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1.5.3 Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC) Under 16

RELATED LEGISLATION

Modern Slavery Act 2015

RELATED GUIDANCE

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

Securing British Citizenship for looked after children: The NRPF have highlighted important information from the Project for the Registration of Children as British Citizens, with regard to the responsibilities that local authorities have to ensure that children in their care have effective access to specialist legal advice so their citizenship or any entitlement to citizenship is secured.

The Interim Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children Transfer Protocol - this interim national Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC) transfer protocol (‘the interim transfer protocol”) has been created to enable the safe transfer of UASC from one UK local authority (the entry authority from which the UASC transfers) to another UK local authority (the receiving authority) from 1 July 2016.

The interim transfer protocol forms the basis of agreement made between local authorities to ensure that any local authority does not face an unmanageable responsibility in accommodating and looking after UASC pursuant to its duties under parts 3, 4, and 5 of the Children Act 1989.

Interim Protocol (updated 1 July 2016) - the Protocol also includes a Transfer Protocol Flowchart and frequently asked questions to assist Local Authorities:

Suitable Accommodation Guidance: What is a suitable placement for an unaccompanied asylum seeking child? (updated September 2016)

AMENDMENT

This chapter was updated in March 2018 and a link to the NRPF network guidance on Securing British Citizenship for looked after children was added.


Contents

  1. Scope of this Chapter
  2. Eligibility for Service
  3. 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

    Appendix 1: Practice Guidelines for Age Assessment of Young Unaccompanied Asylum Seekers

    Appendix 2: Finance Flowchart


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 Assessment Procedure.

Where a young unaccompanied asylum seeker 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. 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 or unaccompanied asylum seeking children leave to remain, which may continue up to their 18th birthday.


3. 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;
  6. The age assessment of the young person (where relevant) 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; and
  7. 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;
  8. 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.

Guidance issued by ADCS should be considered in order to determine What is a suitable placement for an unaccompanied asylum seeking child? The young person’s health needs should be assessed and information is available regarding accessing health services at GOV.UK, Guidance on providing NHS treatment for asylum seekers and refugees.

An interpreter will be used, if needed, to assist in the assessments.

The caseworker must complete an Age Assessment in all cases. See Appendix 1: Practice Guidelines for Age Assessment of Young Unaccompanied Asylum Seekers.

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 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 be Merton Compliant. Two workers from ACP will undertake the age assessment and the lead interviewer will be a qualified social worker and there will also be an Appropriate Adult present to support the young person.

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 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.

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.

The child 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 unaccompanied or trafficked children.

In addition, unaccompanied children should be informed of the availability of the Assisted Voluntary Return Scheme.


4. Children in Need Criteria

Where it is established 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 Plans 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. See Appendix 2: Finance Flowchart.

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


6. Refusal of Services

A family or young person may be refused a service where, for example:

  • 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, UK Visas and Immigration and/or an appropriate voluntary agency.

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.

If a young unaccompanied asylum seeker is aged assessed as being over 18years old then the young person should be advised that they can make a formal complaint to the local authority to dispute the age assessment findings and/or look to challenge the age assessment legally and be referred for independent advice.


7. 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 young person may be withdrawn, for example, where another adult wishes to assume Parental Responsibility and this is considered appropriate.

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.


8. Unaccompanied Young Asylum Seekers Reaching Age 18

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

Pathway planning should address any additional needs arising from the young person’s immigration issues.

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 dual or 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 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 that be necessary because the care leaver decides to leave the UK or is required to do so.

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.


9. Review of Services

Where a young person is Looked After, his or her case will be reviewed in accordance with the Children Looked After Reviews Procedure.

Any other services provided should be reviewed at least every 6 months as set out in the Children in Need Procedures.

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.


Appendix 1: Practice Guidelines for Age Assessment of Young Unaccompanied Asylum Seekers

Click here to view Age Assessment of Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Child Form.

Assessment of age is a complex task, which is a process and not an exact science. This is further complicated by many of the young people attempting to portray a different age from their true age.

In completing the assessment, please be mindful that clients have the right to legally challenge the conclusion.

UNICEF publishes the figure of 50 million children who are currently not registered at birth, depriving them of nationality, a legal name and proof of when they were born. Many societies calculate age in a different way from the method used in the UK; internationally millions of young people do not know their age. The Royal College of Paediatricians (1999) states that “in practice, age determination is extremely difficult to do with certainty. Moreover, for young people aged 15 to 18 it is even less possible to be certain about age”.

Young unaccompanied asylum seekers both at the ports of entry, and as in country applicants, sometimes give a stated age that is disputed by the immigration authorities. The Home Office will often, based purely on appearance, judge the young person to be an adult and refer directly to NASS. A proportion of young people are referred to the local social services department for an assessment of age. Additionally young asylum seekers self refer to social services and an assessment of their age becomes necessary.

A young person’s age is a key part of the information needed when making an assessment of need and subsequently for the appropriate provision of service. The local authority has a responsibility under the Children Act 1989 to assess whether a young person is in need and to provide services to safeguard and promote welfare.

It is important to explain to the young person that an assessment must be undertaken in order to identify what services may be provided. An assessment of age concluding that the asylum seeker is a minor will become an important component of the initial assessment.

The task of the assessing worker is to assess from a holistic perspective, and in the light of the available information, to be able to make and informed judgement that the person is probably within a certain age parameter. It is a process of professional judgement.

Age assessments are sometimes undertaken at the port of entry and the asylum screening unit where a decision is required in a short period of time, or sometimes at a later stage. In circumstances of age uncertainty, the benefit of doubt should always be the standard practice. When practical, two assessing workers is beneficial. Age assessments are also undertaken following the acceptance of a referral to social services to ascertain if the person is entitled to a service as a child. However, in some Local Authorities age assessments are undertaken on presentation when the stated age is disputed. There the assessment can sometimes be undertaken over a period of time, and involve other professionals, for example residential social work staff, foster carers, doctors, panel advisors, teachers and other young people.

It is very important to ensure that the young person understands the role of the assessing worker, and comprehends the interpreter. Attention should also be paid to the level of tiredness, trauma, bewilderment and anxiety that may be present for the young person. The ethnicity, culture and customs of the person being assessed must be a key focus throughout the assessment.

It is also mindful to the “coaching” that the asylum seeker may have had prior to arrival, in how to behave and what to say. Having clarified the role of the social services, it is important to engage with the person and establish as much rapport as the circumstances will allow. This process is sometimes knows ad “joining”. The assessing worker needs to acknowledge with the young person that they will have to already answer many questions, and that it may be difficult and distressing to answer some of the questions.

In utilising the assessment framework, that practitioner should ask open-ended, non – leading questions. It is not expected that the form should be completed by systematically going through each component, but rather by formulating the interview in a semi structured discussion gathering information at different stages. The use of circular questioning is a useful method, as it is less obvious to the person being assessed that that questions relate directly to age, and hence may reveal a clear picture of age – related issues.

It is essential to feed back to the young person the conclusion of this assessment ad a written form is included for this purpose. It is essential to feed back to young person, the conclusion of this assessment, and a detachable form is included for this purpose.


Appendix 2: Finance Flowchart

Click here to view Appendix 2: Finance Flowchart

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