In June 2019 this guidance was updated to reflect the National Transfer Scheme Protocol for Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children. See Section 7, Placement Choice for full details.
Professionals in all agencies should be aware that refugee and asylum seeking and unaccompanied children are vulnerable. These children, and many of their carers, will need assistance to ensure that the child receives adequate care and access to health and education services. Unaccompanied asylum seeking child(ren) are children seeking asylum, who are under the age of 18 and are not living with a parent.
Section 20 of the Children Act 1989 states that every local authority shall provide accommodation for any child in need in their area who appears to them to require accommodation as a result of:
In all cases involving unaccompanied children, the Procedures in relation to Assessments will apply as set out in Assessment Procedure.
Where a young unaccompanied asylum seeker becomes a Child in Care, the procedures in this manual relating to Children in Care 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.
Categories of unaccompanied children include:
The law around asylum and immigration has grown and developed over time, the chief references for those working in Children's Social Care are:
The changing pattern of wars, conflicts and persecution tends to influence where asylum seeking children originate. For each of them there the reason why they started their journey will be different, as will their experiences on the way. Social care staff may be 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 include the loss of significant family members and community, and for many their experience of the journey will also have been traumatic.
Asylum seeking children may arrive in Derbyshire in several ways and this will dictate where they are in the immigration process. They may be new in-country applicants (so called 'spontaneous arrivals') who have found their way to Derbyshire and are not known to UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI). Subject to any potential age inquiries, all 'spontaneous arrivals' should be accommodated under Section 20 Children Act 1989.
Derbyshire are participatory members of these schemes. These schemes are very different to spontaneous arrivals and allow the social worker to plan for the arrival of the young person. Where possible, the aim is to place such young people in Derbyshire. This is to enable young people to be close to the professional support networks needed and to plan long-term for their post 18 living accommodation which will be influenced by the status of their asylum claim. Whilst it is recognised that Derbyshire does not offer the same cultural opportunities as urban cities, a young person's ethnic, religious and cultural needs can still be met by making use of local resources and utilising opportunities in neighbouring cities.
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).The scheme is Co-ordinated by the East Midlands Strategic Partnership.
The Lead Officer (East Midlands Strategic Migration Partnership) emails the Unique Unaccompanied Child Record (UUCR) of the UASC waiting to be transferred to the local authority Lead Professional enquiring if the Local Authority is in a position to accept responsibility of the UASC. The Lead Professional (currently the UASC Team Manager will review the UUCR and make a decision whether to accept responsibility of the UASC, subject, of course to appropriate placement matching. If an appropriate match is found, respective social workers from each authority would then co-ordinate the planned move, ensuring the child is at the centre of the plan. For further guidance see National Transfer Scheme Guidance (GOV.UK).
Referred to as "Dubs Cases" due to the amendment by Lord Dubs 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 camps in 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. Dubs children would automatically become Children in Care if they are, accepted by Derbyshire Children's Services.
Since August 2018, there has been a change to the immigration status of children who arrive under this scheme. Children who have transferred under section 67 claim asylum on arrival. Those who qualify for international protection will be granted Refugee or humanitarian protection leave. Those individuals who do not qualify for international protection but meet the eligibility criteria under section 67 leave will be granted this new form of leave for a period of 5 years. Section 67 leave is different to that of UASC leave. UASC leave is a temporary form of leave which is only granted where a child has been refused asylum or humanitarian protection but where the Home Office cannot safely return the child to their home country. UASC leave is granted for a period of 30 months or until the child is 17 ½, whichever is shorter. At the expiry of their UASC leave, the child should either consider making a further application/claim – if they believe they have a right to remain in the UK – or make preparations to return home upon turning 18. Those granted section 67 leave will be able to apply for settlement at the end of their 5 years limited leave to remain
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 Derbyshire, then they will be referred to Derbyshire Children's Services 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 Derbyshire Social Care unless identified that there is a need for services under Section 17 (Children Act 1989) or further Single 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 Derbyshire Children's Services.
In January 2018, the government announced that it had commissioned the UNHCR to develop and lead a new initiative to resettle vulnerable children impacted by the conflict in the Middle East.
The new scheme will be specifically tailored to support vulnerable and refugee children at risk and their families. Several hundred individuals will be resettled over the next year with a view of resettling up to 3,000 over the lifetime of this Parliament.
On the UNHCR's recommendation, the scheme will not solely target unaccompanied children, but will also extend to vulnerable children at risk, such as those threatened with child labour, child marriage and other forms of abuse or exploitation. It will be open to all 'at risk' groups and nationalities within the region.
Derbyshire Children's Services should carry out an assessment with all UASC Children. For those who become Looked After, they will also have a clear Care Plan.
The initial work when there is a 'spontaneous arrival' is vital in ensuring appropriate access to services and that the child gets a safe start to life in the UK. Derbyshire Children's Services and Derbyshire Police are adopting the 'Hertfordshire Model' to all spontaneous arrivals; this means that if the person is deemed to be a child, they will be immediately accommodated under Section 20 Children Act 1989. The below are vital actions to consider when there is a 'spontaneous arrival'.
The young person would then be supported to an identified placement. Social workers will have with them the necessary health consent forms, Section 20 evidence letters and placement agreement forms. An initial plan to support the child will be informally agreed.
'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.' (Association of Directors of Children's Services (ADCS) – Age Assessment Guidance and Information Sharing for UASC).
However, in some rare circumstances, including during assessment at the Police station, it will be very clear that the individual is an adult well over the age of 18, so prolonged inquiry may not be required, as stated in the Merton judgement. Even in these rare circumstances when you are making a relatively quick decision, you are still undertaking an assessment, albeit a brief one, and you must record the rationale for your decision as well as share your decision with the individual being assessed. For spontaneous arrivals, Derbyshire recommends that the ADCS age assessment information sharing proforma is the appropriate tool to record this assessment. If the UASC is deemed to be over the age limit, a referral should be made to the UK Visas and Immigration. The age assessment proforma would need to be completed and shared with UK Visa and Immigration.
A UASC's age is a key part of the information needed when making an assessment of need and subsequently for the appropriate provision of service.
Full age assessments should not be undertaken at the Police station, notwithstanding advice outline above.
Care of Unaccompanied Migrant Children and Child Victims of Modern Slavery – Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities (DfE, 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 Article 10(3) of the European Convention on action Against Trafficking in Human Beings. 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.
Where age assessments are conducted, they must follow ADCS Guidance. That said, there will be ongoing consideration of potential new information. In the first instance all discussions about age considerations will be discussed with the Team Manager who will provide direction on an agreed approach. Determining age between 14 and 18 is not an exact science. In determining age, it should be remembered that some societies do not place a high level of importance on age and may calculate it in different ways. Some children 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. Two suitability competent and experienced social workers will undertake the age assessment of an UASC. Where there is uncertainty, the benefit of doubt should always be given to the young person. In completing the assessment, workers should be mindful that the UASC has the right to legally challenge the conclusion.
If a young person is assessed by two social workers as being over 18, the manager of the staff should be consulted. The young person must be given a copy of the assessment and decision in writing and advised to seek independent legal advice. An age assessment proforma, not the full age assessment should be shared with UK Visa's and Immigration will need to be shared with them, before they accept responsibility for the person.
The Hillingdon Judgement and subsequent guidance (LAC (2003) 13) makes clear that all UASC fall within the scope of S20 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.
All UASC will be accommodated under Section 20 - in a suitable placement in accordance with their age and assessed needs.
The allocated worker will complete further assessments and put the care plan into action. The Independent Reviewing Officer will review UASC in the same way as for any other Child in Care.
Note: 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, Care and Planning Procedure.
Prior to the social worker initiating the Child in Care Planning and Review documentation, the duty manager will need to consult with the Head of Service (Localities) and seek agreement to accommodate the young person.
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.
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. We will strive to have continuity in interpreters so relationships can be built with the young person. Practice with interpreters should be informed Derbyshire's Practice Matters – Working with Interpreters (see the Documents Library).
For all children, there should be an assessment of potential risk to the child (including the risk of being trafficked), and safety planning should be considered. Safety plans may include 24 hour supervision, no mobile phone, high risk alerts on the address. If there is a potential risk, there is a duty as first responders to refer the National referral Mechanism. NSPCC Child Trafficking Advice Centre (CTAC) can be consulted for advice around safety plans.
As far as admission to school or college is concerned, UASCs have the same rights as any other Child in Care. Placement choices will need to consider ability to access school and/or college, particularly ESOL courses.
When an UASC is admitted to care or moves care, a PEP (Personal Education Plan) meeting should be held. The child/young person has a major input into this plan and is consulted on identified short, medium and long-term targets. The first PEP should attempt to be tied in with the initial Looked After Review to ensure that there is not duplication for young people.
If the UASC has Special Educational Needs (SEN) or behavioural difficulties, SEN Support Plans and Pastoral Support Programmes (PSP)s aimed at addressing difficulties and maintaining mainstream provision are set up and included within the PEP.
All Children in Care may experience difficulties because of their situation; the combination of the above factors can only compound the specific vulnerability of UASC.
If there is a particular issue for the young person which may require independent support. The UASC should be offered an Independent Visitor or advocate.
In addition, for unaccompanied children, the Assisted Voluntary Return Scheme may need to be considered (depending in legal advice).
It may be that a child has family in the UK. Contact, where assessed as safe, should be actively encouraged and supported. There may be some scenarios where a young person wishes to go and live with a family member in another area. This may be a sustainable option but would require a robust assessment of the family members and whether it is sustainable. This may be through a Regulation 24 Fostering Assessment or potentially, a Single assessment which must encompass, as a minimum: a home visit, police checks on all household members, local authority checks. In the latter scenario, it may be that the young person would cease to be a Child in Care. This though would need Director level agreement. Leaving Care Entitlements will need to be actively considered in this scenario. The assessment will also need to take account of the young person's asylum status. In this scenario, it is recommended that the child remains open to Derbyshire as a 'Child In Need' Section 17 Children Act 1989.
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.
It may be necessary, therefore, to place the young person temporarily pending further assessment and identification of a suitable placement. The young person and carers should be made aware of this, and further assessment undertaken at the earliest opportunity.
A balanced decision regarding placement choice needs also to consider any potential risk to other children or young people due to our lack of knowledge, the access to cultural and religious services, access to commissioned educational resources for English as second language, and distance re ability to monitor their welfare. That said, for all children whether that is spontaneous arrivals, National transfer Scheme, Dubs and Vulnerable Children's Resettlement Scheme, it is the expectation that the children will attempt to be placed in Derbyshire. This is to ensure they can receive relevant services and have sustainable accommodation options if when they reach 18, their asylum claim is not resolved. The Social Worker would need to ensure that any religious, education and cultural needs are still met.
The protocol 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).
“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. 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 here 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.
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 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, (see below).
Where the Assessment identifies that an unaccompanied young child migrant should be a Child in Care, all the procedures in relation to Care Plans, Health Care Plans, Personal Education Plans and Placement Plans must be completed as for any other Child in Care. See: Decision to Look After and Care Planning Procedure.
For unaccompanied migrant children who are Children in Care, the placement decision also needs to be informed by careful consideration of the wider support needs of the child, including their cultural and social needs. Creative ways of meeting those needs, such as mentors or links to groups from their country of origin living in the UK could be used. As with all Children in Care, an unaccompanied child’s ethnicity, cultural and linguistic background should be taken into account when placing the child. However, these are not overriding considerations and should be taken into account alongside all of the child’s needs. Nevertheless, the placement should meet the child’s needs as a whole and be consistent with their wishes and feelings.
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.
Placement options for unaccompanied migrant children are the same as for other Children in Care 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, as opposed to care and accommodation. Where there has been an assessment of need and the best match is in “other arrangements” the placement could be supported lodgings, supported accommodation or shared 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) and On the Safe Side: Principles for the safe accommodation of child victims of trafficking, ECPAT, 2011.
Where a young person is considered at risk of being trafficked, a Strategy Meeting should be convened. Where there are concerns about trafficking or Modern Day Slavery, a referral should be made to the National Referral Mechanism (see GOV.UK - National referral mechanism guidance: adult (England and Wales)). This places a duty on first responders (Police and Local Authority) to consider and assess potential trafficking.
The above may be at the point the young person comes in to care, but also can be at any point during their care. It is known that a potential vulnerable time is if a young person has a negative decision regarding their asylum claim for example.
As outlined, wherever there is risk of trafficking, a strategy meeting should be held which needs to have a clear trafficking safety plan agreed. Professionals need to give particular consideration to children from at risk countries such as Albania and Vietnam being considered at risk.
When working with UASC it is important that workers consider the following:
All Children in Care may experience difficulties because of their situation, the combination of the above factors can only compound the specific vulnerability of UASC.
Should the young person go missing the appropriate procedures should be followed for any Child in Care who is missing. See the Derby and Derbyshire Runaway and Missing from Home or Care (RMFHC) Protocol.
Where a young person is a Child in Care, 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 Review Procedure.
We need to plan for three possible outcomes for those turning 18, as their asylum status will determine their right to public services as adults. This is known as triple planning and should be part of the statutory planning through the Care Plan, Pathway Plan and review process. Planning for three possible outcomes at 18 includes:
In all instances, the UASC's immigration status and implications post 18 need to be recorded comprehensively in the Pathway Plan, with contingencies should the immigration status change.
The law relating to asylum seekers who no longer have Leave to Remain can be complex and terminology can cause confusion and so all UASC should be advised to seek professional legal advice in relation to any leave application or appeal in respect of their legal claim. This should always be at the forefront of the social worker's mind.
There is a slightly amended Pathway Plan format for any UASC child which must always be used.
If a young person has been granted a form of extended leave (Humanitarian Protection, Refugee Status Indefinite Leave to Remain, Dubs Leave), this means they will be able to access wider service and universal benefits including housing. In these cases, the Leaving Care Team will assume case responsibility at 18. Good practice would suggest the Social Work team may wish to consider a short extension period to ensure the young person makes a settled transition to adulthood and has stability, especially regarding housing. In these cases, the social worker will need to ensure key dates to renew or extend leave requests are recorded on Mosaic, within the pathway plan and clearly communicated to the leaving care worker and young person. The Leaving Care team must ensure follow up legal advice is accessed when required.
If a young person's asylum status is not resolved at 18, the Social Worker will remain allocated and work alongside the Leaving Care Team. Broadly, the Leaving Care Team will focus on practical support whilst the social worker will ensure an oversight of the asylum claim. The Social Worker will remain responsible for updating the Pathway Plan.
If a young person has a right to appeal an asylum decision after 18, it may be that these incur legal costs. Derbyshire may agree to fund these applications, but independent legal advice on the likelihood of success of claim will be required and rates agreed will be equivalent to legal aid rates.
Those who have a failed asylum application and who are identified by the Home Office as Appeal Rights Exhausted (ARE) do not have status in the UK and are likely to be identified as having a No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) status. The No Recourse to Public Fund policy should be followed in these cases as these former UASC will need to be assessed for any continued right to services.
Before services from Derbyshire Children's Services are withdrawn, there should be a Human Rights Assessment completed to identify whether the withdrawal of services would lead to a breach of Article 3 or Article 8 of the Human Rights Act. The former UASC should be informed in writing (translated if appropriate) of the intention to conduct the assessment, how it will be done and who will be consulted and a reasonable timescale should be set. As part of this, a Voluntary Return to Country of Origin will need to be further considered. This assessment would usually be achieved within four weeks. If the outcome of the assessment is that the withdrawal of services will not lead to a breach of a young person's human rights, a reasonable notice period (usually four weeks) will be given to advise the young person of the withdrawal of support. Existing support with accommodation and allowances will continue throughout this period and the young person will be advised regarding alternative avenues of advice such as application to Asylum Support (via the Home Office). If the Young person is 'All Appeal Rights' Exhausted, but there is no assessed safe return or passage of entry, immediate legal advice must be sought.
Only valid for 48hrs