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4.2.1 Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children

RELATED LEGISLATION

Modern Slavery Act 2015

RELATED GUIDANCE

Care of unaccompanied and trafficked children: Statutory guidance for local authorities on the care of unaccompanied asylum seeking and trafficked children (2014)

AMENDMENT

This chapter was reviewed and updated in June 2016. Links to the Modern Slavery Act 2015 and Care of Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children were added and the chapter clarifies that any assessment must take account of any issues that may indicate that the child is or has been trafficked or a victim of compulsory labour, servitude and slavery.


Contents

  1. Scope of this Chapter
  2. Eligibility for Service
  3. Single Assessment
  4. Children in Need Criteria
  5. Provision of Services
  6. Refusal of Services
  7. Withdrawal of a Service
  8. Unaccompanied Young Asylum Seekers Reaching Age 18
  9. Review of Services


1. Scope of this Chapter

For the purposes of this chapter, a young unaccompanied asylum seeker is a young person who arrives in this country unaccompanied by an adult, with the exception of his/her agent, and has no relatives or legal guardian resident in this country who is able to care for him/her.

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

In all such referrals, the procedures in relation to Single Assessments will apply as set out in the Assessment Protocol.

Where a young unaccompanied asylum seeker becomes Looked After, the procedures in this manual relating to Looked After Children apply.


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. Where such young people are provided with services, they will continue to be eligible for a service from the local authority where they achieve refugee status up to their 18th birthday. In relation to all new referrals, the duty worker in the relevant Team must complete a Referral Form, and check all Home Office documentation and evidence that the young person has resided in or has a local connection to the local authority area.


3. Single Assessment

In all cases where a referral is received concerning an unaccompanied young asylum-seeker, the relevant Team will carry out an Assessment in accordance with the Assessment Procedure, to determine whether he or she is a Child in Need. The Assessment will take account of:

  1. The immigration status of the young person;
  2. The young person's accommodation arrangements and needs;
  3. The young person's local connection with the local authority area;
  4. The young person's financial and other support;
  5. The young person's ethnicity and religion; and
  6. The age assessment of the young person and any available information on their agent, their access into this country, the length of time they have been in this country and possible other connections;
  7. Any issues that may indicate that the child is or has been trafficked or a victim of compulsory labour, servitude and slavery.

In determining an unaccompanied young person's accommodation needs, the Assessment must have regard to his or her age and independent living skills, and consider the intensity of service required. This may range between independent accommodation, semi-independent accommodation and foster placements.

An interpreter will be used to assist in all assessments if required.

The caseworker must complete a Single Assessment Record in all cases.

The assessment of age is a complex task, which usually involves a face-to-face meeting and often relies on professional judgement and discretion. Such assessment may be compounded by issues of disability. Some young people may genuinely not know their age and this can be misread as lack of co-operation. Levels of competence in some areas or tasks may exceed or fall short of our expectations of a child of the same age in this country.

The advice of a paediatrician with experience in considering age may be needed to assist in this, in the context of a holistic assessment. However, the High Court has ruled that, unless a paediatrician's report can add something specific to an assessment of age undertaken by an experienced social worker, it will not be necessary.


4. Children in Need Criteria

Where it is established as a result of the Single Assessment that the referral concerns a young unaccompanied asylum-seeker, this will always satisfy the criteria for services to a Child in Need.

Where there are concerns that a young person has suffered or is at risk of suffering Significant Harm, for example as a result of trafficking and/or sexual exploitation, the social worker must discuss the case with the manager and consider whether the circumstances warrant a Strategy Discussion/Meeting and Section 47 Enquiry.


5. Provision of Services

Where a Referral Assessment identifies that a young unaccompanied asylum seeker is in need of services, the young person 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. An interpreter should be booked to accompany the young person to appointments with the GP, where necessary.

Where a young person's needs are for independent or semi-independent accommodation, and the manager agrees, assistance should be given with completion of the necessary Housing Application.

Where the Assessment identifies that an unaccompanied young asylum-seeker needs to be Looked After, all the procedures in relation to Care Plans, Health Care Plans, Personal Education Plans and Placement Information Records must be completed. See Decision to Look After and Care Planning 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 detailed financial procedures.

Travel cards or warrants will be issued to young unaccompanied asylum-seekers in relation to appointments at the Home Office.


7. Refusal of Services

The circumstances in which a family or young person may be refused a service are:

  • The young person has provided inadequate documentation;
  • The young person has provided documentation believed to be fraudulent or tampered with in any way;
  • There is an age dispute and an unaccompanied young asylum-seeker presents as over the age of 18.

Where an Assessment identifies that a young unaccompanied asylum-seeker 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 Services, the Refugee Council, the UK Visas and Immigration and/or an appropriate voluntary agency.

In such circumstances, the duty worker should make an appointment for the young person and advise him or her 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 his or her 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.


8. Withdrawal of a Service

The provision of a service is dependent on the young person continuing to qualify for the service and/or meeting the local authority's requirements, for example, where the young person does not keep the Department informed of their asylum claim, or where the young person is evicted from accommodation due to their conduct or behaviour or fails to attend appointments.

The circumstances in which service to an unaccompanied young person may be withdrawn are:

  • Where another adult wishes to assume Parental Responsibility and this is considered appropriate;
  • If the young person is 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.

The service should not be withdrawn without 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. Unaccompanied Young Asylum Seekers Reaching 18

Where an unaccompanied young asylum-seeker reaches the age of 18, and the young person's legal status remains unresolved, a referral to the UK Visas and Immigration should be made.

Where the young person is Looked After, the case will remain with the Leaving Care Team on the young person's 18th birthday and the Leaving Care Team will be responsible for implementing the procedures in relation to Eligible Young People and Relevant Young People, as appropriate, in accordance with Leaving Care Procedure.

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 his or her 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.


10. Review of Services

Where a young person is Looked After, his or her 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.

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.

End