (if deemed under 18 years), or to Home Office accommodation and support if it is clear that the persons is presenting as being over 18 years. If deemed to be under 18 years, then a full Age Assessment (if required) can be completed.
In order for an Age Assessment to be Merton Compliant, there must be an Appropriate Adult (AA) present throughout the course of the Age Assessment interview and feedback process, who are independent of the Local Authority. The AA must have the relevant skills and training to undertake their role, and be experienced in working with children and young people. They must be clear and confident about their role, have the skills to support the child or young person in the interview(s) and challenge social workers if they feel the interview is not being conducted appropriately. The role of the appropriate adult is to advocate on behalf of the child or young person, represent their best interests and ensure that the person's welfare needs are met during the interview process.
Care of unaccompanied migrant children and child victims of modern slavery (DfE) identifies that where the age of a person is uncertain and there are reasons to believe that they are a child, they are presumed to be a child in order to receive immediate access to assistance, support and protection in accordance with Section 51 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015. Age assessments should only be carried out where there is no documentary evidence of the child's age. Where Age Assessments are conducted, they must be Merton Compliant.
Determining a person's age between fourteen and eighteen years of age is not an exact science and there is no statutory procedure or guidance on how to conduct an assessment of a person claiming to a minor. However, in R(B) v Merton LBC  EWHC 1689 (Admin), Justice Burnton issued 'guidance as to the requirements of a lawful assessment by a Local Authority of the age of a young asylum seeker claiming to be under the age of eighteen. Other than in clear cases, it states that age cannot be determined on appearance alone, an assessment must be carried out based on personal history as well as ethnic and cultural information, social services must not simply adopt the decision of the Home Office or any other professional and the decision maker must give adequate reasons for a decision that an applicant claiming to be a child, is not a child.
In advance of undertaking an age assessment for an unaccompanied asylum seeking child, local authorities must seek Home Office assistance with verifying the authenticity of identity documents e.g. travel documents or a birth certificate. See Age Assessment Guidance and Information Sharing Guidance for UASC (ADCS) for further information and contact details for local authorities.
The ADCS Asylum Task Force has worked with the Home Office to provide a set of jointly agreed “good practice documents”, These documents are offered as practice guidance, by way of assistance to Local Authorities and their partners. The use of the proforma and consent form is voluntary. The content does not, nor does it seek to, be binding on Local Authorities. It is simply a recommended approach.
Social Workers should assess from a holistic perspective, and in light of the information available. It is a process of professional judgement and a particularly sensitive issue involving many variables; not least the fieldworker's ability to understand the cross-cultural issues that might apply.
Following completion of the Age Assessment the person being assessed has the right to legally challenge the conclusion. If a person is assessed as being over 18 years then they should be given a copy of the Model Information Sharing Proforma (MISP) and be advised that they are able to seek independent legal advice if they disagree with the outcome.
The Age Assessment must be completed by two workers, one of which must be a qualified HCPC registered Social Worker, and one with competence and experience of undertaking Age Assessments or working with UASC.
The assessing workers should explain their role clearly to the person being assessed. Attention should be paid to tiredness, trauma, bewilderment and anxiety of the person being assessed. It is important to be mindful of the 'coaching' that they may have been exposed to prior to arrival in the UK in respect of how to behave and what to say to professionals. It is important to engage with the person being assessed and establish as much rapport as possible.
Assessing workers should inform the person being assessed that they will have to answer many questions and that it may be difficult and distressing to answer some of the questions. Workers should use open-ended, non-leading questions. The use of circular questioning is a useful method, as it is less obvious to the person being assessed that the questions relate directly to age, and hence may reveal a clear picture of age related issues.
In determining age, note should be made that some societies do not place a high level of importance on age and may calculate it in different ways. Some people will genuinely not know their age, and this can be misread as lack of co-operation. Levels of competence in some areas or tasks might not mirror our expectations of a child of the same age.
It is essential to feed back to the person being assessed the conclusion of the assessment and give them an opportunity to response to the outcome/challenge.
There is no requirement to complete an Age Assessment for a child if they have documentation stating their age or date of birth. However, documentation maybe false, and so status as a Looked After Child will be issued whilst verification of the documents is sought via the National Document Fraud Unit (NDFU). If the document is authenticated then the status quo remains. If discovered to be suspected as false documentation, then an Age Assessment will be completed and if it is deemed that the person being assessed is 18 years or over then a MISP will be completed and sent to the Home Office as they will then be responsible for the person's accommodation and support.
If a person does not have documentation, and is stating that they are under 18 years of age, and it is believed that although under 18 years, they are likely to be older or younger than what they are claiming, then they should be accommodated under Section 20 and a full Age Assessment completed.
If a person does not have documentation, and is stating that they are under 18 years of age, yet no firm decision can be made within the initial assessment of age, then they should be accommodated under Section 20 and a full Age Assessment completed within 28 days. This should be completed whilst in Foster Care or Semi-Independent placement to ensure that the Age Assessment is Merton Compliant. If the outcome of the Age Assessment is that the person is under 18 years then the status quo remains. If the Age Assessment outcome is that the person is deemed to be 18 years or over then a Model Information Sharing Proforma (MISP) will be completed and sent to the Home Office as they will then be responsible for the person's accommodation and support.
For the people stating that they are under 18 years, but it is clear that they are aged 18 years or older, then an Age Assessment will not be completed. However, a MISP must be completed and sent securely to the Home Office on the same day as the decision is made, as they will then be responsible for the person's accommodation and support.
If the adult then challenges the decision, full responsibility will be accepted for the individual with a view that a full Age Assessment is completed at an appropriate venue. This could be where the young person is living etc. If the outcome is that they are an adult and over 18 years. The worker will complete a new MISP and send it to the Home Office as they will remain responsible for the person's accommodation and support.
5. Age Disputes
If the UASC wishes to contest any of the issues raised within the Age Assessment, this could be done initially in discussion with their worker and if necessary with the Team Manager. If the UASC continues to be unhappy they should be given information about the complaints procedure. Complaints leaflets should be given to UASCs and where possible in their own language.
If during the first 3 months of their Looked After status, doubts or concerns are raised regarding a UASC's age, then there should be a comprehensive review of the Age Assessment which can be re-completed with new information being considered. If the new information, doubt or concerns are after 3 months of the UASC's LAC status then there should be discussion with the relevant Children's Service Manager as to whether it is appropriate to complete a new Age Assessment.
It is vital that the agreed age of the UASC is entered on all appropriate records.
6. Assessment, Planning and Review
Assessment will inform more appropriate care planning. It must be managed sensitively to reduce fear, anxiety or confusion. Ethnic origin and life experiences before arrival in this country will influence personal development and may impact on visual or emotional presentation.Enabling the UASC to be part of the assessment process is extremely important as in most cases they will be the major source of information. Consideration must therefore be given to securing an interpreter with the level of skill and experience necessary to support the individual to understand why an assessment is necessary, and what will happen.
7. Provision of Services
Young unaccompanied child migrants should be provided with information about the services available to them from the local authority and other agencies.
The young person will also be given assistance to register with a GP and dentist, and enrol in a local school or college. The health professionals and the school should be aware of the child's status and senior managers such as the Virtual School Head should be informed of the school placement. There will be a need to set out clearly any particular implications of the child's status for non specialist professionals such as GPs and teachers, including any urgency of involvement - particularly with health practitioners. An interpreter should be booked to accompany the young person to appointments with the GP or school, where necessary.
Where there are safeguarding concerns relating to the care and welfare of any unaccompanied child, including where modern slavery is suspected or has been identified, these should be investigated in line with the statutory provisions, Working Together to Safeguard Children statutory guidance and locally agreed protocols and processes. The opportunity to intervene to prevent any further exploitation might be very narrow, so the entry local authority should convene a strategy discussion as soon as possible and take any necessary immediate action to safeguard and promote the child's welfare. This strategy discussion should involve the police, immigration officials and any other relevant agencies and plan rapid further action if concerns are substantiated. For example police installed alarms, discussion with the child or young person about the use of mobile phones, etc.
Provision may need to be made for the child to be in a safe place before any further assessment takes place and for the possibility that they may not be able to disclose full information about their circumstances immediately. The location of the child should not be divulged to any enquirers until their identity and relationship with the child have been established and the local authority is assured of their motives, if necessary, with the help of police and immigration officials.
See also the Northamptonshire Safeguarding Children Partnership Procedures: Children from Abroad, including Victims of Modern Slavery, Trafficking and Exploitation Procedure and Child Sexual Exploitation Procedure.
All unaccompanied young asylum-seekers who are eligible for a service will be entitled to financial assistance which must first be authorised by the manager. The social worker should arrange for payment of the relevant amounts in accordance with the local authority's financial procedures.
Travel cards or warrants will be issued to young unaccompanied asylum-seekers in relation to appointments at the Home Office.
Where an Assessment identifies that an unaccompanied child migrant does not meet the criteria for a service from Children's Services, but appears to be in need of services from elsewhere, the social worker will refer the young person to the appropriate agency which may be a different Children's Service, the Refugee Council, UK Visas and Immigration and/or an appropriate voluntary agency.
In such circumstances, the duty social worker should make an appointment for the young person and advise them of the name, address (including a map where necessary) and contact number of the person with whom the appointment has been made. In addition, the duty worker must send a copy of the Referral Form and Assessment Record to the relevant office.
In all cases where a service is to be refused, the social worker must consult their manager before the decision is made and the letter confirming the decision is sent. Any correspondence received in relation to the decision should be referred to the manager.
The Hillingdon Judgement and subsequent guidance (LAC (2003) 13) makes clear that all UASC fall within the scope of Section 20 of the 1989 Children Act. All placements should reflect the assessed needs of the child or young person, although it is acknowledged that needs may change as the assessment progresses and an alternative placement may need to be found. The department will strive to match the assessed or perceived need as follows:
- All UASC will be accommodated under Section 20 - in a suitable placement in accordance with their age and assessed needs;
- In very exceptional circumstances, children over the age of 16 may be supported under Section 17, this decision must be endorsed by CSM;
- If not accommodated under Section 20: Young people are not entitled to care leaver status;
- If granted Refugee status/Further leave to remain the young person will be entitled to access the welfare benefits system post 18 years;
- Any completed Age Assessment or Child and Family Assessment will inform the UASC's care plan;
- All children under 18 years old will be allocated a qualified Social Worker.
8. Withdrawal of a Service
The provision of a service is dependent on the young person continuing to qualify for the service.
Services to an unaccompanied child migrant may be withdrawn, for example, where another adult wishes to assume Parental Responsibility and this is assessed as appropriate.
The service must not be withdrawn without a Child in Need Plan Review (see Child in Need Plans and Reviews Procedure) and the agreement of the social worker's manager. Any such decision must be clearly recorded, with reasons. In all such cases, legal advice should usually be obtained before a final decision is made.
Where a service is withdrawn, the social worker should inform the Finance Office, if appropriate, immediately.
9. Placement Options for UASC
“Placement decisions should take particular account of the need to protect children from any risk of being exploited, and the heightened risk of them going missing (see missing person protocol). Transfer to the care of another local authority or an out of area placement might in some cases be appropriate to put distance between the child and where the traffickers expect them to be”. See: What is a suitable placement for an unaccompanied asylum seeking child? – Information for local authorities to accompany the national transfer protocol for unaccompanied asylum seeking children (Revised April 2018).
It is important that suitable emergency accommodation can be accessed directly at any time of the day or night and that there is sufficient supervision and monitoring by on-site staff to keep the child safe. Bed and breakfast (B&B) accommodation is not suitable, even on an emergency accommodation basis. Such accommodation can leave the child particularly vulnerable to risk from those who wish to exploit them and does not meet their protection or welfare needs. No child under the age of 18 years should be accommodated with those over the aged of 18. This is only allowed where there are agreed Staying Put arrangements.
Often very little information about the young person is available at the outset and so it is highly likely that a permanent placement decision will not be made immediately. A temporary placement can enable the child or young person to feel safe and help them begin to physically recover from their journey and enable them to engage with an assessment of their needs with the help of interpreters as necessary. Where practical and appropriate, children should be placed within Northamptonshire.
Where a young person has been granted immigration status and their needs are for independent or semi-independent accommodation, and the manager agrees, assistance should be given with completion of the necessary placement request
All residential home staff, foster carers or support workers of semi-independent accommodation caring for unaccompanied children and child victims of modern slavery (including independent advocates where appropriate) should be aware of any particular risks of them going missing, or of any risk to the child from those who wish to exploit them. They should also understand what practical steps they should take in the event that the child does go missing, or if they suspect that someone is trying to lure the child away from their care placement.
Carers should seek to develop an awareness of the child's past experiences and any psychological issues they face, which may not be immediately apparent, as well as understanding cultural issues, which may put them at greater risk of going missing. This may include the potential negative impact of protection measures which may appear to the child to replicate methods used by their traffickers to control them.
Carers and professionals should work closely together to develop a holistic assessment of the child as well as provide support, reassurance and effective safeguarding to them.
6.1 Placement Options
Placement options for unaccompanied migrant children are the same as for other Looked After Children i.e.:
Connected Carers (or Family and Friends carers) - some children may be transferred to the UK under Dublin 111 regulations. In these instances the Family and Friends Care Procedure should be followed.
Foster Care in a family setting either in a placement in an Ofsted registered and inspected placement with an Independent Fostering Agency foster carer or in a placement with a local authority foster carer.
Residential Care within an Ofsted registered and inspected children's residential care home.
Semi - Independent living arrangements or “other arrangements” including supported lodgings, supported accommodation and shared housing. These forms of accommodation are usually for older children, who require less intensive support and close monitoring and require only accommodation. Where there has been an assessment of need and the best match is in “other arrangements” the placement could be supported lodgings or supported accommodation. Statutory guidance and the Care Planning Regulations clearly set out that in some cases, a child can be suitably placed in accommodation termed as “other arrangements”, and Regulation 27 sets out the duties of a local authority when placing a child in such arrangements (see also: Schedule 6).
For details regarding the advantages of each of these options above, please go to:
- What is a suitable placement for an unaccompanied asylum seeking child? – Information for local authorities to accompany the national transfer protocol for unaccompanied asylum seeking children (Revised April 2018);
- On the Safe Side: Principles for the safe accommodation of child victims of trafficking, ECPAT, 2011.
A careful evaluation of the young person's needs and wishes will need to be undertaken in order to identify a suitable placement. A full and considered assessment may not be possible at the initial meeting with the young person, yet it is likely that a placement will need to be identified.
It may be necessary, therefore, to place the UASC temporarily pending further assessment and identification of a suitable placement. The UASC and their carers should be made aware of this, and further assessment undertaken at the earliest opportunity. The temporary nature of the accommodation should be recorded on the LAC papers and the Children's Service Manager notified if the UASC is still placed in the accommodation after four weeks.
Placement providers will need to be carefully and accurately briefed about the UASC's cultural, religious and ethnic needs and about the situation/their experience in the home country and during the journey to the UK. Any particular dietary needs will need to be identified and discussed with carers.
The UASC should, at the point of placement, be given the name and contact number of a social worker who they can contact and, where the placement is made by a duty social worker, a social worker should be allocated without undue delay.
The UASC should also be provided with the Emergency Duty Team (EDT) contact details.
The expectations and rules of the placement should be carefully explained to the UASC with the support of an interpreter (if required), together with any financial arrangements that will apply. For those UASC that have presented in Northamptonshire, then it should be recognised that the UASC's primary needs are likely to be around food and shelter, a bath, clean clothes and caring adults. The physical appearance of the placement, its location and who lives there should be explained to the UASC before they are taken to the placement if possible. An orientation with the local area will need to be organised to include relevant points of contact with the UASC's community, support agencies and religion.
It is the local authority's policy that all placements should be sought within the county unless there are extenuating circumstances e.g. child needs to out of county due to any safeguarding concerns.
10. Unaccompanied Asylum Seekers Who Go Missing
There are particular concerns about safeguarding the welfare of 'migrant' children including unaccompanied asylum seeking children (i.e. those under the age of 18 and not living with a parent, relative or guardian).
These children may be already traumatised following the separation from their families and are particularly vulnerable as they may be encouraged to give a false account of themselves, be exposed to child trafficking or sexual exploitation or to keep 'secrets' which could pressurise them to go 'missing'. There may also be cultural and language barriers which can exacerbate their vulnerability.
Many unaccompanied or trafficked children go missing from care within one week of coming into care, often within the first 48 hours. Unaccompanied migrant or asylum seeking children, who go missing immediately after becoming looked after, should be treated as children who may be victims of trafficking. Provision may need to be made for the child to be in a safe place before any assessment takes place and for the possibility that they may not be able to disclose full information about their circumstances immediately. The location of the child should not be divulged to any enquirers until their identity and relationship with the child has been established, if necessary with the help of police and immigration services.
A plan is required to protect the trafficked children from further harm. There is a high likelihood that they will go missing from care and return to their traffickers. In these cases, the plan should include what steps will be taken by carers, the local authority and police to recover the child if they do go missing, in accordance with the Northamptonshire Safeguarding Children Partnership Multi-Agency Protocol on Children who Runaway or Go Missing from Home or Care. A photograph of the child should be kept on file for use if the child does go missing.
The young person will be reported as missing as outlined in the Northamptonshire SCP Multi-Agency Protocol On Children Who Go Missing From Home or Care. They will remain Children in Care unless one or more of the criteria are met:
- They return to a birth parent/someone with parental responsibility;
- They are located in another country;
- The case is taken over by another local authority; or
- They are age assessed as being over 18yrs.
The child/young person's CareFirst case file should be updated to reflect their missing status and an Alert should be completed as per the Multi-Agency Protocol On Children Who Go Missing From Home or Care. The Missing Children's Team (MCT) must be informed of the missing episode before the close of the day by the allocated social worker (or Emergency Duty Team Family Support Worker if notification is received out of hours).
In accordance with the missing protocol, a Strategy Meeting should be held which should consider what measures can be put in place to safeguard the child/ young person.
Child(ren) in Care reviews should be held as required by statutory guidance until the young person is deemed to no longer be Looked After.
All Police missing person's files remain live until the child is formally deemed as 'Found' or until a senior Police officer in conjunction with the Assistant Director Safeguarding and Children's Services have sight of an assessment and chronology for the missing child and they make a joint decision to continue the missing investigation every 6 months, whilst consideration is made to amend to the child's looked after status. In this case where the young person is aged 16 or 17, it may be appropriate for a Child(ren) in Care Review meeting to consider whether the ongoing plan of care should be for the child to remain in care or whether it is appropriate for their legal status to be changed to a Relevant child as defined in The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations - Volume 3: Planning Transition to Adulthood for Care Leavers.
The IRO needs to be satisfied that the following is in place prior to the review recommending a change in the legal status of the young person:
- An Allocated Personal Advisor;
- An Initial Pathway Plan is completed by a qualified social worker which is then reviewed every 6 months that reflects:
- The vulnerability of the young person;
- Includes how the local authorities' duties to keep in touch with young people will be met, in context of establishing the young person's whereabouts;
- A contingency plan in event of the young person is found.
Should the young person be found, an assessment of their needs will be undertaken and services offered accordingly. The assessment may include undertaking an age assessment if one has not been completed previously.
If a young person has not been found by their 18th birthday then a formal multi-agency meeting should be chaired by the Team manager and a recommendation made to the Strategic Manager for a decision about whether the case should be closed. The meeting should incorporate information from the police, UKVI and other agencies where appropriate. The status of any police missing enquiry should be taken into consideration at this point and the case should only be closed if there are no ongoing concerns about the vulnerability of the young person being expressed.
If a decision is made that the case should be closed the primary allocated worker will complete the closure record and the case will be closed down by the team leader. Any decision to close the case should be on the proviso that it is reopened if the young person is located and found to be entitled to services as an eligible, relevant or former relevant child.
The provision of a service is dependent on the young person continuing to qualify for the service. The circumstances in which service to an unaccompanied young person may be withdrawn are:
- Where an adult with parental responsibility comes forward and this is considered appropriate;
- If the young person does not qualify for services as a care leaver based on the length of time they were looked after;
- If the young person is 18+, not residing in the accommodation provided (as evidenced, for example, by their failure to collect their weekly allowance and the absence of any belongings from their room);
- The young person's conduct - assault or extremely abusive behaviour - towards staff or the provider of accommodation.
In all such cases, legal advice should usually be obtained before a final decision is made.
11. Education and Training
As far as admission to school or college is concerned, UASCs have the same rights as any other Looked After Child in Northamptonshire.
When an UASC is admitted to care or moves care placement Personal Education Plan (PEP) or Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET) will be set up within 28 days of coming into care and reviewed at regular and defined intervals. This Plan is initiated by Children's Social Care but is contributed to by the school, Behaviour Support Service, carers and any other appropriate professionals. The child/young person also has a major input into this plan and is consulted on identified short, medium and long-term targets. If the UASC has Special Educational Needs (SEN) or behavioural difficulties, SEN Support Plan and Pastoral Support Programmes (PSP)s aimed at addressing difficulties and maintaining mainstream provision are set up and included within the PEP.
Assessment Planning and Review Specific Issues
- The majority of UASC will feel isolated without family or friends in this country;
- The potential for making contact with birth family in country of origin;
- Educational attainment will vary greatly, depending on their country of origin, previous formal education and fluency in speaking and comprehension of English;
- Health problems may not have been diagnosed due to limited health services in their country or origin;
- Referral to health services (Looked After Child Heath Review) by completing the County UASC - Information from Social Care Before the Initial Health Assessment (IHA) (replaces CoramBAAF IHA) Form;
- Experience of prejudice against asylum seekers;
- Feelings of uncertainty and anxiety whilst their claim for asylum is considered;
- The UASC may have suffered torture and be traumatised by this abuse;
- It is useful to have background information about the UASC's country of origin;
- Planning and preparation for possible return to country of origin.
All Looked After Children may experience difficulties because of their situation, the combination of the above factors can only compound the specific vulnerability of UASC.
The UASC should be offered an Independent Visitor and, if they decline, their reasons should be recorded. Any Independent Visitor appointed should have appropriate training and demonstrate an understanding of the needs faced by UASC.
In addition, UASC should be informed of the availability of the Assisted Voluntary Return Scheme.
12. Unaccompanied Child Migrants Reaching the Age of 18
Providing Support to Young People Entitled to Support
Planning transition to adulthood for unaccompanied children is a particularly complex process that needs to address their developing care needs in the context of their immigration status.
Pathway planning to support an unaccompanied child's transition to adulthood must cover the areas that would be addressed within any care leaver's plan as well as any additional needs arising from their immigration status and the action required to resolve this (see Leaving Care and Transition Procedure).
Former unaccompanied children who qualify as care leavers and who have been granted leave to remain, or who have an outstanding asylum or other human rights claim or appeal, are entitled to the same level of care and support from the local authority as any other care leaver.
The extent of any care leaver duties on local authorities to provide support to former unaccompanied children who have turned 18, exhausted their appeal rights, established no lawful basis to remain in the UK and should return to their home country is subject to a Human Rights Assessment by the local authority. This is set out under the restrictions on local authority support for adults without immigration status.
For former unaccompanied children whose long-term future is in the UK, transition planning will need to consider the challenges and issues facing any care leaver, such as education or preparing for independent living. Planning for children and young adults who have been granted refugee status or humanitarian protection should also consider when they may be required to make a further application for leave to remain.
Where an unaccompanied child or child victim of modern slavery qualifies for local authority care leaving support, a personal adviser must be appointed to support them.
Pathway Plans should always consider and reflect the implications for the child or young adult if their asylum claim is refused without a grant of leave, if their application to extend their leave is refused or if their appeal against a refusal is dismissed. In such circumstances, the person will become unlawfully present in the UK and be expected to make plans for a return to their home country. A plan for a return to their home country may also need to be made at any other point, should the care leaver decide to leave the UK.
Planning may have to be based around short-term achievable goals whilst entitlement to remain in the UK is being determined. For the majority of unaccompanied children who do not have permanent immigration status, transition planning should initially take a triple planning perspective, which, over time should be refined as the young person's immigration status is resolved. Planning cannot pre-empt the outcome of any immigration decision and may be based on:
- A young person being refused Refugee Status, appeals are refused and the young person becomes Appeal Right Exhausted (ARE) and the young person becomes liable for forcible removal;
- A longer-term perspective plan should the care leaver be granted long-term permission to stay in the UK (for example through the granting of Refugee Status); and
- A return to their country of origin at any appropriate point or at the end of the immigration consideration process, should that be necessary because the care leaver decides to leave the UK or is required to do so.
Over time the Pathway Plan should be refined as the young person's immigration status is resolved.
The provision of a service is dependent on the young person continuing to qualify for the service.
Services to an unaccompanied child migrant may be withdrawn, for example, where another adult wishes to assume Parental Responsibility and this is assessed as appropriate.
The service must not be withdrawn without a Child in Need Plan Review (see Child in Need Plans and Reviews Procedure) and the agreement of the social worker's manager. Any such decision must be clearly recorded, with reasons. In all such cases, legal advice should usually be obtained before a final decision is made.
Where a service is withdrawn, the social worker should inform the Finance Office, if appropriate, immediately.
Withdrawal of Leaving Care Services
Supporting Young Person who are Appeals Rights Exhausted (ARE)
Young people who become ARE must be informed that that they will not have the ability to work legally in the UK and will not have access to public funds unless this restriction is lifted. Public funds include the following:
- States benefits;
- Social housing;
- Primary health care.
The Home Office provides funding for UASC care leavers for three months following their ARE date.
Social care support is not a 'public fund'.
Leaving Care ARE Process
Home office decision received and Young person receives a refusal. A Young person with support from their Legal Adviser has the opportunity to make an appeal to the First –tier Tribunal to have their case heard again if there are merits to warrant this. During this period the Young person will continue to receive a service from the Leaving Care Team.
Should the First-tier refuse the appeal, young person may still have the opportunity to appeal to the Upper Appeals Court to hear the case, if the legal adviser feels there would be merit to this. During this period the young person will continue to receive a service from the Leaving Care Team, despite the Home office classifying them as ARE.
The Young Person throughout this appeal process will be encouraged to seek Legal documents to support their asylum claim such as birth certificates, other legal documentation that may assist them with a successful claim.
The Upper Tribunal can also make a decision to send a case back to the First-tier Tribunal if there is deemed an 'error in law' in the decision made.
The Leaving Care Team will initiate a Human Rights Assessment should all the above have been completed, or legal advisers assess the young person's case to have no merit and legal aid funding has ceased. The young person has a right to have their legal advice reviewed however this will not delay the Human Rights Assessment beginning.
The HRA will consider Article 3 (prohibition of torture or inhuman or degrading treatment) and Article 8 (respect and right to family life) of the Human Rights Act. Article 6, (if the person is involved in Court proceedings).
The HRA will firstly have to be determined the completion of the assessment would not leave the young person sleeping rough or without shelter. The Local Authority would have to consider charitable, community and family or friends support available to the young person should support be ended. Staying Put provisions will be included within this assessment and the consequences of continued support outlined to current hosts.
There is not duty under the European Convention on Human Rights to support foreign nationals who are freely able to return home (R(Kimani) v LB Lambeth 2003).
If there are no legal or practical obstacles to return home, the denial of support by the Local Authority does not constitute a breach of the human Rights 9R(on the application of AW)v Croydon LBA); (R (on the application of A,D and Y) v Hackney LBC and another 2006).
The Personal Adviser will take steps to contact relatives and services available in the country of origin. Advice and support can be sort by the UK Visa and Immigration, Refugee Action or the Voluntary return programme.
The Assessment will involve up to 3 meetings with the young person and interpreter and or advocate if felt appropriate. The Assessment will then be completed within 28 days.
The Assessment will be reviewed by the Team Manager and Local Authority solicitor prior to the findings being shared with the young person.
Assistance should be given in advance of their 18th birthday with the necessary applications for housing, Housing Benefit and any other relevant benefits. The social worker must ensure that the young person has accommodation to which to move on their 18th birthday. The social worker must also ensure that the provider of the young person's present accommodation and the Finance Office is informed when the accommodation arrangement will end.
Access to public funds
Financial support for care leavers who are former unaccompanied child migrants should reflect their needs and their immigration status. Financial policies should highlight any entitlements and how their immigration status may affect these. Pathway Plans should address employment opportunities and funding arrangements for education and training, taking account of the young person's immigration status.
If a young person has no recourse to public funds, they will be unable to access a number of welfare benefits and social housing. Subject to the Human Rights Assessment by the local authority under Schedule 3 Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 (as amended), the provision of accommodation may form part of the leaving care support provided to a young person who has no recourse to public funds. For further information please go to the Families with No Recourse to Public Funds Procedure.Having 'no recourse to public funds' does not prevent a person from accessing other publicly funded services, but many of these will have eligibility criteria based on immigration status which will need to be considered (see NRPF Guidance - What are not public funds?).
13. Review of Services
Where a young person is Looked After, their case will be reviewed in accordance with the Looked After Reviews Procedure.
Any other services provided should be reviewed at least every 6 months as set out in the Child in Need Plans and Reviews Procedure.
In advance of each review, the social worker will send the young person a Checklist setting out the documents which the social worker requires to be produced at the Review, such as confirmation of registration with a GP, enrolment at schools/college and updated information concerning their asylum status.
The young person should be invited to the Review and an interpreter should be booked as necessary.
Independent Reviewing Officers should be aware of the need to have regard to the child's needs as an unaccompanied child or child victim of modern slavery, including trafficking, when planning and providing care. They should also have an awareness of the particular needs and issues children may face as a result of being an unaccompanied child or child victim of modern slavery so that they can provide appropriate challenge at review. Service providers should ensure that foster carers and all other care staff in placement settings are aware of appropriate steps to reduce the risk of trafficked children returning to their traffickers.
Guidance for cases where the child has been the subject of sexual exploitation can be found at Child Sexual Exploitation: Definition and Guide for Practitioners, 2017.
Where a Review confirms the service, the Financial Assessment Form should be updated. Where additional support services are identified as necessary, the Plan should be updated to reflect this.Where services are withdrawn as a result of the Review, the relevant teams should be notified immediately.
14. Asylum Process - Possible Outcomes
There are four main possible outcomes of the asylum process for an unaccompanied child, which will determine what the long term solution might be:
- Granted refugee status (i.e. granted asylum), with limited leave to remain for five years, after which time they can normally apply for settlement (i.e. indefinite leave to remain);
- Refused asylum but granted humanitarian protection, with limited leave to remain for five years, after which time they can normally apply for settlement (i.e. indefinite leave to remain). This is most commonly granted where the person is at risk of a form of 'ill treatment' in their country of origin but which does not meet the criteria of the Refugee Convention.
As it is very likely that those granted refugee status or humanitarian protection will qualify for indefinite leave to remain, their care and pathway planning should primarily focus on their long-term future in the UK, in the same way as for any other care leaver;
- Refused asylum but granted Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Child (UASC) Leave. This is normally for 30 months or until the age of 17½, whichever is the shorter period. This form of leave is granted to unaccompanied children where they do not qualify for refugee status or humanitarian protection, but where the Home Office cannot return them to their home country because it is not satisfied that safe and adequate reception arrangements are in place in that country. It is a form of temporary leave to remain and is not a route to settlement. It is important to note that this decision is a refusal of the child's asylum claim and will attract a right of appeal. The child should be assisted to obtain legal advice on appealing against such a refusal. Before the child's UASC Leave expires, they can submit an application for further leave to remain and/or a fresh claim for asylum, which will be considered. It is essential that they are assisted to access legal advice and make any such further application or claim before their UASC Leave expires.
In such cases, care and pathway planning should therefore consider the possibility that the child may have to return to their home country once their UASC Leave expires or that they may become legally resident in the UK long-term (if a subsequent application or appeal is successful). Planning should also cover the possibility that they reach the age of 18 with an outstanding application or appeal and are entitled to remain in the UK until its outcome is known;
- Refused asylum and granted no leave to remain. In this case the unaccompanied child is expected to return to their home country and their Care Plan should address the relevant actions and the support required. The Home Office will not return an unaccompanied child to their home country unless it is satisfied that safe and adequate reception arrangements are in place in that country. Any appeal or further application should be submitted where appropriate by the child's legal adviser.
Safeguarding Children who May Have Been Trafficked (Home Office, 2011) - non-statutory government good practice guidance.
Local Government Association - Council Support: Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Unaccompanied Children - resource for council staff, designed to answer questions about supporting refugees, asylum seekers and unaccompanied children.
National Referral Mechanism: Guidance for Child First Responders - provides details on how to refer a child into the NRM and complete the referral form, reviews of decisions and the benefits of referral.
Guidance on Processing Children's Asylum Claims - sets out the process which immigration officials follow in determining an asylum claim from a child and the possible outcomes for the child.
UK Modern Slavery Helpline and Resource Centre - Unseen (Registered Charity)
NSPCC Child Trafficking Advice Centre (CTAC) - specialist advice and information to professionals who have concerns that a child may have been trafficked.
National Transfer Protocol for Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children - interim national transfer procedure and transfer flow chart for the safe transfer of UASC from one UK local authority to another.
Child Protection: Working with Foreign Authorities - guidance on child protection cases and care orders where the child has links to a foreign country.
Refugee Council - Children's Panel - national remit to offer advice and support to unaccompanied children, and advise other professionals who are involved in their care.