See also: Section 10, Further Information.
AMENDMENTThis chapter was updated in September 2019 when a new Section 6, Suitable Placements was added. Details of the National Transfer Scheme Protocol for Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children Version 2.0 March 2018 were added into Section 1, Introduction and Definitions.
This chapter should be read in conjunction with the following government guidance: Care of Unaccompanied Migrant Children and Child Victims of Modern Slavery: Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities, November 2017 - which sets out the steps local authorities should take to plan for the provision of support for Looked After Children who are unaccompanied asylum seeking children (UASC), unaccompanied migrant children or child victims of modern slavery including trafficking. Elements of this guidance will also be relevant for the care of looked after UK nationals who may also be child victims of modern slavery. It does not provide detailed guidance on steps that local authorities should take, in partnership with other agencies, to identify and protect child victims of modern slavery, including trafficking, before they become looked after. This is described in practice guidance: Safeguarding Children and Young People who May have Been Trafficked.
For information on where Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children should be placed, please refer to: National Transfer Scheme Protocol for Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children Version 2.0 March 2018.
The protocol aims to ensure that unaccompanied children can access the services and support they need. It forms the basis of a voluntary agreement made between local authorities in England to ensure a more even distribution of unaccompanied children. It is intended to ensure that any participating local authority does not face a disproportionate responsibility in accommodating and looking after unaccompanied children, pursuant to its duties under parts 3, 4, and 5 of the Children Act 1989, simply by virtue of being the point of arrival of a disproportionate number of unaccompanied children. The scheme is based on the principle that no local authority should be asked to look after more UASC than 0.07% of its total child population, (according to the Office for National Statistics' 2016 mid-year population estimates).
The cohort of unaccompanied migrant children and child victims of modern slavery includes a wide range of children in a variety of circumstances that a local authority will need to be aware of in order to ensure that the child receives appropriate legal advice and support. Some will have been trafficked or persecuted and may have witnessed or been subject to horrific acts of violence. Other migrant children may have been sent in search of a better life, or may have been brought to the UK for private fostering and subsequently exploited or abandoned when the arrangement fails.
There are a wide range of status possibilities for migrant children that the local authority will need to be aware of. In brief, the following categories regarding status are the most likely to be encountered. However this list is not exhaustive and legal advice should be sought wherever there is uncertainty about a migrant child's status.
Categories of unaccompanied children include:
Where it is established that the referral concerns a young unaccompanied child migrant, regardless of the category, this will always satisfy the criteria for services to a Child in Need.
An unaccompanied child will become looked after by the local authority after having been accommodated by the local authority under section 20(1) of the Children Act 1989 for 24 hours. Once accommodated, they will be subject to the appropriate regulations and the same provision as any other Looked After Child.
The local authority should have procedures in place to monitor their policies and performance and should record any modern slavery concerns on the child's Care Plan.
As part of the general duty to assess and meet the needs of an unaccompanied asylum seeking child, the local authority should ensure that the child has access to a legal representative.Unaccompanied children are highly likely to require specialist support from a variety of organisations and agencies.
All professionals involved in the care of unaccompanied children and child victims of modern slavery should be able to recognise indicators of trafficking, slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour and should have an understanding of the particular issues likely to be faced by these children.
This is a highly complex area of work, and professionals will need to have available to them a solid understanding of the asylum process or colleagues or other professionals with such expertise.
The kinds of issues that may need to be negotiated include:
Social workers should also have a broad understanding of the immigration system - for example, the immigration application process, different types of leave, making further leave to remain applications and the appeals process. Social workers should also have an understanding of the trafficking referral process and the wider child protection system around child victims of modern slavery, including how and when to refer a child to the National Referral Mechanism.
One of the most crucial aspects of the social worker's role will be accessing specialist asylum and/or immigration legal advice and representation for all unaccompanied children and child victims of modern slavery. Legal advice can only be provided by a registered immigration advisor, who is either a regulated solicitor or registered with the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC) to provide immigration advice to the relevant level. Ideally the solicitor should also have expertise in working with children. This specialist advice will be required to ensure the child can fully present their case for asylum or leave to remain.
Details on where to find immigration legal representation can be found using the Adviser Finder function on the OISC website.
Where a child is undocumented this should be identified as soon as possible as the child will need to access specialist immigration legal advice.
Legal Aid is available for asylum cases and Looked after Children will generally be eligible.
Independent Reviewing Officers should be aware of the need to have regard to the child's needs as an unaccompanied child or child victim of modern slavery, including trafficking, when planning and providing care. They should also have an awareness of the particular needs and issues children may face as a result of being an unaccompanied child or child victim of modern slavery so that they can provide appropriate challenge at review.Service providers should ensure that foster carers and all other care staff in placement settings are aware of appropriate steps to reduce the risk of trafficked children returning to their traffickers.
Social workers should consider all unaccompanied migrant children as potential victims of modern slavery in the first instance until this possibility is either confirmed or discounted and they should also have an understanding of the trafficking referral process. For further information on the indicators of Modern Slavery and Trafficking - see LSCB Safeguarding Children from Abroad (including Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children) Procedure.
The social worker must ensure that all unaccompanied children have access to specialist asylum and/or immigration legal advice and representation in their assessment so as to ensure the child can fully present their case for asylum or leave to remain.
The Assessment will take account of:
Unaccompanied migrant children and child victims of modern slavery will need access to specialist legal advice and support. This will be in relation to immigration and asylum applications, and decisions and any associated legal proceedings. If they have been a victim of modern slavery, it may also be in relation to criminal proceedings or compensation claims. The assessment should note that specialist legal support is required and how it will be provided. The child's social worker should ensure that the child is accompanied in all meetings, including this meeting, with legal professionals. The person accompanying the child does not have to be the child's social worker.
In determining an unaccompanied young person's accommodation needs, the Assessment must have regard to their age and independent living skills, and consider the intensity of service required. This may range between independent accommodations, semi-independent accommodation foster or residential placements, or in specific cases, a specialist residential therapeutic unit.
No assumptions should be made about the child's language skills. An appropriately qualified and vetted interpreter must be used to assist in all assessments.
The allocated social worker must complete a Case Record in all cases. Social workers should seek to pay particular attention to the detail of spelling names and of descriptions of familial relationships.
Planning for the child should include planning for a variety of possible outcomes regarding the child's immigration status - see Section 10, Asylum Process - Possible Outcomes.
Where the age of the child is uncertain and there are reasons to believe they are a child the person will be presumed to be a child in order to receive immediate assistance, support and protection in accordance with section 51 Modern Slavery Act 2015. Assessments must be undertaken in accordance with standards established in case law and should only be carried out where there is reason to doubt that the individual is the age they claim.For further guidance see: Age Assessment Guidance published by ADCS. In all cases where a referral is received concerning an unaccompanied child, the relevant Team will carry out an Assessment in accordance with the Assessment Procedure, to determine whether they are a Child in Need.
Young unaccompanied child migrants should be provided with information about the services available to them from the local authority and other agencies.
The young person will also be given assistance to register with a GP and dentist, and enrol in a local school or college. The health professionals and the school should be aware of the child's status and senior managers such as the Virtual School Head should be informed of the school placement. There will be a need to set out clearly any particular implications of the child's status for non specialist professionals such as GPs and teachers, including any urgency of involvement - particularly with health practitioners. An interpreter should be booked to accompany the young person to appointments with the GP or school, where necessary.
Where there are safeguarding concerns relating to the care and welfare of any unaccompanied child, including where modern slavery is suspected or has been identified, these should be investigated in line with the statutory provisions, Working Together to Safeguard Children statutory guidance and locally agreed protocols and processes. The opportunity to intervene to prevent any further exploitation might be very narrow, so the entry local authority should convene a strategy discussion as soon as possible and take any necessary immediate action to safeguard and promote the child's welfare. This strategy discussion should involve the police, immigration officials and any other relevant agencies and plan rapid further action if concerns are substantiated.
For example Police installed alarms, discussion with the child or young person about the use of mobile phones, etc.
Provision may need to be made for the child to be in a safe place before any further assessment takes place and for the possibility that they may not be able to disclose full information about their circumstances immediately. The location of the child should not be divulged to any enquirers until their identity and relationship with the child have been established and the local authority is assured of their motives, if necessary, with the help of police and immigration officials.
All unaccompanied young asylum-seekers who are eligible for a service will be entitled to financial assistance which must first be authorised by the manager. The social worker should arrange for payment of the relevant amounts in accordance with the local authority's financial procedures.
Details of these payments and amounts can be found within the Local Resources (section of this manual) - to follow.
Travel cards or warrants will be issued to young unaccompanied asylum-seekers in relation to appointments at the Home Office.
Where an Assessment identifies that an unaccompanied child migrant does not meet the criteria for a service from Children's Services, but appears to be in need of services from elsewhere, the social worker will refer the young person to the appropriate agency which may be a different Children's Service, the Refugee Council, UK Visas and Immigration and/or an appropriate voluntary agency.
In such circumstances, the duty social worker should make an appointment for the young person and advise them of the name, address (including a map where necessary) and contact number of the person with whom the appointment has been made. In addition, the duty worker must send a copy of the Referral Form and Assessment Record to the relevant office.In all cases where a service is to be refused, the social worker must consult their manager before the decision is made and the letter confirming the decision is sent. Any correspondence received in relation to the decision should be referred to the manager.
"Placement decisions should take particular account of the need to protect children from any risk of being exploited, and the heightened risk of them going missing. Transfer to the care of another local authority or an out of area placement might in some cases be appropriate to put distance between the child and where the traffickers expect them to be". See: What is a suitable placement for an unaccompanied asylum seeking child? – Information for local authorities to accompany the national transfer protocol for unaccompanied asylum seeking children (Revised April 2018).
It is important that suitable emergency accommodation can be accessed directly at any time of the day or night and that there is sufficient supervision and monitoring by on-site staff to keep the child safe. Bed and breakfast (B&B) accommodation is not suitable, even on an emergency accommodation basis. Such accommodation can leave the child particularly vulnerable to risk from those who wish to exploit them and does not meet their protection or welfare needs.
Often very little information about the young person is available at the outset and so it is highly likely that a permanent placement decision will not be made immediately. A temporary placement can enable the child or young person to feel safe and help them begin to physically recover from their journey and enable them to engage with an assessment of their needs with the help of interpreters as necessary.
Where a young person's needs are for independent or semi-independent accommodation, and the manager agrees, assistance should be given with completion of the necessary Housing Application, (see below).
Where the Assessment identifies that an unaccompanied young child migrant needs to be Looked After, all the procedures in relation to Care Plans, Health Care Plans, Personal Education Plans and Placement Plans must be completed as for any other Looked After Child. See: Decision to Look After and Care Planning Procedure.
For unaccompanied migrant children who are Looked After, the placement decision also needs to be informed by careful consideration of the wider support needs of the child, including their cultural and social needs. Creative ways of meeting those needs, such as mentors or links to groups from their country of origin living in the UK could be used. As with all Looked After Children, an unaccompanied child's ethnicity, cultural and linguistic background should be taken into account when placing the child. However, these are not overriding considerations and should be taken into account alongside all of the child's needs. Nevertheless, the placement should meet the child's needs as a whole and be consistent with their wishes and feelings.
All residential home staff, foster carers or support workers of semi-independent accommodation caring for unaccompanied children and child victims of modern slavery (including independent advocates where appropriate) should be aware of any particular risks of them going missing, or of any risk to the child from those who wish to exploit them. They should also understand what practical steps they should take in the event that the child does go missing, or if they suspect that someone is trying to lure the child away from their care placement.
Carers should seek to develop an awareness of the child's past experiences and any psychological issues they face, which may not be immediately apparent, as well as understanding cultural issues, which may put them at greater risk of going missing. This may include the potential negative impact of protection measures which may appear to the child to replicate methods used by their traffickers to control them.
Carers and professionals should work closely together to develop a holistic assessment of the child as well as provide support, reassurance and effective safeguarding to them.
Placement options for unaccompanied migrant children are the same as for other Looked After Children i.e:
Connected Carers (or Family and Friends carers) - some children may be transferred to the UK under Dublin 111 regulations. In these instances the Family and Friends Care Procedure should be followed.
Foster Care in a family setting either in a placement in an Ofsted registered and inspected placement with an Independent Fostering Agency foster carer or in a placement with a local authority foster carer.
Residential Care within an Ofsted registered and inspected children's residential care home.
Semi - Independent living arrangements or "other arrangements" including supported lodgings, supported accommodation and shared housing. These forms of accommodation are usually for older children, who require less intensive support and close monitoring and require only accommodation, as opposed to care and accommodation. Where there has been an assessment of need and the best match is in "other arrangements" the placement could be supported lodgings, supported accommodation or shared accommodation. Statutory guidance and the Care Planning Regulations clearly set out that in some cases, a child can be suitably placed in accommodation termed as "other arrangements", and Regulation 27 sets out the duties of a local authority when placing a child in such arrangements (see also: Schedule 6).
For details regarding the advantages of each of these options above, please see: What is a suitable placement for an unaccompanied asylum seeking child? – Information for local authorities to accompany the national transfer protocol for unaccompanied asylum seeking children. (Revised April 2018) and On the Safe Side: Principles for the safe accommodation of child victims of trafficking, ECPAT, 2011.
The provision of a service is dependent on the young person continuing to qualify for the service.
Services to an unaccompanied child migrant may be withdrawn, for example, where another adult wishes to assume Parental Responsibility and this is assessed as appropriate.
The service must not be withdrawn without a Child in Need Plan Review (see Child in Need Plans and Reviews Procedure) and the agreement of the social worker's manager. Any such decision must be clearly recorded, with reasons. In all such cases, legal advice should usually be obtained before a final decision is made.Where a service is withdrawn, the social worker should inform the Finance Office, if appropriate, immediately.
Planning transition to adulthood for unaccompanied children is a particularly complex process that needs to address their developing care needs in the context of their immigration status.
Pathway planning to support an unaccompanied child's transition to adulthood must cover the areas that would be addressed within any care leaver's plan as well as any additional needs arising from their immigration status and the action required to resolve this (see Leaving Care and Transition Procedure).
Former unaccompanied children who qualify as care leavers and who have been granted leave to remain, or who have an outstanding asylum or other human rights claim or appeal, are entitled to the same level of care and support from the local authority as any other care leaver.
The extent of any care leaver duties on local authorities to provide support to former unaccompanied children who have turned 18, exhausted their appeal rights, established no lawful basis to remain in the UK and should return to their home country is subject to a Human Rights Assessment by the local authority. This is set out under the restrictions on local authority support for adults without immigration status.
For former unaccompanied children whose long-term future is in the UK, transition planning will need to consider the challenges and issues facing any care leaver, such as education or preparing for independent living. Planning for children and young adults who have been granted refugee status or humanitarian protection should also consider when they may be required to make a further application for leave to remain.
Where an unaccompanied child or child victim of modern slavery qualifies for local authority care leaving support, a personal adviser must be appointed to support them.
Pathway Plans should always consider and reflect the implications for the child or young adult if their asylum claim is refused without a grant of leave, if their application to extend their leave is refused or if their appeal against a refusal is dismissed. In such circumstances, the person will become unlawfully present in the UK and be expected to make plans for a return to their home country. A plan for a return to their home country may also need to be made at any other point, should the care leaver decide to leave the UK.
Planning may have to be based around short-term achievable goals whilst entitlement to remain in the UK is being determined. For the majority of unaccompanied children who do not have permanent immigration status, transition planning should initially take a dual or triple planning perspective, which, over time should be refined as the young person's immigration status is resolved. Planning cannot pre-empt the outcome of any immigration decision and may be based on:
Assistance should be given in advance of their 18th birthday with the necessary applications for housing, Housing Benefit and any other relevant benefits. The social worker must ensure that the young person has accommodation to which to move on their 18th birthday. The social worker must also ensure that the provider of the young person's present accommodation and the Finance Office is informed when the accommodation arrangement will end.
Financial support for care leavers who are former unaccompanied child migrants should reflect their needs and their immigration status. Financial policies should highlight any entitlements and how their immigration status may affect these. Pathway Plans should address employment opportunities and funding arrangements for education and training, taking account of the young person's immigration status.
If a young person has no recourse to public funds, they will be unable to access a number of welfare benefits and social housing. Subject to the Human Rights Assessment by the local authority under Schedule 3 Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 (as amended), the provision of accommodation may form part of the leaving care support provided to a young person who has no recourse to public funds. For further information please go to Families with No Recourse to Public Funds Procedure.Having 'no recourse to public funds' does not prevent a person from accessing other publicly funded services, but many of these will have eligibility criteria based on immigration status which will need to be considered (see NRPF Guidance - What are not public funds?).
Where a young person is Looked After, their case will be reviewed in accordance with the Looked After Reviews Procedure.
Any other services provided should be reviewed at least every 6 months as set out in the Child in Need Plans and Reviews Procedure.
In advance of each review, the social worker will send the young person a Checklist setting out the documents which the social worker requires to be produced at the Review, such as confirmation of registration with a GP, enrolment at schools/college and updated information concerning their asylum status.
The young person should be invited to the Review and an interpreter should be booked as necessary.
Independent Reviewing Officers should be aware of the need to have regard to the child's needs as an unaccompanied child or child victim of modern slavery, including trafficking, when planning and providing care. They should also have an awareness of the particular needs and issues children may face as a result of being an unaccompanied child or child victim of modern slavery so that they can provide appropriate challenge at review. Service providers should ensure that foster carers and all other care staff in placement settings are aware of appropriate steps to reduce the risk of trafficked children returning to their traffickers.
Guidance for cases where the child has been the subject of sexual exploitation can be found at Child Sexual Exploitation: Definition and Guide for Practitioners, 2017.
Where a Review confirms the service, the Financial Assessment Form should be updated. Where additional support services are identified as necessary, the Plan should be updated to reflect this.Where services are withdrawn as a result of the Review, the relevant teams should be notified immediately.
There are four main possible outcomes of the asylum process for an unaccompanied child, which will determine what the long term solution might be:
Safeguarding Children who May Have Been Trafficked (Home Office, 2011) - non-statutory government good practice guidance
Local Government Association - Council Support: Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Unaccompanied Children - resource for council staff, designed to answer questions about supporting refugees, asylum seekers and unaccompanied children.
National Referral Mechanism: Guidance for Child First Responders - provides details on how to refer a child into the NRM and complete the referral form, reviews of decisions and the benefits of referral.
Guidance on Processing Children's Asylum Claims - sets out the process which immigration officials follow in determining an asylum claim from a child and the possible outcomes for the child
UK Modern Slavery Helpline and Resource Centre - Unseen (Registered Charity)
NSPCC Child Trafficking Advice Centre (CTAC) - specialist advice and information to professionals who have concerns that a child may have been trafficked.
National Transfer Protocol for Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children - interim national transfer procedure and transfer flow chart for the safe transfer of UASC from one UK local authority to another.
Duty to Notify the Home Office of Potential Victims of Modern Slavery - guidance and forms
Child Protection: Working with Foreign Authorities - guidance on child protection cases and care orders where the child has links to a foreign country
Refugee Council - Children's Panel - national remit to offer advice and support to unaccompanied children, and advise other professionals who are involved in their care.Securing British Citizenship for looked After Children - NRPF Network