Safeguarding Children Returning to the UK from Syria
SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This document provides:
- A summary of the duties of the local authority;
- Information on the action to be taken to support children who have been or become resident in Calderdale and returned to the UK from Syria, to reintegrate into their families, schools and local communities;
- Details of specialist support available;
- Information on risk of radicalisation.
It is unlikely that we will ever know what children and young people who have lived and grown up in Syria have witnessed or experienced. However, it is very likely many will have seen and suffered extremely traumatic and distressing experiences, which may include deaths as a consequence of armed conflict or executions. They may be married and have children of their own, been subjected to sexual assaults, exposed to extremist ideology, undertaken military training and in some cases, been involved in terrorist acts themselves. Some children and young people returning from Syria may pose a threat to others in their family or community. Consequently children and young people returning to the UK from Syria may have complex needs, which require targeted and proportionate support.
Children who return to the UK from Syria may be traumatised and need to be offered targeted and proportionate support to aid their reintegration into their families, schools and local communities. This will be dependent on assessed need and the age of the child.
In some cases, British children returning from Syria may pose a threat to others, including their families, classmates, and local community. The Police and Crown Prosecution Service may become involved and will need to interview some children to determine the nature and level of any risk and, if any criminal offence(s) have been committed, whether a prosecution is appropriate.
2. Arrival in the UK
Children and their families may return via a number of different methods and come to the attention of the authorities prior or after they return.
If a child and their family comes to the attention of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) prior to them returning, they will be interviewed by the FCO Child Protection Unit, which includes UK qualified Social Work Advisers and based upon the information provided by the returnees the most appropriate local authority will be notified.
The local authority may also be notified of returnees by the Metropolitan Police or local Police force before or after they return, as well as other practitioners who come into contact with children after they return. Any individual, including children, identified as returning from Syria will, upon arrival in the UK, be stopped by the Counter Terrorism Ports Police under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000. This will be to determine whether they may have been involved in the commission, preparation or instigation of any act of terrorism. Within the code of practice it is recommended that any child interviewed should be undertaken in the presence of a social worker, as their safety and welfare is paramount.
It maybe appropriate for the home local authority social worker to be present at the interview, as part of the process of assessing the child's needs and making the most suitable care arrangements, if required. Due to geographical and logistical issues and in order to avoid delay in the timing of the interview, it maybe more appropriate for a social worker from the local authority where the child presented to attend the interview.
If immediate safeguarding issues are identified and emergency action is required to safeguard the child, the local authority where the child is found is responsible for taking the appropriate steps to protect the child, and should follow the West Yorkshire Consortium Safeguarding and Child Protection Procedures. Case responsibility can only transfer to another local authority when they explicitly accept responsibilities, which must be confirmed in writing. Responsibility may also include any accommodation costs incurred, if the child was previously a permanent Calderdale resident.
In order to ensure children are safeguarded and their welfare is promoted all agencies need to follow the guidance set out in Working Together to Safeguard Children, which covers the legislative requirements and expectations of individual services. It also makes clear the importance of effective information sharing.
3. Duties of the Local Authority
Any child returning from Syria who is referred to Calderdale Children's Social Care will be subject to a Strategy Meeting under the West Yorkshire Consortium Safeguarding and Child Protection Procedures to decide whether a Section 47 Enquiry under the Children Act 1989 is required and if so, to develop a plan of action for the Section 47 Enquiry.
It is essential a representative from the Police North East Counter Terrorism Unit and the Calderdale Prevent Co-ordinator are invited to the Strategy Meeting, alongside all professionals who have contact or have historical information on the child and family, as they may hold important information which informs identifying potential safeguarding issues and the plan of action. The Schools Safeguarding Adviser or Prevent Education Engagement Officer will also be invited in order that the child's educational needs and any potential risks to individuals or educational establishments are fully considered (see Section 6, Contact Details). A Catch 22 (see Section 4, Support) Representative should also be invited, who will be able to provide advice on the support they can offer.
At the point of referral the timing of the Strategy Meeting will be determined and, if urgent, this will be within 24 hours or within 3 days if planned. Dependant upon the timescales and urgency of the Strategy Meeting, attendance may be difficult for some of these agencies and it may require a further Strategy Meeting to be convened, following the initial enquiries.
The Section 47 and Single Assessment will need to identify if the child is in need, as defined under the Children Act 1989, or in need of emergency action to safeguard their welfare. It will also identify if there are any unmet needs and the support services required to promote their welfare.
If there is a risk of the child and their family returning to a conflict zone this would raise safeguarding concerns and action may need to be taken in line with Travel to Syria - Guidance for Professionals working with Children and Young People in Calderdale.
The Strategy Meeting will also need to consider if family members and friends, who are in close contact with the returnees are vulnerable to being radicalised. The Channel Vulnerability Assessment Framework, which the Police CTU will lead on, should be considered to inform decision making and planning. Consideration should also be given if a referral to the Channel Panel for the returnee family is required, if there are concerns in respect of radicalisation (see Section 5, Risk of Radicalisation). The Strategy Meeting will be chaired by the relevant Team Manager in Children's Social Care. As a member of the Channel Panel, the Team Manager in the Children's Assessment Team is able to offer advice and support. Additional advice and support can be provided by Calderdale Prevent Co-ordinator (see Section 6, Contact Details).
It maybe possible the returning family attract media and community interest, particularly if there is an on going Police investigation. In such circumstances the Police CTU will be the lead agency to manage any enquiry. If there is no Police investigation then all media enquiries are to be directed to Calderdale Communication Unit Press Team (see Section 6, Contact Details). If there is potential for media interest the relevant Service Manager is to be notified immediately.
The Home Office have funded two organisations to provide support for local authorities to help all British children or families who return to the UK from Syria. Both organisations offer a service if the child and family have been assessed as not requiring a statutory service require is statutory and non-statutory.
4.1 Mental Health and Emotional Wellbeing Assessment and Treatment
The Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust have been commissioned to assist local authorities and local NHS Trusts to conduct comprehensive mental health and emotional wellbeing assessments of all British children returning from Syria. They will ensure co-ordination for the provision of mental or emotional health interventions for the child and family as identified by their assessments. This may include direct provision of treatment, referral to another appropriate specialist service or supporting the local NHS providers. They will work closely with the returning child and family over the long term to provide support: for example, diagnosis and treatment for latent mental health conditions suffered by those returning from a conflict zone.
The allocated social worker can refer a child to the service if they have been assessed as requiring on-going statutory intervention or not in need of statutory services.
The Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust
Tel: 0208 938 2226
4.2 Key Worker Support
The Home Office have commissioned Catch 22 to provide support and advocacy for children and their family to reintegrate into the UK. They are available to help any UK family with children that return from Syria, regardless of the threshold for a statutory intervention, and will be able to:
- Help facilitate communication with different local services and agencies;
- Help the family access support to which they are entitled;
- Sign up the children to local schools and GP services;
- Represent the child in any meetings about their welfare;
- Work intensively with the family over the longer term to encourage a protective environment for children and reintegration into the community.
27 Pear Tree Street, London EC1V 3AG
Tel: 020 7336 4800
5. Risk of Radicalisation
The establishment of a Channel Panel is a legal requirement under the Counter Terrorism and Security Act 2015 and is part of the Contest strategy to prevent people becoming radicalised, supporting extremism, becoming involved or carrying out terrorist acts. It is a Multi-Agency Panel which shares information and assesses the risks of radicalisation. Depending on the outcome of the child's assessment, it might be deemed appropriate for the Channel Panel to commission an approved Ideological Intervention Providers (IP) to work with a child. The IP is an individual who understands the ideology of extremism and who will seek to steer a vulnerable person away from it. The appropriate timing of introducing an IP has to be considered carefully, as there is some research which suggests that ideology can initially provide a protective factor for a person.
6. Contact Details
|Team Manager||Schools Safeguarding Adviser|
Children's Assessment Team
Safeguarding & Quality Assurance Service
|Prevent Education Officer||Prevent Community Engagement Officer|
Tel: 07967 837822
Tel: 07866 844718
|Police North East Counter
Terrorism Unit (NECTU)
|Calderdale Communication Unit|
Head of Unit
Tel: 01422 393065
General questions or enquiries in respect of safeguarding issues for children returning from Syria, is offered by the Home Office through the:
Office for Security & Counter Terrorism (OSCT)
Syria Travel Team
Tel: 0207 035 8441
Advice in respect of media interest can also been obtained from the:
Direct Communications Unit
2 Marsham Street
Tel: 020 7035 4848