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4.3.1 Unaccompanied Minors and Asylum Seeking Children


Contents

  1. Scope of this Chapter
  2. The National Transfer Protocol
  3. Eligibility for Service
  4. Reception into Entry Local Authority Care (Pre-dispersal process)
  5. Child and Family Assessment for UASC Living in Kent
  6. Children in Need Criteria
  7. Care Planning
  8. Refusal of Services
  9. Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC) who go Missing
  10. Withdrawal of a Service
  11. Unaccompanied Young Asylum Seekers Reaching Age 18
  12. Review of Services


1. Scope of this Chapter

For the purposes of this policy, an unaccompanied asylum seeking child (UASC) is any person who, at the time of making an asylum application:

  1. Is under the age of 18, or in the absence of any documentary evidence, appears to be under 18 [1];
  2. Is applying for asylum in his/her own right;
  3. Has no adult relative or guardian with parental responsibility in the UK.

[1] Young asylum seekers who appeared over 18 but under 25 will usually be referred to Kent. Age assessment would be done as a standard procedure.

This policy provides advice on the rights and entitlements of UASC.

In all such referrals, the Procedures in relation to Child and Family Assessments will apply.

Where a young unaccompanied asylum seeker comes into 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.

Principles

The Policy is based on the principles of the Children Act 1989 which is to safeguard and promote the welfare of children within the local authority area who are in need by providing a range and level of services appropriate to those children’s needs.

It also incorporates, the Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities on the Care of Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking and Trafficked Child (2014)

It further embeds the principles of the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000 which are to improve the life chances of young people living in and leaving local authority care. Unaccompanied asylum-seeking children and refugees who are looked after are entitled to the same service as any other children who have been looked after when they leave care. The definitions and commitments as described within the Kent County Council Leaving Care Policy are therefore applicable to this group of young people.

This policy also provides guidance on the operation of the voluntary National Transfer scheme between local authorities to ensure a fairer distribution of UASC across all local authorities and all regions across the UK. 

This policy further underpins the provisions for the transfer of responsibility for UASC and refugee children in England, under Part 5 of the Immigration Act 2016.

All services provided will endeavour to meet the needs of the unaccompanied asylum-seeking Child by ensuring that their needs are identified through an assessment, using the Child and Family Assessment procedure, which recognises their particular vulnerability due to their separation from their family and country of birth.

The services provided are sensitive to the individual needs of the children, recognising their vulnerability and cultural identity, including their ethnicity, language, religion, and any other needs identified. All Asylum seeking children will be provided with opportunities to integrate into the cultural norms of the UK.

Following an initial contact and referral to our contact centre, we will ensure that the referred child is screened and necessary steps immediately taken to ensure his/her care and protection.

Assessed children remaining in Kent will be supported to form a secure base from which they can make the transition to adulthood.  Where appropriate, they will be assisted to trace any family members who may be living in the UK. Where the child wishes to trace family members residing in another country we will provide assistance so that they can get the support of the established organisations providing tracing facilities within the UK and abroad. Where no family members can be found we will provide support in order to help them cope with this.


2. The National Transfer Protocol

Where an unaccompanied child first presents in a local authority which is over the ceiling of 0.07%UASC to child population, the local authority is expected to arrange for the transfer of the child through the national transfer scheme, unless there are clear reasons why it would not be appropriate to transfer the child.

  1. If the region in which the child first presents is under the ceiling of 0.07% then the child would be expected to be transferred to a local authority within that region;
  2. If the region is over the ceiling of 0.07% then the child would be expected to be transferred out of the region using the transfer protocol;
  3. Due to the preponderance of unaccompanied children arriving in Kent, the county of Kent will be treated as a region in itself until further notice. This will allow transfers from Kent to be effected to all other areas where capacity is available, including other parts of the South East. This will be reviewed in advance of 1 April 2017.

This means that, any unaccompanied child now arriving at Kent’s ports are expected to be dispersed or transferred to other Local Authorities within five working days. Unless where there are reasons that to do will significantly impair the child’s health and wellbeing.


3. 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 UASC leave to remain, which may continue until they are 17 years and 6 months.

As of July 1, 2016, Children arriving at Kent ports will be dispersed to other Local Authorities within Five Working Days of arrival in accordance with UKVI National Transfer Protocol.


4. Reception into Entry Local Authority Care (Pre-dispersal process)

Some children may be referred to Kent Children’s Services prior to having registered a claim for asylum; in this case the duty social worker team should arrange a welfare interview with the Home Office through the appropriate procedures. Guidance on registering the claim for asylum can be found on the GOV.UK website.

Where a child has had their claim for asylum registered by the Home Office (by way of a welfare interview), the duty social worker team must notify the central administration team of the child’s reception into their care using Part A (Reception Information) of the Unique Unaccompanied Child Record.

The UKVI will respond to the referral within 48 hours confirming the details of the receiving Local Authority.

If a child is going to be transferred they will be placed into suitable and safe temporary accommodation by the entry local authority. The duty social work team will accompany the child to temporary accommodation, or arrange for them to be transported there by an approved transport provider.

After the child has been accommodated by the entry local authority for 24 hours they become a looked after child.

The duty social work team must ensure that the child is accommodated in the most appropriate placement available which meets their needs for a short period of time while awaiting contact from the receiving local authority.

Where a child is below 18 and a female, she will be accommodated in a foster care placement.

Where a UASC is 16+ and male, he will be placed in a supported living arrangement at the reception centre. No formal assessment is required.

The duty for completing a child and family assessment is placed on the receiving local authority in accordance with their procedures.


5. Child and Family Assessment for UASC Living in Kent

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

  • The immigration status of the young person;
  • The young person's accommodation arrangements and needs;
  • The young person's local connection with the local authority area;
  • The young person's financial and other support;
  • The young person's ethnicity and religion; and
  • 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
  • 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;
  • 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 Child and Family 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.

Age Assessment

Care of Unaccompanied and Trafficked Children: Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities on the Care of Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking and Trafficked Child (2014) 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.

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 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.

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


6. Children in Need Criteria

Where it is established as a result of an initial social work screening of the Child and Family 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.


7. Care Planning

Where a Referral/Child and Family 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.

Where it is assessed that the child is likely to remain in care and or with additional vulnerabilities, Permanence Planning Meeting (PPM) should be held by the 2nd review as part of the care planning process. (See Permanence Planning Meeting Procedure) [2]

[2] The needs of UASCs may be different from other children. Permanency planning must take into account their individual current and future needs.

A legal planning meeting, to consider whether a Care Order should be applied for, will be convened where the child:

  • Is likely to be looked after for a period of more than 3 years;
  • Has a disability;
  • Has a mental health problem;
  • And/or is likely to be at risk of significant harm.

Where a child is looked after the Department of Health "Looking after Children" materials will be completed. The care plan will identify a strategy to meet the assessed needs. Placements must be able to support children who have little or no other source of support. The care plan for unaccompanied asylum-seeking and refugee children should include the following:

  • The child’s identified needs, including impact of their traumatic journey (physical and emotional health complications, disease etc.), the needs that arise from the asylum-seeking process (e.g. advocacy and legal advice);
  • How these needs will be met;
  • Timescales;
  • Proposed placement;
  • Other services to be provided e.g. counselling, group work, extra educational support;
  • Contingency plans for placement breakdown and other possibilities such as reunification with family members.

A child’s age, sex, health, personality, race, culture and life experiences are relevant to any consideration of needs and vulnerability and will be taken into account when planning or providing help.

In reaching any decision about the plan for a child we will ensure that they have detailed information about the alternatives, in a language that they can understand.

They should also be provided with an opportunity to explore properly the meaning and implications of the various options open to them before a decision is made.

  1. 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 Kent; 

    young person is in care or moves care placement Part 1 of the Personal Education Plan (PEP) should be completed at or before the Placement Planning meeting. Part 2 of the PEP 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 child has special educational needs or behavioural difficulties, Individual Education Plans (IEP) and Pastoral Support Programmes (PSP)s aimed at addressing difficulties and maintaining mainstream provision are set up and included within the Personal Education Plan.
  2. Financial assistance

    All unaccompanied young asylum-seekers who are eligible for a service will be entitled to financial assistance which must first be authorised by the person who has the authority to do so. 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 UASC in relation to appointments at the Home Office, GP and Educational establishments where required.
  3. Travel Documents

    All UASC who has UASC leave to remain in the UK with no travel restriction can be supported to apply for travel documents to enable them to travel outside the UK for a limited period, for holidays with foster parents or on school trips. However, where there are risks of harm (child trafficking, child sexual exploitation, radicalisation other source of risks), a risk assessment must be undertaken and the local authority must be satisfied that there are no such harm before a travel document can be applied and paid for. In all circumstances, clarification must be sought with the local police and the UK Visa and Immigration (UKVI) I before such decision is made. The UASC must be fully informed of the process and decision to decline his/her request for a support to apply for a travel document.

    Note:
    • Travel documents are issued for external travel only including the Common Travel Areas (CTA) (CTA- Republic of Ireland and the British Isles);
    • Not all countries accept travel document;
    • Children with travel documents issued in the UK wishing to travel outside the UK and CTA, require visas to do so.
  4. Assessment Planning and Review Specific Issues worth considering
    • The majority of UASCs 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;
    • Experience of prejudice against asylum seekers and UASC in particular;
    • Feelings of uncertainty and anxiety whilst their claim for asylum is considered;
    • The young person may have suffered torture and be traumatised by this abuse;
    • It is useful to have background information about the young person’s country of origin;
    • Planning and preparation for possible return to country of origin.

All children looked after may experience difficulties because of their situation, the combination of the above factors can only compound the specific vulnerability of UASC.


8. 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 a Child and Family 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 VI 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 to the relevant UK VI 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.


9. Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC) who go Missing

UASC who go missing from care, particularly soon after arrival, are particularly vulnerable to trafficking. Specialist Children’s Services, in partnership with other agencies, support UASC who are Children in Care up until the age of 18 and those who become Care Leavers post 18. We take into particular account the vulnerabilities of those suspected of being trafficked including their need for safe accommodation, specialist support and protection. This guidance is related to those young people who are UASC and who go missing and the process that should be followed.

Specialist Children’s Services

  • In the event that a UASC goes missing the Kent Safeguarding Children Board “Children Missing from Home and Care” procedures and reporting processes should be followed but for UASC these additional steps should be taken;
  • Specialist Children’s Services should register that the child has gone missing with the Home Office so that checks can be subsequently made should they present in a different Local Authority or subsequently in another jurisdiction;
  • Specialist Children’s Services should notify the young person’s immigration and asylum solicitor if one has been appointed;
  • Where a young person goes missing immediately after arrival they will continue to be allocated to a social worker up and until the first LAC Review, who will do all the co-ordinating necessary to seek to find the young person;
  • Where a missing episode becomes extended after 28 days, the case will no longer be allocated to a social worker, but will be held in a management work tray. The young person will continue to be reviewed which will act as the mechanism to check with police/Home Office about whether there have been any developments with finding the young person. These checks and any developments will be recorded as a Case Note on the young person’s Liberi record. This will be the activity on the case until the young person would have become a Care Leaver at 18. Post-18 the normal “in-touch” reporting will be the mechanism for reviewing whether there have been any developments in finding the young person.

Return Interviews- Specialist Children’s Services

  • Police may have already carried out a Safe & Well Check at the point of a young person’s return to care but a Return Interview should be set up with the young person’s social worker or personal advisor within 72 hours of return. Return Interview may be carried out by the Young Lives Foundation which is the commissioned service tasked with Return Interviews in particular defined circumstances;
  • At the Return Interview young people should be made aware of the concerns that Specialist Children’s Services have about them having been trafficked and their subsequent vulnerability to sexual exploitation, modern slavery and bonded servitude and they should be informed of protection and supports available to them;
  • Where concerns of Significant Harm are identified i.e. in cases of possible trafficking or sexual exploitation, a strategy meeting should be held which should consider what preventative measures can be put in place to safeguard the child/ young person;
  • A distinction may need to be made between those young people who were discovered by the authorities when missing and returned to care; and those who may have been abandoned by possible traffickers as having no further value. The former may rapidly go missing again. The latter may be more open to sharing their experiences in a Return Interview and providing intelligence on how they were transported, accommodated etc.

Young People Missing From the Leaving Care Service 18+

Where a UASC child in care remains ‘missing’ up to and beyond the age of 18 years old the local authority will retain responsibility to the young person as a Former Relevant Child and provide appropriate assistance should the young person be found or again present seeking support as a former child in care.

If a young person has not been found by their 18th birthday then a formal Missing children meeting should be held by the UASC County Manager to determine whether the case should be closed.

The missing children meeting should incorporate information from Kent police, UKVI and other agencies where appropriate. The case should only be closed if there are no ongoing concerns about the vulnerability of the young person being expressed.

If the UASC County Service Manager decides the case should be closed the social worker will complete closure record and the case will be closed down in managed cases by the team manager.

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 in need of services as an eligible, relevant or former relevant child.

UASC in Out of Area Placements

Where young people go missing and who have been placed out of Kent, but remain the Council’s responsibility, rather than having been placed under the National Transfer Scheme and become the responsibility of the receiving Authority, it is necessary that there is liaison between Kent Specialist Children’s Services, the Police and Children’s Services in the area of placement. This should be managed and co-ordinated by Kent SCS utilising local knowledge so that issues of logistics or distance do not interfere in early planning to locate the young person quickly.


10. 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:

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.

Where a child chooses to exit care prior to their 18th birthday, the Ceasing To Be Looked After Policy.


11. 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 VI 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 16 Plus 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 Procedures.

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.


12. Review of Services

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

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

Unlawfully living in the UK

The law on the withdrawal of Local Authority support to young people is included in the Schedule 3 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 which prevents certain groups of migrants from accessing “leaving care” and other types of support.  Some young people whose has exhausted all appeal processes and in the care of Kent County Council may fall under paragraph 7 of this Schedule which outlines the category of people “unlawfully in the UK”.

Failed Asylum Seekers – 18+ requiring local authority support

The law states that young people who are considered to be ‘failed asylum seekers’ or have exhausted their appeal rights to remain in the UK (ARE) may continue to receive leaving care support from social services for an extended period of three months as directed by the UKVI (Home office funding: Leaving care, post 18 years age).

The local authority may be able to provide accommodation, subsistence and/or other support to the care leaver after a Human Rights Assessment has been carried out and one of the following conditions is met (Schedule 3 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 as amended by the Immigration Act 2016).

  1. The adult care leaver would otherwise be destitute and has a specified immigration (non-asylum) application outstanding with the Home Office, e.g. an application for leave to remain on the basis of the ECHR Article 8 right to respect for family life. Where the person has not claimed asylum and is making their first application to the Home Office to regularise their immigration status (e.g. having been taken into local authority care as a victim of trafficking), they will remain supported by the local authority under the Children Act 1989, pending the outcome of that application and any appeal (If the person has an outstanding asylum claim, they will instead be supported by the Home Office under Section 95 of the 1999 Act).
  2. The adult care leaver would otherwise be destitute and could bring, or has outstanding, an immigration (non-asylum) appeal that is not one which must be continued from outside the UK. (If the person has an outstanding asylum appeal, they will instead be supported by the Home Office under section 95 of the 1999 Act);
  3. The adult care leaver who has exhausted their appeal rights, but the local authority is satisfied that support needs to be provided to prevent destitution and meet any other social care needs pending the person’s departure from the UK. Where this is the case, a full assessment of need is to be done and a close liaison with the Central Immigration Authority or the home office with regards to the time frame of the persons removal or departure from the UK.

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