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2.7 Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC)


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Definitions           
  3. Purpose                    
  4. Principles             
  5. The Status of Children who Arrive from Abroad and Legal Duties towards them
  6. Identification and Initial Action 
  7. Establishing the Child’s Identity and Age      
  8. Parental Responsibility                    
  9. How to seek Information from Abroad                 
  10. Child and Family Single Assessment, Planning and Review   
  11. Children in Need of Protection 
  12. Trafficking of Children            
  13. Pathway Plan                                  
  14. Health Needs                        
  15. Education and Training              
  16. Missing Unaccompanied Children           
  17. Social Worker's Role       
  18. Transition at 18

    Appendix 1: Abbreviations

    Appendix 2: Legislation 

    Appendix 3: The Importance of Remembering to Use / Offer an Interpreter

    Appendix 4: Practice Guidelines; Merton Compliant Age Assessment and Form

    Appendix 5: The Asylum Process

    Appendix 6: British Red Cross International Tracing and Message Service Guidelines for Restoring Family Links for Unaccompanied and Separated Children

    Appendix 7: Role of Social Worker & Legal Representation

    Appendix 8: Sources of Information


1. Introduction

Unaccompanied asylum seeking children (UASC) are likely to be amongst the most traumatised and vulnerable children known to Children’s Social Care. Some may have witnessed the death of family members and be entirely alone. Others may come from countries where the rule of law has broken down and where survival depends on trusting only immediate family. Most will have had long and tortuous journeys to this country suffering significant hardship on route. Such experiences mean that they will need time, space and help to begin to rebuild their lives.


2. Definitions

(See Appendix 1: Abbreviations).

Refugee

The United Nations Geneva Convention of 1951 defines a refugee as:

“any person who owing to a well founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable, or owing to such fear is unwilling to avail himself to the protection of that country; or who not having a nationality and being outside the country of his habitual residence, is unable or owing to such fear unwilling to return to it ".

Asylum Seeker

The term Asylum Seeker is used to describe a person who claims that they would be subject to persecution or serious harm if they were returned to their country of origin and they have lodged a claim for asylum with the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) as a refugee and are awaiting a decision. This clearly differs from the definition of an economic migrant as someone who has left their homeland to find work.

Unaccompanied Children

The UN High Commissioner for Children defines unaccompanied children as:

‘Those who are separated from both parents and are not being cared for by an adult who, by law or custom, has the responsibility to do so.’ UNHCR (1994) Refugee Children: Guidelines of protection and care".

Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Child (UASC)

The UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) defines an UASC as a person who, at the time of making the asylum application:

  • Is, or (if there is no documentary evidence) appears to be, under 18;
  • Is applying for asylum in his or her own right;
  • Is fleeing persecution from their own country, and
  • Has no adult relative or guardian to turn to in this country.

Common Reasons Children Seek Asylum

  • Forced recruitment into military service;
  • The death of parents or parents’ inability to care for their children (as a result of conflict in the region);
  • Forced re-education;
  • Prohibition from participating, or being forced to participate, in religious activities;
  • Being forced to give information about the activities of a group or members of their family;
  • Pressures to denounce family members;
  • Involvement/non-involvement in political groups.


3. Purpose

The purpose of this document is to provide information, advice and guidance to social workers and other professionals working with newly arrived unaccompanied asylum seeking children and young people.

It sets out best practice for staff assisting UASC to obtain services and contains guidance for working with children who become looked after by Calderdale City Council and who remain our responsibility as they make the transition into adulthood.


4. Principles

Schedule 1 of The Human Rights Act, 1998 identifies the following rights:

  • The right to life (Article 3);
  • The right not to be subject to torture, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment (Article 3);
  • The right to liberty and security (Article 5);
  • The right to respect for private and family life (Article 8);
  • The right of freedom of expression (Article 10);
  • The right to freedom of assembly and association (Article 11);
  • The right not to be discriminated against (Article 14).

Article 2 and 3 of are absolute rights and Articles 5, 8, 10, 11 and 14 are qualified rights.

Calderdale Metropolitan Council recognises that unaccompanied asylum seeking children, regardless of their immigration status, are first and foremost children. They have the same needs as children everywhere and are entitled to assessment as a child in need of care and protection under the Children Act, 1989 and, if they become Looked After, to the services provided to all Children Looked After.

Assessing the needs of UASC is only possible if their legal status, background experiences and culture are understood, including the culture shock of arrival in this country. Any assessments should be conducted in the child’s first language, with an interpreter present.

Staff should be prepared to actively seek out information from other sources (see Appendix 9: Sources of Information).


5. The Status of Children who Arrive from Abroad and Legal Duties towards them

Calderdale Children’s Social Care holds responsibility for an UASC if:

  • They enter the country via air or sea port and the place that they first set down is within the boundaries of Calderdale Council. (Most arrive by lorry and are dropped off at services or an industrial estate);
  • They present first in Calderdale as an ‘in country applicant’, Enquiries should be made with both the Police and UKVI to establish whether or not the UASC is known to or has presented to another LA or is a third-country applicant;
  • Young people with extended family and friends in this country may not be regarded as unaccompanied; however the LA may have duties arising pursuant to the Children (Private Arrangements for Fostering) Regulations 2005;
  • They are resident in another part of the country and Calderdale Council retains its responsibility to support.

Children who arrive in the UK with their parents who are European Economic nationals (EEA) migrating into the UK cannot be supported by Children’s Services except for the provision of return travel (and associated accommodation). If such families decide to stay and seek further help, Children’s Services will still have a responsibility towards any child in need, including the possibility of providing accommodation for the child alone under section 20 of Children Act 1989. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) practice is to declare such families ordinarily resident after 3 months and to pay benefits. The fact that a child is ”subject to immigration control”, is not a relevant consideration in respect of the duties of a local authority towards the child.

The Hillingdon Judgement and Local Authority Circular 13 (2003)

The Hillingdon judgement established that Section 17 of the Children Act should not routinely be used to meet the accommodation and support needs of unaccompanied asylum seeking children, in particular the 16+ age group.

Pursuant to the Hillingdon Judgement and LAC 13 (2003) the following principles will apply:

  • All UASC should, on presentation to the responsible LA, be supported under S20 of the Children Act 1989, until assessment of needs has been completed. There is a presumption that all UASC will fall within the scope of S.20 and become looked after, unless the needs assessment reveals factors which would suggest that an alternative response would be more appropriate;
  • Based on assessed need, UASC, including 16 and 17 year olds who require accommodation, should be provided with support under S20 Children Act;
  • The majority of UASC will be entitled to leaving care services if they have been accommodated from the age of 14 for at least 13 weeks before their 18th birthday;
  • S17 can be used to support UASC in exceptional circumstances, where an assessment of needs identifies that to become looked after would not be in the young person’s best interests - for example, if the young person strongly expresses aversion to becoming looked after - this will require approval from a Service Manager.

The guidance to the amendment confirms that before deciding which section of the Children Act1989 provides the appropriate legal basis for provision of help or support to a child in need, a Local Authority should undertake an assessment in accordance with statutory guidance, which should also take into account the wishes and feelings of the child as the basis for any decision about whether he/she should be provided with accommodation under section 20 or 17. However, any expressed wish by a child is to be assisted in the light of that child’s age and understanding in order to comply with Section 20(6) (b) and the Local Authority has judged them to be competent to make that wish.

In addition, any expressed wish by a child to be assisted under Section 17 must be contingent on their being informed of the distinction between being assisted under Section 17 or accommodated under Section 20, and the consequences of such a choice for their entitlement to support after reaching the age of 18 years. If the unaccompanied child is not informed of the full implications of expressing such a wish, informed consent to being “de-accommodated”, cannot be said to have been lawfully given and will be open to challenge by means of judicial review.

This informed consent is a necessary pre-requisite to any assessment of whether the unaccompanied child is competent to look after him or herself. Additional competency in an unaccompanied child’s ability to cook, clean, travel on public transport or speak English is not sufficient on its own. Their competency must also be considered in the context of the fact that his/her entitlement to be accommodated under Section 20(1)(a) will not come to an end until they reach the age of 18 years or a person with parental responsibility for them enters the UK.

Twin Track Planning

The UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) definition of an UASC necessitates ‘twin track planning’ between the department and the UKVI when working with UASC. This means Calderdale Council, who are responsible for child care processes, have to work in parallel with the UKVI, who are responsible for asylum processes and share information between them.

Special Grant Application for UASC

The Home Office administers a grant for unaccompanied asylum seeking children and Children’s Social Care are able to claim each year for an element of the cost of services provided to each child. The grant is payable for services provided under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989, or for those looked after under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989.

In order to claim the grant, Finance require details held on Home Office documentation, especially the HO reference number, and those obtained during the individual’s claim for asylum. Any revisions to the claim information must be processed through the UKVI, and finance must be notified. Changes to the date of birth can cause particular problems.

Impact on Funding of Delays in Making a Claim for Asylum

A young person must claim asylum within two weeks of becoming Looked After by Calderdale Council. Any delay in claiming asylum has implications in terms of Home Office (HO) funding to the Local Authority for the young person.

Fair Access to Services

The social worker will, at the outset, need to be clear about his/her role and that of the department and establish with the young person that she/he is not an immigration official.

It will be desirable to have information available translated into the young person’s first language. The social worker should prior to any interview, determine what translated material is immediately available. Assessments, planning meetings, reviews and Children Looked After visits should always take place with an interpreter, except in circumstances where it is clear that the young person has a sophisticated use of and understanding of English or where the social worker is fluent in the young person’s first language. It is not appropriate to use a friend or carer as an interpreter. Social workers should seek to establish the first language and dialect if applicable, of a young person rather than making an assumption based on the country of origin and should also seek to establish whether there may be issues arising from the ethnic/religious/cultural/political group to which the interpreter belongs. The interpreter should be briefed prior to the interview as to its content and purpose and intended outcomes e.g. to determine a suitable placement. (See Appendix 3: The Importance of Remembering to Use / Offer an Interpreter).


6. Identification and Initial Action

Whenever any professional becomes aware of a child who they believe has recently moved into this country, the following basic information should be sought:

  • Confirmation of the child's identity and immigration status;
  • Confirmation of carers identity and immigration status;
  • Confirmation of the child's health and education arrangements in this country;
  • Confirmation of the carer's relationship with the child and their immigration status.

The immigration status of a child and his/her family has implications for the statutory responsibilities towards the family. It governs what help, if any, can be provided to the family and how help can be offered to the child.

A child/young person may present to Children’s Social Care. They cannot make an asylum application to Children’s Social Care but must be assisted to approach UKIV or police to do this.

Where a UASC is identified and deemed to be under 18 years of age, they will be initially screened by the Children’s Assessment Team and Pathway Team to determine which service area will be responsible for the young person. Age assessment will only occur where there is a significant dispute and evidence regarding the stated age of the young person.

Delays in Making a Claim for Asylum

Making an initial asylum claim may be legitimately delayed for:

  • Health reasons (the HO will not meet a young person who has scabies);
  • Delays with age assessment;
  • Home Office delays.

Local Authority staff shortages or illness are not considered a valid reason for the claim to be delayed.

Therefore, if a young person is not able to claim asylum within the first two weeks of being looked after by Calderdale Council the allocated worker must:

  • Notify line manager of the delay and reasons;
  • Write to the Home Office, enclosing a copy of the age assessment, and inform them: that the young person is in their care; the date of arrival; the reasons for the delayed claim; and the intended date of claim;
  • Request written HO agreement that they will pay the young person’s support costs from date of arrival;
  • Log any cancelled HO visits or reasons for delay in case notes/Chronology.

Initial Age Assessment and Emergency Placement

If a young person claiming to be under 18 presents out of hours, the Emergency Duty Team will attend to arrange suitable accommodation, food and follow up visits, however they will not undertake the initial age screening.

CAT / Pathway will be requested to provide a joint social work presence to attend the first interview. This should take place on the same day, or first working day after the young person either presents, or is detained. CAT / Pathway will:

  • Undertake an Initial Age screening at the police station;
  • Subject to the outcome of the initial age screening, start the Child and Family Single Assessment / Initial pathway Plan to assess the immediate need;
  • Arrange a suitable placement when necessary;
  • Undertake a risk assessment where there is a dispute/uncertainty about the young person’s age, to minimise the potential dangers to vulnerable others already in placement, and the welfare and emotional wellbeing of the young person to be placed.

If assessed as over 18, the new arrival will remain at the police station to continue their asylum claim as an adult. The Social Worker will provide a standard letter (Appendix 5: Practice Guidelines; Merton Compliant Age Assessment and Form) to the person and to UKVI stating that they have seen the person and assessed them as 18+ and therefore no duty is owed to them under children’s legislation.

If assessed as under 18, arrangements will be made for the young person to leave custody and be taken to suitable accommodation. A B&B placement is not deemed suitable accommodation for an UASC and should only be used as a short term measure in an emergency when there is no other option immediately available. If assessed as under 16, the young person will be placed in foster care.

Placement

If a placement has been made in an emergency, on the next working day consideration should be given to finding a more suitable placement where necessary. The Department will strive to match the assessed or perceived needs of the young person in one of the following ways:

  • Reunification with family or friends living in the UK providing the appropriate safeguarding checks regarding risk and suitability of the placement are carried out. This action should be recorded;
  • Accommodation under S20 in a suitable placement in accordance with their age and assessed needs;
  • In very exceptional circumstances, children over the age of 16 may be supported under S17, for example if they are assessed as Fraser competent and decline Section 20 services. This decision must be endorsed by the Service Manager. (NB If they are granted refugee status or have Discretionary Leave, or have an in-time application for further leave, they are entitled to benefits).


7. Establishing the Child’s Identity and Age 

Introduction

Age is central to the assessment and affects the child's rights to all services and the response by agencies. In addition it is important to establish the child’s age so that services are age appropriate (and developmentally appropriate).

Citizens of EU countries will have passport or ID card (usually both). Unaccompanied children very rarely have possession of all documents to confirm their identity or even to substantiate that they are a child. The child’s physical appearance may not necessarily reflect their age.

The assessment of age is a complex task and relies on professional judgement and discretion. Such assessment may be compounded by issues of disability and that many societies do not place a high level of importance upon age and birth records. Recording conventions and calendars are different in other countries and may not be easily reconciled with UK systems.

There are adults who may wish to avail themselves of asylum processes and support arrangements made for children, as these are perceived to be more favourable. It is not the responsibility of Children’s Services to provide services to these individuals.

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. Therefore an age assessment should be part of the overall assessment of children in need rather than as a discreet process.

When an age assessment has been carried out by another local authority, CAT Team Manager and Pathway Team Manager will review the initial referral so as to:

  • Prevent UASC being admitted into our Care who have been previously assessed by another LA, unless the evidence they now present was not originally available to the original LA;
  • Offer consistency in the need for and carrying out Age Assessments given the increasing number of UASC nationally, who are requesting Judicial Reviews of their assessments.

Any young person who is age assessed as over 18 years will be referred to National Asylum Support Service (NASS) who deal with adults.

UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) Policy

Where an applicant claims to be under 18, but a substantive age assessment suggests that they are over 18, the applicant should be referred to the UKVI in order to secure support under the National Asylum Support Service. The applicant, who has been assessed as an adult, will not come within the definition of a UASC and therefore will not be the responsibility of the LA. The decision can be challenged by the person claiming to be a minor. For purposes of financial procedures and care planning the birth date of the young person will be that recorded on Home Office records.

Assessment Process

Where there is significant doubt and evidence to suggest a young person is misrepresenting their age, a substantive age assessment should be initiated as soon as possible by the allocated worker. It must be available to the first Child Looked After Review as a written report. Independent medical experts can contribute to the assessment if there is a doubt about age, however recent case law has suggested that a careful assessment by social workers is as effective in determining a young person’s age particularly in distinguishing between 15 and 19. The young person will be informed prior to the age assessment process that the information obtained during the process and the outcome of the process will be shared with the UKVI.

(Guidance for undertaking an assessment and a proforma for recording it are found in Appendix 5: Practice Guidelines; Merton Compliant Age Assessment and Form).

Recording the Age assessment

The substantive age assessment should be recorded on the appropriate proforma in clear, concise wording which sets out the evidence upon which the local authority seeks to rely. This must be signed and uploaded onto CASS / Documents. Any piece of evidence which is presented by the young person must be considered and reasons for accepting or dismissing it must also be clearly recorded. The assessor must give the young person the opportunity to respond to any conclusions they make about the evidence offered by the young person, and the detail of this must be recorded. A summary of the age assessment must be forwarded to the UKVI within 7 working days of its completion and if requested, (usually in disputed cases) the complete form must be disclosed.

Sharing the Age Assessment with the Young Person/Adult.

Once the assessment has been completed, a meeting must be convened to share the findings with the young person. If the young person is legally represented, their representative should be informed of the meeting in advance and invited to attend. (NB. a solicitor may decline to attend the meeting as it may not be covered under legal aid). The meeting will decide whether the individual is eligible for a service, the level of service necessary to meet the assessed need and whether or not other agencies need to know the outcome of the assessment. Any revisions to the date of birth must be processed through UKVI. Health and Education services and any other agency involved in the care plan must be informed of a change in assessed age.

It will be made clear to the young person that if they are being assessed as over 18 they will be reported to UKVI.

The young person must demonstrate a clear understanding of the process and if there is any doubt because of language or other difficulties these must be addressed. If appropriate they may be referred to the Children’s Right’s Service for an advocate.

A letter setting out the final decision and including the evidence which forms the basis of the decision, must be provided to the young person. This will allow the young person the opportunity to challenge any issue which they may feel has been wrongly recorded. This letter should also set out the mechanism of appeal for young person within the Local Authority if the young person wishes to contest any of the issues raised within the assessment or decision letter. If the young person is unhappy with the process followed, this should be addressed through the complaints procedures. Complaints leaflets should be given to young person, where possible in their own language. Their rights, and the appeals and complaints processes must be clearly explained to them, with an interpreter present if they do not have a very good understanding of English. Once the substantive age assessment has been completed and shared with the young person at this meeting the age assessment process will be deemed complete and will not be revisited unless there is a significant event or there is a presentation of substantive fresh evidence, such as a birth certificate which challenges the outcome.

Risk Assessment with reference to disputed age

There should be a reassessment of risk if the outcome of the substantive age assessment is different from that of the initial age screening.

De-Accommodation following the Substantive Age Assessment.

This must be confirmed by the Head of Service. The normal process for de-accommodating a Child Looked After will take place with a placement change form completed for admin and all agencies informed. In addition the young person’s legal representative must be informed and the Home Office. UKVI will arrange to collect the young person.

Conflicting Local Authority Assessments

Local Authority responsibility is tied to geographical boundaries and it is therefore possible that an asylum seeker moving across these boundaries may seek age assessment from more than one Local Authority. In some cases the assessments may differ. To avoid unnecessary repetition of the assessment process the following guidance should be applied:

  • A LA approached for an age assessment should check whether any previous assessment has been carried out by another LA. The host LA should request a copy of the age assessment from the original LA and base further action on the content;
  • If no new evidence is being brought forward that was not considered at the original assessment, the issue should be treated as a complaint about the original assessment and referred to the LA responsible for it;
  • If new evidence has been brought forward, the host LA should continue to reassess the age of the applicant taking full account of all sources of information.

In the event UKVI is aware of conflicting assessment of age from different LA’s, it will continue to follow the first decision notified to it unless and until new evidence is submitted as part of a properly conducted new assessment.

Additional Guidance on LA Referral Processes

Where an asylum seeker gives an established address in an LA area, UKVI will refer to the LA responsible for the relevant area. However, if there is thought to be an immediate risk to a child, either at the address or from an adult who is in charge of a child, UKVI will seek the assistance from the LA covering the area where the child is.

Where an asylum seeker has no address and appears under 16 or otherwise in urgent need, UKVI will refer to the nearest LA.

If an asylum seeker has no established address but attends with a legal representative then UKVI will refer to the LA covering the legal representative’s premises.


8. Parental Responsibility 

The Children Act 1989 embraces the concept of "Parental Responsibility" and the legal framework provides the starting point for considering who has established responsibility and duties towards a child.

In some cultures however child rearing is a shared responsibility between relatives and members of the community. Adults may bring children to this country whom they have cared for most of their lives, but who may be unrelated or "distantly" related.

An adult whose own immigration status is unresolved cannot apply for a Child Arrangements Order to secure a child for whom he/she is caring.

Children whose parents' whereabouts are not known have no access to their parents for consent when making important choices about their life. Whilst their parents still have parental responsibility they have no way of exercising it.

Children who do not have someone with parental responsibility caring for them can still attend school, and schools are strongly encouraged to be pragmatic in allowing the carer to make most decisions normally made by the parent.

Such children are entitled to health care and have a right to be registered with a GP. If there are difficulties in accessing a GP, the CCG should be contacted to assist.

Emergency life-saving treatment should be given if required. However, should the child need medical treatment such as surgery or invasive treatment in a non life-threatening situation, the need for consent would become an issue and legal advice would be required.

Children’s Services have statutory duties where the child is Privately Fostered. (See Private Fostering Procedure).

Some carers/parents are eligible to claim benefits for their child but this is dependent upon immigration status.


9. How to seek Information from Abroad

Seeking information from abroad should be a part of assessing the situation of an unaccompanied child where it is safe to do so. Professionals from all key agencies - e.g. Health, Education, Children, Families and Social Care and the Police - should all be prepared to request information from their equivalent agencies in the country(ies) in which a child has lived, in order to gain as full as possible a picture of the child's preceding circumstances. (Please see Appendix 9: Sources of Information for details of agencies that can assist).

However, all professionals should be cautious before requesting information from abroad and consider if this could be harmful to the young person or their family members living abroad.

It is worth noting that agencies abroad tend to respond quicker to e-mail requests/ faxed requests than by letter. Similarly, the Internet provides a quick source of information to locate appropriate services abroad.


10. Child and Family Single Assessment, Planning and Review

A Child and Family Single Assessment will be completed by the social worker from the CAT team within 35 days of referral; or if the young person is 15 ½ or over, an Initial Pathway Plan will be completed by the Pathway Team. The Child and Family Single Assessment / Pathway Plan will inform appropriate care planning and be reviewed every six months. 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 young person 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. The Refugee Council Children’s Section may provide valuable help or assistance. (See Appendix 9: Sources of Information for a list of useful contacts).

Consent to gather or share information with another agency must be obtained at this stage.

Any unaccompanied child or child accompanied by someone who does not have parental responsibility should receive an assessment in order to determine whether they are a child in need of services, including the need for protection.

Such children should be assessed as a matter of urgency as they may be very geographically mobile and their vulnerabilities may be greater. All agencies should enable the child to be quickly linked into universal services. It is important that wherever possible a child friendly environment should be used when assessing a child.

The assessment of children from abroad can be challenging. The Assessment Framework Triangle should be used, provided that it is recognised that the assessment has to address not only the barriers which arise from cultural, linguistic and religious differences, but also the particular sensitivities which come from the experiences of many such children and families.

When undertaking a Child and Family Single Assessment or Pathway Assessment, it should be remembered that the story told by the young person may contain elements from their own recollection, what the agent who brought them into the country may have told them to say, what other asylum seekers have told them and what they consider may evince sympathy on the part of the assessor. The initial assessor should keep an open mind on the initial accounts given.

The needs of the child have to be considered based on an account given by the child or family about a situation which professionals have neither witnessed nor experienced. In addition it is often presented in a language, and about a culture and way of life with which the professional is totally unfamiliar or has only basic knowledge about. Advice from appropriate community resources and other specialised agencies should be sought in these cases.

It is vital that the services of an independent interpreter are employed in the child’s first language and that care is taken to ensure that the interpreter knows the correct dialect. Consideration should also be given to the gender of the interpreter. If that interpreter shares more than a common language, and are professionally trained, they can sometimes be a rich source of information about traditions, politics and history of the area from which the child has arrived. They may be in a position able to offer advice on issues like the interpretation of body language and emotional expression.

First Contact 

The first contact with the child and carers is crucial to the engagement with the family and the promotion of trust, which underpins the provision of support, advice and services in the future. Particular sensitivities which may be present include:

  • Concerns around immigration status
    • Fear of repatriation;
    • Anxiety raised by yet another professional asking similar questions to ones previously asked;
    • Lack of understanding of the separate role of different services or immigration;
    • Lack of understanding of why an assessment needs to be carried out;
    • Previous experience of being asked questions under threat (possibly by professional such as teachers/doctors) or torture, or seeing that happen to someone else;
  • Past trauma
    • Past regime/life experiences can impact upon the child’s mental and physical health. This experience can make concerns from the Authorities about minor injury or poor living conditions seem trivial and this mismatch may add to the fear and uncertainty;
    • The journey itself as well as the previous living situation may be a source of trauma;
  • The shock of arrival
    • The alien culture, system and language can cause shock and uncertainty, and can affect the mood, behaviour and presentation;
    • In such circumstances reluctance to divulge information, fear, confusion or memory loss can easily be mistaken for lack of co-operation, deliberate withholding of information or untruthfulness;
    • The first task of the initial contact is therefore engagement. Open questions are most helpful, with a clear emphasis on reassurance and simple explanations of the role and reasons for assessment. If the “engagement” with the family is good there are more likely to be opportunities to expand on the initial contact, as trust is established;
    • Within the first contact with the child and carer(s) it is however also vital not to presume that the child’s views are the same as their carer, or that the views and needs of each child are the same. Seeing each child alone is crucial, particularly to check out the stated relationships with the person accompanying them (someone allegedly from the same place of origin should have a similar knowledge of the place, for example). Clearly the professional is going to be seen as in “power” and as such a child may believe that they must “get it right” and may tell you what you think you want to hear;
    • If the engagement is good then there will be opportunities to expand on the initial contact. The ethnicity, culture, customs and identity of this child must be a focus whilst keeping this child central to the assessment. The pace of the interviewing of a child should aim to be at the pace appropriate to the child, although the need to ensure that the child is safe may become paramount in some circumstances. (Some core questions to be addressed are included in Appendix 3: The Importance of Remembering to Use / Offer an Interpreter);
  • Child’s developmental needs

    Health
    • Health, behaviour and social presentation can be affected by trauma and loss. Famine and poverty can have an impact upon physical and psychological development;
    • Potential Exposure to abuse. Children who have been trafficked will have been exposed to emotional abuse and frequently sexual and physical abuse. Trafficked children frequently suffer beatings, rape, physical deprivations and encouraged to develop drug/alcohol dependency;
    • Wider health needs may need to be considered, including HIV, Hepatitis B and C and TB and early pregnancy;
    • It should be noted that medical and educational history of the child may be available from their country of origin;
    • Self-care skills. Do not judge competence by comparing with a child of the same age in this country. This child may have had to be very competent in looking after themselves on the journey but unable to do other basic tasks. In some countries some children will have been working or have been involved in armed conflict. Loss of a parent can enhance or deprive a child of certain skills. Having had to overcome extreme adversity can result in a child who is either deeply troubled or both resourceful and resilient;
    • Identity. Who is this child? What is their sense of themselves, their family, community, tribe clan, race, and history?
    • Physical appearance. Life experience and trauma can affect this. Lack of nourishment may make the child present as younger or older;
    • Perceptions of what constitutes disability are relative and attitudes towards disabled children may be very different;
    • The impact of racism on the child’s self image and the particular issues currently faced by asylum seeking children and their families in the UK;
  • Education
    • May not speak any English but one or more other languages, and may or may not be literate in their home language. Vocabulary in another language may be very limited;
    • May not have received any or have limited formal education due to war prohibitions in home countries because of ethnicity or gender, or as a result of massive changes and movement between countries';
    • Being confused and unsettled having been through a few and very different educational systems and establishments in different countries;
    • Confused identities and sense of belonging because of diverse cultural and educational differences, and unable to cope with changes and the experiences they have been through;
    • Unable to catch up with their peers because of the enormous gaps due to personal situation and educational backgrounds resulting in lack of confidence and sense of insecurity, e.g. Learning difficulties, disabilities, depression;
    • Having been through abusive educational system in the past, which makes the child and young person in need of time and help to trust, to be regular at school and to enjoy learning;
    • Emotional and psychological stresses, past and present that causes memory impairment;
    • Change of status and previous economic stability in the past can be particularly frustrating and difficult for children to accept;
  • Parenting Capacity
    • War, famine and persecution can make a family mobile. The family may have moved frequently in order to keep safe. The stability of the family unit might be more important to the child than stability of place. Judgements that mobility may equate with inability to provide secure parenting may be entirely wrong. In some countries regular migration to deal with exhaustion of the land is part of the culture;
    • The fact that a child seems to have been given up by a parent may not imply rejection within their culture, as the motive may have been to keep the child safe or seek better life chances for him/her;
    • Talking about parents/ family can be stressful and painful - as can not being given the chance to do so regularly;
    • Importance of the extended family/community/clan rather than a Eurocentric view of family;
    • Not to presume that they cannot contact their parent who is living abroad unless you have established that this is the case;
    • Lack of toys for a child may indicate poverty or different cultural norms rather than poor parenting capacity to provide stimulation;
    • The additional issues of parenting a child conceived through rape - either dealing with the negative response of the partner or with the stress of keeping it secret from him;
    • Parents who are depressed, who suffer from mental ill health and who are not coping with their circumstances may not be able to support their children adequately to make the necessary transitions;
    • Carers pretending to be parents and inadequate in their roles;
    • Harsh disciplines and extremely strict cultural practices which causes conflict between children and carers (and school);
  • Family and environment

    The importance of economic and social hardship is apparent. In addition there may be issues such as:
    • Family history and functioning may include the loss of previous high status as well as periods of destitution;
    • Different concepts of who are/have been important family members and what responsibility is normally assumed by the whole community, e.g. who a child should reasonably be left with;
    • Isolation, the lack of friends and supportive networks;
    • Family being unable to integrate into the community;
    • Appendix 3: The Importance of Remembering to Use / Offer an Interpreter contains some questions, which it may be helpful to cover within the Child and Family Single Assessment of the situation of a child in these circumstances.


11. Children in Need of Protection 

Where assessment indicates that a child may be in need of protection, the West Yorkshire Consortium Safeguarding and Child Protection Procedures will apply. Additional factors need to be taken into account. These include:

  • Children and families perceptions of authority, the role of the Police/immigration in particular and the level of fear this may generate;
  • The additional implications of deciding to prosecute a family where deportation is a real possibility;
  • A child’s previous experience of separation and loss;
  • Judgements about child care practices in the context of such different cultural backgrounds and experiences.


12. Trafficking of Children

Trafficking is defined as:

“The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of children by means of threat, force or coercion for the purpose of sexual or commercial exploitation or domestic servitude.” (United Nations 2000)

It is a global problem, which is more than a law and order concern; it is a violation of human rights, affecting all communities. Child protection procedures will always apply where there is suspicion that a child may have been trafficked. A trafficked child or young person is a victim of a serious crime, who may have suffered a wide range of physical, emotional, sexual or religious abuse.

A number of factors identified by the Single / Pathway Assessment may indicate that a child has been trafficked:

  • The child may present as unaccompanied or semi accompanied;
  • The child may go missing or missing for periods of time;
  • Does not appear to have money but does have a mobile phone;
  • The multi use of the same address may indicate that it is an “unsafe house” or that the house is being used as a sorting house;
  • Contracts, consent and financial inducements with parents may become apparent;
  • The child may hint at threats to family in their home country for non co-operation or disclosure;
  • There may be talk of financial bonds and the withholding of documents.

See also West Yorkshire Consortium Safeguarding Procedures.

As soon as suspicions are raised that a child has been trafficked, immediate action to safeguard the child is required. This includes:

  • Urgent liaison between Children’s Social Care and the Police via S47 Strategy Meeting (in order to ensure that both the safety of this individual child and the investigation of organised criminal activity are addressed);
  • If it is identified that a child may be being trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation the Child Sexual Exploitation procedures should also be followed (see West Yorkshire Consortium Safeguarding Procedures).

Children are also trafficked for the purpose of domestic labour. These children may be less obvious, and their use to the family may be more likely to be picked up during a Private Fostering assessment, or because someone notices that they are living at a house, but not in school etc. Children who enter the country apparently as part of re-unification arrangements can be particularly vulnerable to domestic exploitation.


13. Pathway Plan

Where the young person is over 15 ½ years a Pathway Plan replaces the Care Plan, and is also the Permanence Plan and Child and Family Single Assessment. The Pathway Plan focuses on preparing the young person for independent living at 18 years. It will be completed by the 16th birthday or within three months of becoming Looked After and is renewed every six months.


14. Health Needs

As with any Child Looked After, the health assessment should be completed by the 1st Child Looked After Review, bearing in mind the following provisos:

  • The unavailability of reliable information may limit the comprehensive completion of the health assessment, but every effort should be made to complete records as fully as possible, paying particular attention to past illnesses, injuries, allergies and family health history. Particular attention should also be paid to the young person’s experiences in the home country, illnesses prevalent there and immunisations;
  • Calderdale Council does not hold parental responsibility for any young person without a Care Order, and does not therefore hold authority to authorise prophylactic treatment or other invasive medical procedures;
  • Where a child is over 16 years the law states that they are competent to consent to medical treatment;
  • The individual themselves may consent to medical treatment and the decision to proceed with treatment will be made by health professionals in consultation with the child or young person;
  • Where a child is under 16 years the health professional will consider the child’s competency to give informed consent under Fraser Guidelines;
  • Health professionals may determine that a child under 16 years is not competent to give consent;
  • If treatment is required and no consent from the child or young person can be obtained either because consent is withheld, the child is not deemed to be competent to give consent or cannot be obtained because of medical emergency, again the decision to treat or otherwise will be made by health professionals who will again consider the competency and how necessary the treatment is in accordance with the law and health policy.

UASC are entitled to register with a GP and receive Health Services. Registration with a GP should be arranged at the earliest opportunity, and an interpreter arranged when relevant. The young person’s eligibility to register with a GP should be clarified in advance with the surgery in order to avoid potentially difficult and intrusive discussion, and issues of confidentiality clarified with the young person.

The use of counselling, CTS and CAMHS may need to be considered in circumstances where experiences in the home country, in transit and in the UK have led to emotional and mental health difficulties. Experience has tended to show that asylum seekers can demonstrate resilience and capacity to cope that often belies their experiences and can mask underlying difficulties that may emerge at a later time. Apparent confidence and maturity can cover fear and inability to cope well. Emotional strain and depression is sometimes manifested in extreme exhaustion and can be misinterpreted as laziness.

Social workers should endeavour to familiarise themselves with cultural norms, which might influence behaviour, emotional displays and reactions to loss and grief in order to avoid any potential for misinterpretation.

Particular attention should be paid to ensuring the young person receives advice on sexual health and relationships and to ensuring that this is undertaken in a culturally sensitive manner.


15. Education and Training

Local Authorities have a legal duty to ensure education is available for all children of compulsory school age in the area, appropriate to their age, abilities and aptitudes and any special educational needs they may have. This duty applies irrespective of a child’s immigration status or rights of residence in a particular location; therefore this includes children from asylum seeking and refugee backgrounds.

Schools receive funding for asylum seeking children and refugees in the same way as they do for all other children on the school roll.

The Personal Education Plan (PEP) should be completed by the first Child Looked After - Review. At the review the young person should be made aware of the educational opportunities and requirements in the UK as the structure may differ significantly from that of their home country, for example the legal requirement for full time education until the age of 18.

The PEP should:

  • Be made with the assumption that the young person will gain refugee status;
  • Assess the young person’s previous educational experience and abilities;
  • Consider the need for a sufficient level of English for Speakers of Other Language (ESOL) provision, and further language support in core subjects;
  • Consider whether the young person is likely to integrate better into school or college provision;
  • Outline a suitable induction into the school or college to prepare the young person for the routine of the school day and the content of the curriculum address the possibility of encountering racism and bullying identify and explain support networks within the school/college, prepare the class for the arrival of the young person make teachers aware of the young person’s circumstances and needs make contact with the SEND coordinator;
  • Encourage the young person, with the support of the school/college, to continue to use their mother tongue in the learning environment where possible, for example in note taking, if literate, and in completion and discussion of tasks, to assist them to maintain their own language and identity while learning written and spoken English;
  • Identify an appropriate school or college placement as soon as possible.


16. Missing Unaccompanied Children    

UASC are vulnerable to ‘people traffickers’. They are often targeted, recruited or coerced into sex work or can become victims of human slavery. When a missing young person is located, they should be viewed as at risk, and continuing efforts should be made to protect them and their family, who may still be in the country of origin. This requires a specific S47 investigation, a strategy meeting with the Police and agreement about how to proceed.

When any young person goes missing, the Police must be contacted and all available information given that may lead to the child or young person being recovered.

UKVI must also be informed as they hold a current photograph and finger print record.

UASC have the same rights as other Children Looked After who are missing. The case must not be closed until the missing young person’s whereabouts is known, they have been recovered, or they reach the age of 21, whichever is sooner.

When a missing young person is located, they remain the responsibility of the local authority that first provided them with services. Action must be taken to recover them to an environment that meets their needs for support and protection. The UKVI must be informed without delay.


17. Social Worker's Role

Although the UKVI is responsible for the Asylum Process it is important that Social Workers have a clear understanding as they will need to support the young person through the legal processes of seeking asylum. Social workers should contact a solicitor within 5 working days of the young person’s arrival to request an appointment for the completion of the Statement of Evidence Form (SEF) and ensure that solicitor receives a copy of the young person’s age assessment, a letter of support, a copy of their screening interview, blank SEF and any other relevant documentation in time for the appointment.

The Social Worker should check or, where appropriate, encourage unaccompanied asylum seeking children to check, that the legal advisor has requisite skills and is accredited by the Law Society as an approved immigration specialist.

It is the Social Worker's responsibility to maintain regular liaison with the young person’s legal representative throughout the process of the asylum application and ensure that the legal representative has made appropriate arrangements where an interpreter is required.

Social workers should ensure that young people understand the legal advice given to them and are aware of their rights, liberties and restrictions that apply at difference stages of the legal process; with particular reference to education, employment, benefits, health, entitlements, housing and travel outside the UK.

Young people should be accompanied to Home Office interviews, appeal hearings and reporting stations by a familiar adult. These appointments can be particularly anxiety provoking for asylum seekers. If the client misses an appointment, the allocated worker must contact the Home Office to make a new appointment. Special attention must be given to providing any new worker with any dates for appointments when the case is transferred.

At the substantive interview it is particularly important that the young person is accompanied by an appropriate adult and that legal support is provided. The Police or UKVI usually provide an interpreter for this interview, but to avoid delay, the allocated worker should always check that this resource is in place before attending the interview.

Legal advice and support can be obtained from national legal centres and / or local solicitors. The young person may be accompanied by the worker allocated by CSC or an advocate. They must ensure, through the interpreter, that the young person has an understanding of what is happening and that this is in accordance with their ‘wishes or feeling’, challenge the officer or interpreter if required and make sure that they are given all the relevant paperwork, including a Home Office reference number for the case by an Immigration Officer. Following the interview, the appropriate adult will ensure that copies of all HO documentation are given to the allocated worker, who will make a follow up appointment with the solicitor if necessary.

All information regarding the legal process should be entered on CASS / Documents and copies of any relevant documentation relating to the legal process should be uploaded, in particular the Statement of Evidence Form, and letters advising on decisions relating to the asylum application.

Where Legal Aid is refused, the local authority is not able to fund legal representation (there may be scope to pay if young person is subject to a care order) In these circumstances, the young person may wish to contact the Refugee Council for advice on possible sources of assistance.


18. Transition at 18

Local Authority Responsibilities

The local authority continues to have a duty to support care leaving asylum seekers up to the age of 21 (or 25 if in higher education).

The Border Agency may grant the UASC asylum seeker status following the asylum application. However, where the asylum application is refused it is likely the UASC will be granted limited leave to remain either in the form of Discretionary Leave to Remain or Humanitarian Protection. In either case, the limited leave to remain will be for 3 years or until the young person reaches the age of 17.5 years, whichever is the earlier. Prior to the expiry of the limited leave to remain the young person must submit a fresh application for leave to remain. Failure to do so will result in the young person becoming an immigration over-stayer. It is therefore essential that further independent legal advice is sought to support the young person to complete their immigration claim prior to their 17th birthday. It is the responsibility of the social worker to ensure that this happens.

If further leave to remain has not been granted the young person will be entitled to NASS 4 support if they agree to a voluntary return. For those Care Leavers receiving NASS support the Local Authority still holds some responsibility under the Leaving Care Act.

The majority of UASC who have had their asylum claim refused and who have exhausted their right to appeal are entitled to leaving care support until they have been served with a removal directions notice. The Pathway Team will do everything possible to support young people to consider the voluntary return system but if this is not successful, assistance will be given for accommodation and subsistence until 21. Young people who are considered failed asylum seekers are entitled to receive leaving care support from the LA up to the point where they fail to comply with the removal directions.

Application for NASS Funding

The young person with their social worker must complete and sign a NASS application form prior to the young person turning 18 and inform UKVI that the Local Authority (LA) is continuing to support under them under Leaving Care legislation. This will ensure that they are not dispersed.

Those young people receiving Leaving Care Support will not be dispersed and funding will be provided directly to LA. Those who are receiving support pursuant to Section 24 (CA1989) may be dispersed and will receive money directly unless a case is argued successfully against dispersal. Relevant arguments against dispersal may relate to the establishment of community ties, the continuation of education at a particular establishment, health issues or human rights issues. The young person should be informed of his or her right to seek legal advice to challenge the decision against dispersal.

Withdrawing Support

The law on withdrawing or withholding services is included in Schedule 3 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002, which prevents certain categories of migrants from accessing Public Funds. Paragraph 6 of Schedule 3 states that young people who are considered to be failed asylum seekers are entitled to continue to receive leaving care support from the Local Authority up to the point where they fail to comply with the removal directions. Being a failed asylum seeker is not sufficient reason to withdraw funds; however there may be occasions when withdrawal of support needs to be considered.

Legal advice should be taken from the Legal Services Team wherever there is any question of the where the responsibility of the local authority lies.

Before making the decision to withdraw support it will usually be necessary to conduct an assessment under articles 8 and 3 of the Human Rights Declaration, to ascertain whether withdrawing leaving care support would be a breach of the person’s human rights. In these circumstances there will be a number of relevant factors to be considered, however as a general rule, the fact that the person will have no other means of assistance and will be made destitute if support is stopped, is not sufficient to ensure it continues. This is because in most cases the person will be able to avoid those consequences by complying with the Removal Directions and leaving the United Kingdom - for example by taking advantage of the voluntary returns scheme.

The following are examples of situations which may indicate that support should continue for human rights reasons:

  • The person is taking all reasonable steps to leave the UK but is unable to do so immediately -e.g. because he is awaiting receipt of a necessary travel document form his/her national embassy;
  • The person is temporarily unable to leave the UK because he/she is too sick to travel;
  • The person is awaiting the outcome of judicial review proceedings in the higher courts in relation to his/her asylum claim.


Appendix 1: Abbreviations

ARC Application Registration Card
ARE Appeal Rights Exhausted
CSC Children’s Social Care
EDT Emergency Duty Team
HO Home Office
IND Immigration and Nationality Directorate (former government body now replaced by UKVI)
NASS National Asylum Support Scheme
PEP Personal Education Plan
SEF Statement of evidence form
UASC Unaccompanied asylum seeking child(ren)
UKVI UK Visas and Immigration


Appendix 2: Legislation

The law around asylum and immigration has developed over time and with the continuing development of case law in this area, immigration law, policies and procedures are constantly subject to change. Therefore the Council’s policies will need to be reviewed and updated accordingly but reference should also be made to Legal Team for advice in every case.

A major factor for the UASC is that the burden of proof is placed upon the applicant to provide the UKVI with evidence his or her asylum claim.

The chief references for those working in Children’s Social Care are:

  • Children Acts 1989 & 2004;
  • Human Rights Act 1998;
  • Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000;
  • Care of Unaccompanied Migrant Children and Child Victims of Modern Slavery(DfE 2017);
  • Local Authority Circular 13 (2003) DfES Guidance & Hillingdon Judgement 2003 - Unaccompanied Children seeking Asylum;
  • The United Nations Convention on the Status of Refugees (UNHCR) of 1951, amended by the 1967 Protocol;
  • UNHCR Refugee Children: Guidelines of protection and care. Geneva 1994;
  • Immigration and Nationality Policy for Asylum Seekers, Immigration and Asylum rules and Process - Immigration Act 1971, (and the Immigration Rules published under this and updated and amended) Immigration and Asylum Appeals Act 1993, Asylum and Immigration Act 1996 Immigration and Asylum Act 1999, the Nationality Asylum and Immigration Act 2002 and Asylum;
  • Immigration Act 2002 and Asylum and Immigration (treatment of Claimants etc) Act 2004;
  • S.55 of the Borders, Citizens and Immigration Act 2009;
  • The Equality Act 2010.


Appendix 3: The Importance of Remembering to Use / Offer an Interpreter

The role of the interpreter

The role of the interpreter is to facilitate communication between two individuals where typically one is a service provider, such as us, and the other is a client with a need or request.

Why use interpreters?

When consulting with parents / children who are not able to speak English, workers often “make do” with anyone the person has brought with them, who they think is able to speak both languages. This is often a family member or friend of the person. These consultations are not satisfactory for either the person or the social worker, for several reasons:

  1. Problems associated with translating confidential or sensitive information when the person translating is known to them and lives in the same house / community. This is particularly relevant for child protection matters;
  2. The worker does not know whether or not information is being translated accurately in either direction;
  3. The person translating may experience conflict of interest or embarrassment at translating some of the questions, and may impose their own agenda, or thoughts and views;
  4. The person translating may have insufficient experience or vocabulary to translate effectively;
  5. There may be a lack of professionalism and there will certainly be no indemnity.

Points to consider when arranging a consultation with an interpreter wherever possible, plan ahead to arrange an appropriate interpreter (i.e. one that has worked in a social work environment before) and is an acceptable gender to the person.

Allow a longer consulting time, as all questions and answers have to be repeated by the interpreter.

Check that the interpreter and person speak the same language / dialect. Whenever possible, meet with the interpreter a few minutes in advance to ask about any common cultural differences such as shaking hands, eye contact etc. and to ask the correct pronunciation of the person’s name.

Practical considerations for a consultation through an interpreter:

  • Allow the interpreter to introduce him / herself to the person and explain their role, stressing that the interview will be kept confidential. Arrange the seating so that the interpreter is out of your field of view. Use language without jargon and speak using small phrases at a time, allowing the interpreter to translate accurately without forgetting what has been said;
  • Ensure that the interpreter knows that they can stop you at any time for clarification if they have not understood what has been said Always address your questions directly to the person rather than to the interpreter, e.g. “Do you ……?” rather than “Does she ……?”;
  • Remember that the person is the focus of the consultation, not the interpreter, even when the interpreter is speaking. Be aware of the “cues and clues” in the body language of the person. If you are focusing on the interpreter you may miss significant non verbal information;
  • If possible allow time after the consultation to discuss any issues you may have been unsure of with the interpreter, e.g. “She wouldn’t make eye contact with me, was there any reason for that?”;
  • Remember to thank the interpreter for their part in the consultation and respect their professionalism.


Appendix 4: Practice Guidelines; Merton Compliant Age Assessment and Form

Introduction

Age determination is not a science - even medical findings are questionable and cannot be 100% relied on. Age determination should take into account a number of factors and carried out in a specific way so as to meet legal requirements as well as allowing the subject to share their history in a way which is supportive and takes into account the likely hardship of living in transit, as well as the trauma of leaving their country of origin and the reasons for doing so.

Grounds for assessment

The Local Authority where the subject first enters the country is responsible service for undertaking assessment - this means that if the applicant has set down in another area and then moved on to Bracknell through further travel - the original area remains responsible. These subjects should be supported to access appropriate assessments from the original Local Authority, where necessary.

Children’s Social Care have a statutory duty to provide services to children - it is important to the subjects, services and others using services (such as those in residential settings) that support and accommodation is offered appropriately to those who really are under 18 and not to adults who pose as children.

Age Assessments should be undertaken where the applicant claims to be a minor - even if it is very obvious on sight that they are not - although fewer enquiries can be made to reach a judgement on age if this is the case -Merton guidelines should still be followed.

Merton Guidelines

  • Two experienced and qualified social workers should be used;
  • An interpreter should be used who speaks the subject’s language;
  • An explanation should be given to the applicant which explains the difference between CSC and the Home Office and the decisions made by each agency - i.e. CSC do not decide on issues of immigration;
  • It should be made clear that information will be passed however to the immigration service;
  • The interview should allow the applicant to respond to any noted inaccuracies in their accounts - they must be given an opportunity to reply to and clarify any discrepancies;
  • Medical opinions can help - such as dentistry or GP, but are not necessarily essential;
  • If the applicant is assessed as being a child then a Child and Family Single Assessment must be completed;
  • If the applicant is not thought to be a child then they must be given the outcome in writing along with a complaints leaflet;
  • The Local Authority should also make it clear in writing that the applicant may reapply for assessment of age should they be able to provide future evidence (the burden to provide this evidence for re-assessment then falls upon the applicant).

Undertaking the assessment

Things to consider:

  • Use a genogram to work out sibling relationships and age differences etc;
  • How does the applicant know how old they are - how do they know what month, or what year (many will say they know their month of birth on the Roman calendar but their country of origin may use different ways of recording months);
  • Ask questions out of sequence e.g.: regarding time of travel, how old were you when you started your journey, how old were your parents, how old are they now, how long did your journey take, how old are your siblings now, how old were they when you left, how old are you now. Asking circular questions like this will enable you to establish if the applicant is certain of the information they are giving you;
  • Talk to others and record their views - police, other members of staff etc. The views of the interpreter should not be sought as their job is to interpret and translate. They may over-identify with the subject and give an opinion which is not based in an unbiased assessment;
  • One assessor must take contemporaneous notes of questions and answers;
  • Note body language, social responses to people in authority, levels of independence / self care and if the subject is part of a group then consider group dynamics - who seems to be the ‘leader’, are there issues of bullying or intimidation?


Appendix 5 The Asylum Process

Making a Claim

A young person must claim asylum within two weeks of becoming Looked After by Calderdale Council. The claim must be made to either an Immigration Officer or the Police Officer in charge at the station where they present.

If the young person is seen by an Immigration Officer whilst in police custody then they will make their asylum claim at this time. It is possible that the Immigration Officer will also carry out the Screening Interview at this point. If this is the case, then all that remains is the issuing of the Application Registration Card (ARC), for which the Immigration Officer will make an appointment. This is usually within 48 hours, unless a delay is requested to make arrangements for the trip; and/or to allow an age assessment to be completed prior to the issuing of the ARC, in order to avoid having a disputed age printed on it.

Statement of Evidence Form (SEF)

When the client has their screening interview, they will be issued with a SEF (Statement of Evidence Form), and must seek legal advice for assistance in its completion. The SEF must be returned within 20 working days of the First Reporting Event and before the substantive interview. The solicitor will submit the completed SEF form directly to the Home Office.

(NB if the substantive interview does not take place before the client’s 18th birthday, a SEF is not required).

First Reporting Event (FRE)

Within 10 working days of the reception/screening interview/claiming asylum all clients will be invited to attend a First Reporting Event at Amadeus House UK Visas and Immigration Amadeus Buildings The Quartet, Mondial Way Hayes Middlesex UB3 5AR or via telephone if agreed by the Home Office caseworker. This is a short appointment to confirm where the young person is living, their support, whether they have had an age assessment and have a solicitor. It is possible to alter the dates for FRE appointments in discussion with the Home Office

Substantive Interview

This should occur within 25 working days of the young person’s Screening Interview. At this substantive interview, more in-depth information will be sought from the child relating to their circumstances. Photographs and fingerprints (if aged over five) will also be taken. The age assessment must be submitted for this interview otherwise the individual will be routed as an age disputed case.

Issue of Application Registration Card (ARC)

If the young person’s application is considered appropriate then an Application Registration Card (ARC) will be issued.

Decision

The Home Office aims to make decisions on children’s asylum claims within 25 working days and the Allocated Worker must follow up and ensure that the relevant paperwork is received, recorded and copied to the solicitor.

Refusal of Asylum Claim

Since 2007 young people who receive a refusal of their asylum application may be granted either Humanitarian Protection (HP) or Discretionary Leave to Remain (DLR) to their 17.5th birthday or for three years whichever is the shorter period of time. Where the young person is granted DLR he/she should be encouraged to seek advice from their legal representative.

Further Leave to Remain

Young people must make an application for further leave to remain 4-6 weeks before their Discretionary Leave expires. To do this, they must have independent legal advice which will help them complete the application. Social Workers can support this application with a letter.

Appeals

Once an application for further leave to remain is refused the young person can appeal. Once they have received a decision the young person has 5 days to appeal again - then Appeal Rights Exhausted (ARE) is either confirmed or not.

Returns

Government policy is to return young people whose applications have been refused only if there are adequate arrangements in their country origin. As yet those granted limited leave until 17 ½ have rarely been considered for return prior to age 18.

Enforced Return Removal proceedings usually begin when a negative decision is given on an asylum application and all appeal rights and appeal procedures are exhausted (ARE); or no case for appeal and/or at the time limit of leave to remain has come to an end and no extension has been granted. Proceedings begin when the immigration service serves removal directions in form of a notice stating the time and place where the person must go in order to leave the country. If there is a concern they may not comply they are detained in an immigration removal centre.

Funding Post 18

Access to Benefits

Once granted a positive decision regarding refugee status, humanitarian protection or discretionary leave Young People will become entitled to benefits at age 18. If a young person awaiting a decision does not make an application for further leave to remain before their discretionary leave expires then they will not be entitled to benefits at age 18. If an application for further leave to remain has been made the young person can access the benefits system until:

  • A decision is made to grant further leave (they can then continue to claim benefits);
  • The time for bringing an appeal against a negative decision expires;
  • Where an appeal is brought that appeal is finally disposed of (i.e. when it is either allowed and not challenged by the Home Office or it is dismissed and no further appeal can be brought or the time for appealing has expired.

As soon as the deemed extended leave expires (i.e. when the appeal rights are exhausted ARE) the young person is not entitled to benefits.

Asylum Support (NASS funding)

If further leave to remain is not granted the young person will be entitled to NASS for support if they agree to a voluntary return.

  • Others entitled to NASS funding are Young People who have not had a decision on initial asylum application when they reach 18 because;
  • They have an outstanding appeal against an outright refusal of asylum upon reaching 18;
  • They have applied for an extension of leave to remain “out of time” (i.e. after their leave has expired) and their asylum claim is being treated as a fresh application by the Home Office;
  • They can demonstrate that they will be destitute on turning 18.

A young person who had a decision made in their claim prior to their 18th birthday would not generally be eligible for NASS funding unless:

  • The former UASC appealed the asylum refusal and that appeal was pending on his/her birthday and then finally dismissed;
  • The right of appeal for the asylum refusal was not exercised and the time for making that appeal expired after the young person’s 18th birthday.

Those young people, whose application for asylum has been determined one way or another, will not be entitled to support under NASS after the age of 18.

Hard Case Support -Section 4 (Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002).

This should not to be confused with asylum support (NASS). It is for adult asylum seekers and consists of accommodation and vouchers only (no cash support). It is mainly only available to those who have either signed up to voluntary return or are unable to leave UK through no fault of their own (for example because they are too ill to travel or have outstanding representation with the Home Office such as a fresh claim for asylum or a judicial review).

No support -Section 55 (Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002)

This withdraws entitlement to NASS for those who, according to the Home Office, did not apply for asylum as soon as reasonably practical, however they do not usually refuse to support unless positively satisfied that the young person has some alternative sources of support available - this is unlikely to affect UASCs).


Appendix 6: British Red Cross International Tracing and Message Service Guidelines for Restoring Family Links for Unaccompanied and Separated Children

Background

The International Tracing and Message Service (ITMS) of the British Red Cross (BRCS) has been involved with tracing of unaccompanied and separated children (UASC) for decades - minors came to the UK before WWII (Kinder Transport) - so it is not a new phenomenon. However, UASC currently arriving in the UK from conflict areas come from varying backgrounds and cultures and bring new complexities to the service.

Policy

The Red Cross is unable to undertake tracing enquiries from a third party and will only accept requests from an unaccompanied minor who wishes to find his/her family overseas. All tracing requests will be handled by local Red Cross Branches. It will still be possible to make enquiries through the Tracing caseworkers at our UK Office (HQ) who will advise on the feasibility of the request but will refer the caller to the appropriate local Branch with the name of a contact person.

At Branch/Area office, the Tracing & Message co-ordinator will arrange for the UASC to come for an initial interview in order to explain the Tracing and Message service. They can bring someone with them, if they wish (e.g. an interpreter). The interviewer will either have Child Protection Training or will be accompanied by someone with Child Protection Training. Please note the Red Cross does not have funds available for interpreting services, therefore, the onus is on the service user/statutory authorities to provide one.

The first interview will include the following:

  1. The role of the Fundamental Principles of the Red Cross within the International Tracing and Message Service;
  2. The role of British Red Cross and ICRC;
  3. Details required in order to carry out a tracing request - explanation of the Red Cross tracing/message form;
  4. That the interview will be confidential - however, the UASC should be told that the information contained in the form will be passed to ITMS at UK Office and then to the ICRC or Red Cross/Red Crescent National Society as appropriate. Any special requests made by the UASC, will be noted and passed on to the ITMS for example, if the young person does not wish the Red Cross to use the media or if they have security fears;
  5.  The information from the tracing / message form will be entered onto a database and then passed on to the ICRC;
  6. That the ICRC personnel (expatriate and local staff) may visit the last known address given and the address of other contacts given in the tracing form;
  7. That the result of the enquiry will be given to the young person only;
  8. There is no time limit on an enquiry and that the outcome is always unknown;

In order to protect the UASC’s confidentiality, at the end of the interview the young person will be given the opportunity to attend a second interview (with interpreter, if necessary) should he/she wish to do so in order to complete the tracing/message forms. The UASC will sign the form agreeing to the Red Cross carrying out the enquiry on their behalf.

It may be that the UASC will not be able to give sufficient information during the second interview and needs time to reflect. The offer of subsequent interviews will be given until the interviewer is satisfied that there is enough information to proceed with the case.

Result of Enquiry

The result of a tracing request is given only to the UASC personally.

We will not give out information about the UASC’s case to third parties (Social Workers, Solicitors, Government Authorities). If a relative(s) is found, then they will probably receive a Red Cross Message from their relative. Depending on the circumstances in the country concerned, the UASC can either continue to maintain contact through the Red Cross Message Service or by telephone/letter if appropriate.

However, if the Red Cross is unable to find a relative it will still be possible for the UASC to continue to search should they have additional information which may lead to finding another family member.


Appendix 7: Role of Social Worker & Legal Representation

A child’s SW or other support has a vital role to play throughout this process. They will take on the role of “responsible adult” who is responsible for safeguarding and promoting the child’s welfare. The child’s legal representative cannot also take on this role.

Best practice guidelines suggest the role of the responsible adult is:

  • To ensure the welfare of the child is paramount consideration in all decisions;
  • To be sensitive to issues of age, gender, race, sexuality, culture, religion and mental health problems or learning difficulties in working with the child;
  • To ensure that the separated child has suitable care, accommodation, education, language support and health care;
  • To ensure that a child or young person has suitable legal representatives to deal with his/her immigration status or asylum application;
  • To ensure that the child’s legal representative has the necessary instructions and information to act in his/her best interests and to be aware of the progress of the case;
  • To attend all asylum interviews with the child to ensure that the child is not UNDULY INHIBITED OR ALARMED BY THE INTERVIEW PROCESS;
  • To attend the child’s appeal hearing;
  • To consult with and advise the child as appropriate;
  • To provide a link between the child or young person and various organisations which may provide services to the child;
  • To advocate where necessary on behalf of the child or young person.

Where appropriate, and taking great care not to increase the vulnerability of the child and/or his/her family, to explore the possibility of family tracing and reunification.

Role of the Legal Representative

They must comply with their overriding professional duties. The most important of these are:

  1. To always act in the best interests of the child;
  2. To safeguard the confidentiality of information given to them by the child;
  3. To provide independent advice and representation.

What makes a good legal representative?

Representing unaccompanied asylum seeking children is different from representing asylum seeking adults and requires specialist knowledge and experience. When attending appointments with a child and their legal representative, look out for the following things:

  • Did the lawyer introduce self and explain their service and their relationship?
  • Did they make the child feel comfortable and be polite?
  • Did they tell the child about confidentiality, independence and their duty to act in the child’s best interests?
  • Did they provide the child with an independent interpreter who speaks their language? Did child understand the interpreter, and did they check that the child was happy with the interpreter?
  • Did they spend time explaining the law and procedure to the child in a way that they were able to understand?
  • Did the lawyer spend time listening to the child about their worries or concerns? Did they answer the child’s questions?
  • Did they tell the child what action they were going to take for the child and did they do it?
  • Did they give the child copies of all documents they prepared for them, that they received from the Home office, and that they gave to the Home office?
  • Did the lawyer give the child their name, contact number and is the child able to get hold of them when they need to?
  • Did the child still have lots of questions after their appointments with the lawyer?
  • Did they advise the child carefully about the merits of their case, especially when making important decisions such as whether to appeal?


Appendix 8: Sources of Information

Refuge Council

Advice Line: 0207 3461 134
Click here to view website
Panel of advisors for unaccompanied children

Asylum Aid

Click here to view website
Provides free legal advice and representation.

Children’s Legal Centre

Click here to view website

UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI)

Click here to view website

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