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4.2.1 Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children

RELATED LEGISLATION

Modern Slavery Act 2015

Home Office Circular (July 2015) - Modern Slavery Act 2015

RELATED GUIDANCE

Care of Unaccompanied Migrant Children and Child Victims of Modern Slavery (2017)

AMENDMENT

This chapter was significantly amended and updated throughout in May 2018. The chapter reflects the ‘Me and my World Assessment’ and has a number of new and fully refreshed sections, viz. age Assessments, Use of Interpreters, Care of Child Victims of Modern Slavery, etc. The latter section advises that 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. A link to the relevant contact details for local authorities was added. The statutory guidance was updated to link to the DfE 2017 Care of Unaccompanied Migrant Children and Child Victims of Modern Slavery – statutory guidance for local authorities (see Relevant Guidance above).


Contents

  1. Scope of this Chapter
  2. Eligibility for Service
  3. Strengthening Families Assessments
  4. Me and My World Assessments and Pathway Plan Needs Assessment
  5. Age Assessments
  6. Use of Interpreters
  7. Care of Child Victims of Modern Slavery
  8. Provision of Services
  9. Ending of a Service
  10. Unaccompanied Young Asylum Seekers Turning 18 years

    Appendix 1: ADCS Age Assessment Guidance and Information Sharing Guidance for UASC

    Appendix 2: Age Assessment Form 


1. Scope of this Chapter

For the purposes of this chapter, a young unaccompanied asylum seeker is a child who is applying for asylum in their own right and is separated from both parents and is not being cared for by an adult who in law or by custom has responsibility to do so.

This chapter describes the particular issues arising in referrals involving young unaccompanied asylum seekers.

In all such referrals, the Procedures in relation to Assessments will apply as set out in Section 3, Strengthening Families Assessments and Section 4, Me and My World Assessments and Pathway Plan Needs Assessment (Guidance).

Where an unaccompanied asylum seeking child becomes Looked After, the procedures in this manual relating to Looked After Children apply. Independent Reviewing Officers 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 or residential care providers need to be aware of appropriate steps to reduce the risk of trafficked children returning to their traffickers.


2. Eligibility for Service

To be eligible for a service, a young unaccompanied asylum-seeker must be seeking asylum in the UK and have no relative/supporting adult willing to take responsibility for him or her, or they must have an immigration status other than seeking asylum i.e. they have been trafficked into the UK, however, are unaccompanied, so need to be looked after. Where such young people are provided with services, they will continue to be eligible for a service from the local authority where they are granted refugee status, humanitarian protection, some kind of leave to remain, or another immigration status i.e. as a result of being trafficked from a country which is not considered to be of risk, which may continue up to their 18th birthday, and post-18 under one of the identified leaving care criteria In relation to all new referrals, the child must be referred into the Front Door for Families and then passed to the team which works with unaccompanied young people, for assessment.


3. Strengthening Families Assessments

Strengthening Families Assessments will not routinely be undertaken with this particular cohort as there is unlikely to be wider family or context to assess, however, should it become known that the young person has wider/extended family in the UK, a Strengthening Families Assessment can be undertaken at any time.

The circumstances in which a Strengthening Families Assessment may be appropriate are:

Where it become known the young person has a family member in the UK and they have expressed a wish to go and live with them and the family member has expressed a wish to have care of them.


4. Me and My World Assessments and Pathway Plan Needs Assessment

  • If the child/young person is under 16 years of age, a Me and My World Assessment will need to be undertaken ahead of the initial review chaired by an IRO;
  • If the young person is 16 years old or over, a Pathway Plan Needs Assessment will need to be completed ahead of the initial review with an IRO.

Both these assessments need to give consideration to the following issues, which should form part of the initial assessment and subsequent reviews and updates:

  • Accommodation;
  • Financial arrangements;
  • Education, Training and Employment;
  • Health and Leisure;
  • Family and Social Relationships;
  • Identity;
  • Emotional Wellbeing;
  • Independent Living Skills (16+ only);
  • Immigration.

Young people will have their ‘Me and My World Assessment’ reviewed a minimum of every 6 months until they are 16 years old. Ahead of turning 16 years old the social worker will undertake a Pathway Plan Needs Assessment which will form the basis for the ongoing care plan. This will be reviewed a minimum of every 6 months until they are 21 years old, if they remain entitled to a service.

Pathway Plan reviews between the ages of 16 years old and 18 years old will be chaired by an IRO. Once a young person has turned 18 years old, the review will be chaired by their Personal Advisor.


5. Age Assessments

Age assessments should not be undertaken unless:

“ 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… A social worker should be clear what the “significant reason” is to doubt the age, and this should be conveyed to the young person.”

There may be occasions where you do not feel that an age assessment is necessary but where the Home Office requests an assessment before it will treat the young person as a child in the immigration process. In these circumstances you may need to negotiate with the Home Office to explain why the young person should be treated as a child without further assessment, or conduct an assessment sufficiently comprehensive that it enables the Home Office to be assured that the assessment is case-law compliant, as children may find multiple assessments repetitive and potentially distressing. The principle of the best interests of the child should always guide your decision making and work with children.

Where an age assessment is unavoidable, it may be possible to use information which you have already gathered, for example, as part of your Looked After Child (LAC) assessments rather than conducting further in-depth interviews which may cause unnecessary distress to the child or young person.

This guidance is also relevant where all parties accept that the young person is a child but where the exact age is not clear. Many children and young people 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 child or young person receives the appropriate services and educational support for their age and development. (ADCS Age Assessment and Information Sharing Guidance p.5).

Where you have decided that a standalone age assessment is not necessary, it will be helpful to make a note on the child or young person’s file that you have accepted their claimed age, and why. This may help to avoid unnecessary confusion at a later date. (ADCS Age Assessment and Information Sharing Guidance p.6).

If the allocated social worker and their manager decide there is a significant reason to doubt the claimant is a child, then an age assessment should be undertaken by two qualified social workers, and the conclusion of the assessment should be recorded on the Model Information Sharing Proforma (Appendix A to the ADCS guidance) and sent to the young person’s legal representative. The claimant has the right to dispute the conclusion of any age assessment undertaken by the Local Authority.

The main body (detail) of the assessment should never be shared with the Home Office.

If, on arrival, the social worker and their manager consider the claimant is not a child, they should be placed in appropriate accommodation whilst an age assessment is undertaken. Preferably, this should be some form of supported accommodation. However, in the absence of the availability of this, emergency accommodation provided by the housing department. Ideally this should be as local to the team as possible in order to facilitate a good level of support for the claimant whilst the age assessment is undertaken.


6. Use of Interpreters

It is good practice to always use interpreters with unaccompanied children and young people, even if they have some English language skills. It is preferable to use ‘in person’ interpreters as this provides a much better opportunity to navigate young people successfully through unfamiliar processes, roles and expectations, however, it isn’t always possible to get interpreters at short notice, particularly with languages such as Vietnamese and Oromo.

In instances when an ‘in person’ interpreter can’t be sourced, a telephone interpreter should be used – the local authority has an account with thebigword and the details of this can be provided by the social work team working with unaccompanied young people.

Not using an interpreter can set a child/young person at a significant disadvantage, so an interpreter should be present during all visits and meetings until it has been fully assessed the young person’s level of English is good enough that an interpreter isn’t required.


7. Care of Child Victims of Modern Slavery

Care of Unaccompanied Migrant Children and Child Victims of Modern Slavery (2017) provides 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.

Since the inception of the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) for victims of trafficking, an increasing number of children have been identified as potential victims of trafficking. At the time of writing, the NRM process had been reviewed, and a pilot scheme was being implemented to recognise victims of trafficking. As a social worker, you have an important role to play in ensuring the safety of trafficked children and young people.

Many trafficked children and young people go missing within 48 hours of becoming looked after. Suspicions of trafficking require a bold and immediate response to keep the child or young person safe, and a Section 47 enquiry and the development of a robust safety plan will be appropriate in most cases. Where there is uncertainty about age, a suspected victim of trafficking must be presumed to be a child and be accorded special protection measures pending assessment of their age.

Children and young people who have been trafficked into the UK are likely to have had experiences which have an impact on their ability to participate fully and openly in an age assessment. Aside from the physical, sexual or emotional abuse they may have suffered.

All children who are believed to have been trafficked must be referred to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM), which is part of the Home Office.


8. Provision of Services

Where it is accepted that an unaccompanied asylum seeking child is under 18, they will be entitled to services, under the Children Act 1989 and the Children Leaving Care Act (2000).

Immediately following arrival, a referral will be made to the children’s placement team requesting a placement for that night. This placement will initially be an interim placement whilst more information is gathered to make a more comprehensive referral designed to match need, however, it may subsequently be determined the initial placement is the best match for the young person and they remain living there.

Most young people will arrive with little more than the clothes they are wearing so they will also be asked to take the young person shopping for essential items up to the value of £250.00. This money doesn’t have to be spent in full immediately and can be used over a 3 month period.

The carers will be asked to register the young person with a GP and a dentist and to book them in for check ups with both as soon as possible.

A referral to the IRO team will be made to set up a date and time for the initial review, and for an IRO to be allocated to the young person. A referral will be made to the LAC Health Team requesting an initial health assessment, and a referral for a solicitor will be made, once the young person has been registered with the Home Office.

A social worker will be allocated to the young person following arrival and they will undertake an initial 7 day statutory visit to see the young person and their carers in the first week of the young person being placed. During this visit they will make an assessment of language skills in order to identify the most appropriate education pathway and get the young person engaged with ESOL provision as soon as possible.

If appropriate, a referral to the Red Cross will be made for family tracing. It is not always appropriate to refer to this service i.e. if the Red Cross, at the time, have no one working in a country because it is so dangerous.

The initial visit will form the start of the Me and My World or Pathway Plan Needs Assessment. Further information about related processes and procedures can be found in the Decision to Look After and Care Planning Procedures.

Depending on the type of accommodation the child/young person has been placed in (foster care or supported accommodation), the appropriate financial support will be provided. For a young person living in supported accommodation, this will include living allowance, and travel costs once they are going to college.


6. Ending of a Service

The provision of a service is dependent on the young person continuing to qualify for the service. Services to an unaccompanied young person may be ended if they cease to be looked after by the local authority and they no longer qualify for any kind of service from children’s services under the Children Leaving Care Act (2000).


7. Unaccompanied Young Asylum Seekers Turning 18 years

Where an unaccompanied young asylum-seeker reaches the age of 18 they will be entitled to a service under the Children Leaving Care Act (2000) as a former relevant young person. If the young person has not been accommodated for the required 13 week period ahead of turning 18 years old, a case by case decision will need to be made by the relevant Head of Service about whether Children’s Services continue to provide a service to this young person, or not.

A young person’s entitlement to a service as a ‘former relevant’ young person will be determined by their immigration status. If they have some form of Leave To Remain, or have an active claim or appeal in process, they will be entitled to a full leaving care service.

For young people who are 18 years old and Appeal Rights Exhausted (ARE), it may be decided that a Human Rights Act assessment should be undertaken, to determine if a young person should continue to receive support through leaving care provision, however, this should be considered on a case by case basis, with input from the Team Manager and a senior social worker in the team responsible for unaccompanied asylum seeking young people. See ADCS guidance - Assessment and Support of Post 18 UASC’s listed as Appeal Rights Exhausted.

Ahead of turning 18 years old, the young person will be allocated a name Personal Advisor and this advisor will take on full responsibility for the young person on or around their 18th birthday, and will work with them until they are no longer entitled to a service.

The Pathway Planning process will continue, post-18, as a way of assessing and reviewing a young person’s needs, in order to inform the service they receive. Pathway planning should address any additional needs arising from the young person’s immigration issues.

Pathway Planning may need 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 indefinite leave to remain in the UK, transition planning should adopt a dual or triple planning perspective, which, over time should be refined as the young person’s immigration status is resolved. Planning should not pre-empt the outcome of any immigration decision and may be based on:

  • A transitional plan during the period of uncertainty when the care leaver is in the UK without permanent immigration status;
  • A longer-term perspective plan should the care leaver be granted long-term permission to stay in the UK (for example through the grant 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 this be necessary, because the care leaver decides to leave the UK or is required to do so.

Young people will continue to be entitled to accommodation post-18, regardless of their immigration status. If they have been living in foster care, this may be a staying put placement where they remain with their carers, or it might be supported accommodation where they are referred into young people’s housing services to identify appropriate provision, according to their level of support need.


Appendices

Appendix 1: ADCS Age Assessment Guidance and Information Sharing Guidance for UASC

Appendix 2: Age Assessment Form 

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