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4.2.1 Supporting Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This policy and procedure provides guidance to social care staff working in Children’s Services with unaccompanied asylum seeking children in Worcestershire (UASC). It is applicable to all unaccompanied asylum seeking children up to the age of 18 years, and those supported under the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000 up to age 21, or 25 if they meet the criteria.

KEY LEGAL FRAMEWORK

All of the legislation in relation to children in need, looked after children and care leavers applies equally to UASC and care leavers who were previously UASC. In addition, the following guidance applies:

AMENDMENT

In April 2018 the revised link was made to Care of unaccompanied migrant children and child victims of modern slavery – statutory guidance for local authorities (2017).


Contents

  1. Who is Responsible?
  2. Who is an Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Child
  3. Main Legislative Framework and Guidance
  4. Procedure for UASC Arrivals in Worcestershire
  5. Social Work Assessment
  6. Trafficking
  7. Placement and Allocated Workers
  8. Missing UASC
  9. Age Assessments
  10. Third Country Applicants
  11. Care & Pathway Planning and Review
  12. Supporting Young People through the Asylum Process
  13. Possible Outcomes of Asylum Applications
  14. Education and Training
  15. Health Needs
  16. Financial Support
  17. Transition at 18 years and Immigration Status
  18. Policy Relating to Detention
  19. Practice Guidance Reunification with Family and Friends

    Appendix 1: UASC Checklist

    Appendix 2 : Potential Indicators Of Children Who May Have Been Victim Of Modern Slavery

    Appendix 3: Useful Information and Contacts

    Appendix 4: Unique UASC Record Form

    Appendix 5: Information Sharing Form for Sharing Outcome of Age Assessment


1. Who is Responsible?

Asylum seekers may arrive in Worcestershire in several ways and this will dictate where they are in the immigration process. They may be new in-country applicants who have found their way to Worcestershire and are not known to the Immigration and Nationality Directorate of the Home Office. The local authority where an unaccompanied minor first arrives is responsible for them under the Children Act 1989. Unless they are eligible for transfer under the interim draft protocol national transfer scheme, transfer of unaccompanied minors may be possible to local authority areas where they have less than 0.07% UASC children.

Worcestershire Children’s Services, in partnership with other statutory agencies, voluntary and private organisations will strive to meet the needs of UASC within UK legislation and national policy frameworks.

Regardless of immigration status, the child or young person's needs should be considered as paramount, and a UASC will be entitled to assessment as a child in need of care and protection under the Children Act 1989. If the child or young person is to be Looked After they will be provided for under S20 of the Children Act 1989.

Where links and/or re-unification with family or friends are possible, our responsibility can only be discharged following a full assessment, to inform a decision to cease to look after a previously looked after child. Please see useful information for contact details of the Red Cross who may be able to assist locating family members. Please see Section 19, Practice Guidance Reunification with Family and Friends.


2. Who is an Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Child

The United Nations 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" (UNCHR (1994) Refugee Children: Guidelines of protection and care.) The Home Office define 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 eighteen;
  • Is applying for asylum in his or her own right;
  • Has no adult relative or guardian to turn to in this country; and Is fleeing persecution from their own country.


3. Main Legislative Framework and Guidance

The Children Act 1989 places a responsibility upon Local Authorities to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and young people living in their area. When children in need are identified, including newly arriving UASC, an assessment of their needs should be undertaken.

The ADCS have issued guidance to support local authorities in achieving compliance with relevant case law, and child care and immigration legislation. In summary, the guidance states:

  • All UASC should, on arrival be supported under S20 of the Children Act 1989, until assessment of needs has been completed;
  • Based on assessed need, most UASC including 16 and 17 year olds who require accommodation should be provided with S20 support;
  • The majority of UASC will be entitled to leaving care services;
  • S17 can be used to support UASC in exceptional circumstances where an assessment of needs identified that to become looked after would not be in the UASC's best interests - for example if the young person strongly expresses aversion to becoming looked after.

Exceptions to the provision of support under Section 20 could arise where older asylum seeking young people may refuse to be ‘Looked After’ but because of their immigration status, the Children Act provides their only lawful means of support in this country. The local authority after taking account of the child’s wishes under Section 20 (6) might judge that the young person is competent to look after him or herself. In these cases section 17 may be used for support including accommodation without making the young person ‘Looked After’. It is vital however that the young person has been assessed as understanding the full implications of being supported under section 17 rather than Section 20.

Young people who arrive within 13 weeks of their 18th birthday will not qualify for full leaving care services even if they have been provided with Section 20 or 23 support under the Children Act 1989 for the weeks leading up to their 18th birthday, as they have not been ‘looked after’ for 13 weeks or more. They are known as ‘qualifying children’ and although they are not entitled to the main leaving care entitlements, they are entitled to advice, assistance and befriending (see Leaving Care and Transition Procedure).


4. Procedure for UASC Arrivals in Worcestershire

Where a referral is received concerning an unaccompanied asylum seeking child, the Initial Contact & Screening Team will gather initial information and will transfer UASC cases immediately to a LAC Teams via locality Group Managers, who will decide which team will take the case. The LAC Teams will undertake a Social Work Assessment for the child to determine whether he or she is a Child in Need. If necessary will undertake an Age Assessment, and where there is concern regarding possible trafficking a S.47 Enquiry will be initiated.

All unaccompanied asylum seeking children are by the nature of their circumstances children in need. Services should be provided in line with the needs identified using Section 20 of the Children Act 1989.

The agreed checklist should be followed before the first LAC review - Appendix 1: UASC Checklist.

This includes establishing that there is no connection with other areas. If it becomes evident that a child has presented to any other authority prior to arriving in Worcestershire, or if he/she is staying in an area of another local authority, that relevant authority must be contacted and arrangements made for the child to be returned to that area. Under the Interim Transfer Protocol for UASC, there may be a responsibility to transfer the unaccompanied minor to the responsibility of Worcestershire County Council if the original authority requests a transfer and the decision shall be made by the Central UASC transfer team.

Collect as much information as possible about the young person from referrer - Young person’s name – ensure this is in the correct order and is spelt correctly – ask about ethnicity, first language, medical needs, has the young person had food and drink offered, is the young person pregnant.

Ask for young person’s date of birth – ascertain any issue about accuracy or immediate concerns regarding age. Consider immediate safeguarding needs – are there any trafficking indicators (see Appendix 2 : Potential Indicators Of Children Who May Have Been Victim Of Modern Slavery regarding risk indicators) which require further assessment before further action is taken. Consider any health needs which require immediate medical attention.

Consideration should always be given to the child being seen on its own with an interpreter if needed. The Local Safeguarding Children Board Practice Guidance - Safeguarding Children from Abroad also addresses this issue. Unless they are fluent in English it is not possible to conduct an assessment without an interpreter. Worcestershire County Council has access to interpreting and translation services to meet this requirement. Consideration should also be given to providing children with translations of written information and assessment reports.

The threshold of eligibility and priority for services are the same for unaccompanied asylum seeking children as any other child. The same thresholds for child protection responsibilities also apply. There is no difference in entitlement to allowances or financial support because of immigration status for children in need, children looked after and care leavers. Where a child is accompanied consideration needs to be given as to their relationship with that adult and whether private fostering duties and responsibilities apply (See Private Fostering Procedure).


5. Social Work Assessment

The Social Work Assessment is the main tool to inform care planning, and should be undertaken by a Social Worker who is trained to recognise and understand the particular issues faced by these children. It must be managed sensitively to reduce fear, anxiety or confusion.

The assessment will need to include the reason why they started their journey and their experiences on the way. It may be social care staff are amongst the first people they meet on arrival.

For many their experiences prior and up to leaving their homes will have been traumatic, complicated and experienced the loss of significant family members and community, and for many their experience of the journey will also have been traumatic. Therefore they are likely to be the victim of what has been described as “Triple Jeopardy”, which includes the trauma experienced in their country of origin, their experiences on route and the treatment they are subjected to on arrival i.e. treated as second class citizens, racism and xenophobia (Melzak, Research in Practice 2005, On New Ground: Supporting unaccompanied asylum seeking children and young people). Ethnic origin and life experiences before arrival in this country will influence personal development and may impact on visual or emotional presentation.

Enabling the UASC 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. Consent to gather or share information with another agency must be obtained.

Whilst Social Work Assessment timescales are up to 45 working days, an assessment of a newly arrived UASC must be completed within 14 days of them becoming accommodated. In addition, there is a requirement to complete a 'Unique Asylum Seeking Record' which helps explore the best interests of the chid (see Appendix 3: Useful Information and Contacts).

When completing the assessment, the following should be considered:

  • The majority of young people will feel isolated without family or friends in this country;
  • The potential for making contact with birth family in country of origin;
  • Educational attainment will vary greatly, depending on their country of origin, previous formal education and fluency in speaking and comprehension of English;
  • Health problems may not have been diagnosed due to limited health services in their country or origin; and there may be immediate health needs to be addressed. Consideration must be given to whether the UASC may have been exposed to infectious diseases either in their country of origin or on route to the UK. Where there are concerns about this, advice should be sought from the designated Health team. The designated Health team will fast track initial Health assessments of newly arriving UASC so notifications and IHA form must be forwarded to them within 48 hours of referral;
  • Experience of prejudice against asylum seekers;
  • Feelings of uncertainty and anxiety whilst their claim for asylum is considered;
  • The young person may have suffered torture and be traumatised by this abuse;
  •  Background information about the young person’s country of origin, for example by reading the Country of Origin guidance.

The Social Work Assessment will take account of:

  1. The age assessment of the young person;
  2. Vulnerability of the child/young person due to separation from family, friends and country of origin;
  3. Any factors regarding safety, such as concerns around trafficking;
  4. Ethnicity, religion, gender and how these impact on immediate needs;
  5. Available information regarding how the young person arrived in the UK, how long they may have been here, possible family or friends that they may be intending to meet. It is particularly important to gain a detailed account of their journey as this may provide information that will assist with an assessment around immediate risk (trafficking, third country issues, continuing exploitation and control);
  6. Reasons why they have come to the UK;
  7. The young person’s physical and mental health, and any factors which may increase their vulnerability;
  8. The young person’s accommodation and financial needs;
  9. Any documentation to support information.

Additionally, the assessment must consider the 'best interests of the child' as set out below:

''Article 3 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child provides that in all actions taken concerning children, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration. Guidance on taking into account the wishes and feelings of the child, and how the child’s best interests should be included in all decisions regarding their welfare are embedded in the following legislation, regulations and guidance:

  • Section 1(3) of the Children’s Act 1989;
  • The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review; and
  • Working Together to Safeguard Children A guide to inter-agency working to safeguard and promote the welfare of children - March 2015.

As stated in the protocol, the receiving local authority will need to comply with its obligations under the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010 or equivalent legislation in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The best interest of the child and their welfare will be central as with any other looked after child.

International Perspective

The guidance on best interests assessment is elaborated in the General comment No. 14 (2013) on the right of the child to have his or her best interests taken as a primary consideration (art. 3, para. 1) published by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

Article 3, paragraph 1, of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by the UK Government, gives the child the right to have his or her best interests assessed and taken into account as a primary consideration in all actions or decisions that concern him or her, both in the public and private sphere.

The UN Committee has drawn up a non-exhaustive and non-hierarchical list of elements that could be included in a best-interests assessment by any decision- maker having to determine a child's best interests. The non-exhaustive nature of the elements in the list implies that it is possible to go beyond those and consider other factors relevant in the specific circumstances of the individual child or group of children. All the elements of the list must be taken into consideration and balanced in light of each situation. The list should provide concrete guidance, yet flexibility.

Elements to be taken into account when assessing the child's best interests:

  1. The child's views;
  2. The child's identity;

    The identity of the child includes their current needs and capabilities, characteristics such as sex, sexual orientation, national origin, religion and beliefs, cultural identity, personality. Although children and young people share basic universal needs, the expression of those needs depends on a wide range of personal, physical, social and cultural aspects, including their evolving capacities;
  3. Care, protection and safety of the child;

    Children’s well-being, in a broad sense includes their basic material, physical, educational, and emotional needs, as well as needs for affection and safety, and the possibility of future risk and harm, or other consequences of the decision;
  4. Situation of vulnerability;

    An important element to consider is the child’s situation of vulnerability, such as physical and emotional need, disability, belonging to a minority group, specific protection needs such as being a victim of trafficking, prior experience of trauma, need for continuity, safety and security;
  5. The child’s right to health;

    The child’s right to health (including mental health) and his or her health condition are central in assessing the child’s best interest. However, if there is more than one possible treatment for a health condition or if the outcome of a treatment is uncertain, the advantages of all possible treatments must be weighed against all possible risks and side effects, and the views of the child must also be given due weight based on his or her age and maturity. In this respect, children should be provided with adequate and appropriate information in order to understand the situation and all the relevant aspects in relation to their interests, and be allowed, when possible, to give their consent in an informed manner;
  6. The child’s right to education;

    With the above legislation, regulations and guidance providing the framework for this protocol, there are a number of points in the national transfer scheme where in the decisions relating to the welfare of the child, their best interests and their wishes and feelings will need to be included, but the decision will need to be balanced with the pragmatic need to implement a scheme which is equitable and transparent, across all local authorities and all regions. Ultimately it will frequently be in the best interest of all unaccompanied asylum seeking children to be placed in regions able to their needs and not rely on a few overcrowded local authorities.

At the beginning of the transfer process local authority social worker will need to make a decision based on the child’s best interests:

  • Whether to request a transfer to another local authority; and
  • When to request a transfer if it is deemed a transfer is in the child’s best interests.

The entry social worker will not know which local authority the child will be transferred to and so will not have any information about the resources in that destination local authority. Their decision will therefore be restricted to the resource which is available to meet the best interests of the child in the entry local authority.

Where a local authority is over the 0.07% ceiling there will be a concern that the local authority has an unmanageable responsibility in accommodating and looking after unaccompanied children and so the welfare needs of the child as listed in section 1(3) of the children’s Act 1989 may not be met and one of more of the elements listed Article 3, paragraph 1, of the Convention on the Rights of the Child may be denied them if they were not to be transferred. For example, the right to education may be breached if no school places are available, or they may not have access to legal representation. For this reason it is expected that, in the best interests of the child, the transfer scheme will prevent more unaccompanied children being looked after by a local authority which is over the 0.07% ceiling.

In addition:

  • The central administration team will need to decide which region to allocate to; and
  • The regional administration leads will need to decide which local authority to allocate to.

The information available in Part A and Part B of the Unique Unaccompanied Child Record (annex 3) will be used to make the decision, and as the transfer scheme progresses, there is an expectation that as information about regional and local authority resources increases, the scheme will become progressively nuanced and sophisticated to be able to increasingly meet any specific needs which present.

The regional approach of the scheme is intended to build on regional knowledge and mapping of knowledge, support and resources which is already available via other existing schemes, and so regions will increasingly be able to identify where UASC may be placed in their best interest.

Once the child has been allocated to a receiving local authority, a social worker will then make an initial placement decision, again, based on the information available in Part A, B and C of the Unique Unaccompanied Child Record. It may be in the best interest of the child that this is a temporary placement to enable further information gathering and for the child to settle and be confident to talk about their needs, feelings and wishes.


6. Trafficking

In accordance with the requirements of the Council of Europe Convention on action against Trafficking in Human Beings, the UK has a National Referral Mechanism for identifying and recording victims of trafficking. Professionals who come into contact with a child they suspect to be a victim of trafficking need to act to support and protect this child from further harm. Practice guidance set out in the DfE Trafficking Procedures and the Care of unaccompanied and trafficked children (DoE, 2014) - should be followed.

If an unaccompanied minor is identified as a potential victim of trafficking, a Trafficking Assessment must be completed. A referral of the child as a Potential Victim of Trafficking to the Central Competent Authority (UKVI in all cases of persons who are subject to immigration control) needs to be made. If a young person already has an allocated case owner at UKVI, he/she will be the appropriate person to address the referral to.

They should be viewed as at risk, and continuing efforts should be made to protect them. This will require a strategy discussion with the Police and agreement about how to proceed.

First 72 hours Trafficking Good Practice

Protecting children effectively in the first 72 hours (this text is from the draft Modern Slavery Act 2015 statutory guidance):

  1. Child victims of modern slavery are particularly vulnerable in the first 72 hours after identification. It is important that all areas should have effective multi-agency plans in place to cover this critical period. This includes appropriate out of hours and in particular at weekends when some services might not be available for some time and other statutory agencies may therefore need to provide cover;
  2. Where there is an imminent threat to the child, the child is believed to still be in contact with their traffickers or there is no ‘case history’ e.g. for a newly arrived migrant child, it is particularly important that whichever public authority identifies the child finds out as much as possible about the child and their history and puts in place effective safeguarding processes. This should include for all children:
    • Getting key personal information such as their name, address and where they are from, taking a child’s photograph, and speaking to them in a known language and format appropriate to their age to understand their ‘case history’; and
    • Searching any belongings, including mobile phones and other digital devices for telephone numbers, contact details etc of traffickers.
  3. In addition, for children 5-18 taking their fingerprints and if, the child or their parent/guardian agrees, their DNA. This bio-metric data will help with both establishing their identify and re-finding them if they go missing;
  4. It is important that this is done sensitively and that public authorities explain to children why this is being done. It may also be beneficial, and especially if the search has identified potential imminent threats, that certain belongings e.g. mobile phone or other digital devices are not returned to the child and that the child has restricted access to the internet or to going outside unaccompanied. The reasons why this is necessary should be clearly explained to the child and preferably public authorities should get agreement from the child. However this may not always be possible and it may be deemed necessary in the interests of child protection;
  5. In transferring the child to local authority care, there should be an effective and practical handover from one public agency to another, with the relevant information shared. The child should not be left unattended e.g. sent in a private hire vehicle unaccompanied from either immigration or law enforcement. The local safeguarding plan should set out clearly the responsibilities of the different agencies including whose responsibility it is to contact the police if a child goes missing;
  6. This should happen within 6 hours of the child going missing;
  7. Provision may need to be made for the child to be in a safe (temporary) place before any assessment takes place and before a permanent accommodation decision is made. There is a strong possibility that the child 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 has been established, if necessary, with the help of police and immigration services;
  8. Placement decisions should take particular account of protecting the child from any continued risk from suspected traffickers or modern slavery facilitators, and from a heightened risk of going missing. An out of area placement might in some cases be appropriate to put distance between the child and where the suspected traffickers expect them to be. Specialist accommodation should be considered, for example, in settings which specialise in dealing with victims of trafficking or with foster carers who have received specialist training. It may be desirable to place a child ‘out of area’ to disrupt contact. 

Stopping Children going Missing and having Contact with Traffickers

Where a child is a potential victim of modern slavery, it is important that all necessary safeguarding procedures are put in place as quickly as possible. There is a strong risk that the child will go missing, potentially being re-trafficked, in the first 72 hours post identification. Certain nationalities of children appear particularly at risk of going missing.

Local safeguarding arrangements should include adequate plans for the prevention of victims of modern slavery victims going missing, reducing the harm that comes to them if they do go missing and finding them as quickly as possible if they do. This includes talking with the child and within 72hours undertaking a thorough multi-agency risk assessment.

Statutory guidance on children who run away or go missing from home or care (2014) is available to support local authorities consider the risks of going missing and how to prevent this from taking place. This guidance is also relevant to other professionals.


7. Placement and Allocated Workers

A careful evaluation of the young person’s needs and wishes will need to be undertaken in order to identify a suitable placement. A full and considered assessment may not be possible at the initial meeting with the young person, yet it is likely that a placement will need to be identified.

It may be necessary, therefore, to place the young person temporarily pending further assessment and identification of a suitable placement. The young person and carers should be made aware of this, and further assessment undertaken at the earliest opportunity to inform care planning.

Foster carers/ supported accommodation staff will need to be carefully and accurately briefed about the young person’s cultural, religious and ethnic needs, and about the situation/their experience in the home country and during the journey to the UK. Any particular dietary needs will need to be identified and discussed with carers. All these issues will be included in the Placement Plan.

Issues to be considered in relation to placement selection will include:

  • Immediate risk factors, includes risks around the age of the young person, and concerns around trafficking;
  •  Religious, linguistic and cultural needs;
  • Use of supported accommodation for those who arrive aged 16 and 17 subject to an assessment of need. If there are safeguarding concerns around trafficking, a foster placement must always be sought pending the outcome of further assessment.

The allocated social worker will complete further assessments, develop a care plan and put the care plan into action. If the young person is over 16, they will also be allocated a Personal Adviser.

Where there is a dispute/uncertainty about the young person's age, a risk assessment should be undertaken to minimise the potential dangers to vulnerable others already in placement, and the welfare and emotional wellbeing of the young person to be placed, whilst an Age Assessment is completed.

The young person should, at the point of placement, be given the name and contact number of a social worker who s/he can contact and, where the placement is made by a duty social worker, a social worker should be allocated without undue delay.

The expectations and rules of the placement should be carefully explained to the young person, together with any financial arrangements that will apply via the completion of the Placement Plan. It should be borne in mind that the young person’s primary needs are likely to be for food and shelter, a bath, clean clothes and caring adults. The physical appearance of the placement, its location and who lives there should be explained to the young person before s/he is taken to the placement. An orientation with the local area will need to be organised as soon as possible to include relevant points of contact with the young person’s community, support agencies and religion.


8. Missing UASC

UASC are vulnerable to 'people traffickers'. All relevant staff and carers should be made aware that they may be targeted, recruited or coerced into the sex industry or the 'slave trade' (indentured service).

There are two main reasons why trafficked children go missing. Firstly, even when children are looked after, the trafficker has control over and contact with the child and removes them under pre-arranged orders. Secondly, children go missing because they are scared of their trafficker.

Traffickers employ a range of methods to control the children, including: the removal of identity documents; threats of punishment by UK authorities if they are caught; physical or sexual violence; emotional abuse; the use of “juju” (magic /spells / witchcraft); and threats to the child’s family. Children are effectively groomed to believe that if they do not go back to their traffickers, or if they disclose anything to authorities, that they or their families will suffer. Research has identified that 60 per cent of trafficked children in local authority care go missing. Our experience in Worcestershire is often young people go missing within the first 48 hours of being in our care.

When any UASC goes missing, (see, West Midlands Safeguarding Children Procedures, Children Missing from Care, Home and Education) procedures must be followed. The Police must be contacted and all available information given that may lead to the child or young person being recovered.

UKVI must be informed as they may hold a current photograph and finger print record. Details of the missing UASC will be posted on the UASC Index. This will ultimately be part of the National Child Index for England and Wales.

Any child suspected as a victim of trafficking who goes missing must be considered at high risk of further trafficking and there should be an immediate strategy discussion / meeting with all professionals involved; see above. Decisions taken at the Strategy Discussion / Meeting include:

  • Referral to National Referral Mechanism
  • Plan of action to identify whereabouts;
  • Alerts and plan for safe return, including safe accommodation;
  • Need for any border alerts / notifications to other local authorities.

UASC have the same rights as other Looked after Children who are missing children. When a missing UASC is located, it may appear that the young person is willingly involved in the sex industry or as an indentured worker, but this must be carefully explored as the UASC may be paying back a debt of honour, and it may put them or their family of origin at risk if they do not continue to co-operate. They should be viewed as at risk, and continuing efforts should be made to protect them. This will require a strategy meeting with the Police and agreement about how to proceed.

Finding Missing Children

If a potential victim of modern slavery goes missing, the police must be notified as soon as possible and within 6 hours. It is the responsibility of the public authority with responsibility for the child at the point they go missing to notify the police and share all information they have available on the child.

 Unless there is good evidence to give a different risk assessment, the police should assess all missing children who have been determined to be victims of modern slavery or potential victims to be high risk. The case should remain open until the child has been found and the police should meet regularly with other public authorities to review progress in finding the missing child.

For non UK national children a ‘nominated person’ from the local authority or other public authority should be identified who will coordinate information sharing and ensure that activity to find the missing child is coordinated.


9. Age Assessments

The latest guidance must be followed. ADCS Age Assessment Guidance October 2015

The proforma for sharing the outcome of age assessment is contained in Appendix 5: Information Sharing Form for Sharing Outcome of Age Assessment.

Age Assessment Procedure on Arrival

A UASC's age is a key part of the information needed when making an assessment of need and subsequently for the appropriate provision of service. It is important to explain to the UASC that an assessment must be undertaken to identify what services will be provided.

Other than in clear cases, age cannot be determined on appearance alone, and an assessment must be carried out based on personal history as well as ethnic and cultural information. The Local Authority must not simply adopt the decision of the BIA (Border and Immigration Agency), and the decision maker must give adequate reasons for a decision that an applicant claiming to be a child is not a child.

Assessing workers should assess from a holistic perspective, and in light of the information available. It is a process of professional judgement and a particularly sensitive issue involving many variables; not least the worker's ability to understand the cross-cultural issues that might apply.

Where there are immediate concerns that the UASC may be an adult at the point of arrival, an immediate assessment can be made based on physical appearance in line with the Croydon Judgement (2009). The Croydon judgment (2009) stated that, ‘If the applicant’s physical appearance/ demeanour very strongly suggest that they are SIGNIFICANTLY over 18 years of age the applicant should be treated as an adult and be considered under the process instructions for adults. These cases DO NOT fall within the age dispute process.’

In such cases, a second opinion from either a Manager or Senior Social Worker will be required in reaching such a decision. Where it is determined that they are an adult, Worcestershire County Council will provide a letter stating that they are refusing to accommodate them as a child. The Home Office will issue an IS97M and transfer them to Asylum Support to receive accommodation and financial assistance as an adult.

Decisions on age assessments are sometimes required in a short time. Where there is uncertainty, the benefit of doubt should always be given to the young person. In completing the assessment, it is important to recognise that the UASC has the right to legally challenge the conclusion. If a young person is assessed as being over 18, they should be given a copy of the assessment and advised to seek independent legal advice.


10. Third Country Applicants

Some UASC will have been fingerprinted in another country on route to the UK and this may be considered as an asylum claim. In such cases, the UASC will be referred to the Third Country Unit at UKVI to consider whether it is in the best interests of the UASC to be returned to the third country to have their asylum claim heard. See Third Country Guidelines.


11. Care & Pathway Planning and Review

The Immigration and trafficking status of the young person must be taken into account in care planning and pathway planning in line with statutory guidance Care of unaccompanied migrant children and child victims of modern slavery – statutory guidance for local authorities (2017).

Planning needs to take into account the three possible outcomes for those UASC turning 18. This is known as triple planning and should be part of the statutory planning through the care plan, pathway plan and review process. Planning for the three possible outcomes at 18 includes:

  1. Equipping the young person to have a future in the UK if they receive some form of leave to remain in the UK past their 18th birthday;
  2. Preparing the young person to be returned to their country of origin if they are refused an extension to remain in the UK and are returned to their country of origin; or if they decide to return of their own accord;
  3. Supporting young people who are refused leave to remain in the UK and who have exhausted all appeals but have not yet been removed. These young people are referred to as “end of line” or Appeal Rights Exhausted cases.


12. Supporting Young People through the Asylum Process

The local authority through Social Workers and Personal Advisors, has a responsibility to support the UASC in accessing their rights. This involves supporting them through the asylum process.

Screening Interview by the Home Office

The young person will be asked basic questions regarding family members, route of entry to the UK, possession of passport etc, and asked to confirm if they wish to asylum. It is essential that they are informed that this is the purpose that they have been taken to UKVI, and understand that they are asking for international protection.

They will be asked to give a brief statement as to why they want to claim Asylum. The contents of this interview can be used in evidence against the claimant, for example, if they fail to state a reason why they are claiming asylum, but later want to rely on that reason.

Following the interview, the young person’s photograph and fingerprints will be taken.

The child will be given a copy of the screening interview records, together with a Statement of Evidence Form (SEF). The solicitor will need this in order to complete the Statement of Evidence Form. 

A Responsible Adult should attend the Screening Interview, and in most cases this is a Social Worker. UKVI will arrange for an interpreter to be present. A copy of the Screening Interview should be retained for the child’s file.

Instructing Legal Representation

Upon receiving the blank Statement of Evidence Form at the Screening Interview, Social worker’s will be responsible for instructing suitable Solicitors for the child/young person to complete the SEF in preparation for the Substantive Interview.

A list of Law Firms that deal with Immigration Law under Legal Aid within Birmingham and the West Midlands will be available from the CA16+ Team.

Social workers should call the chosen legal firm and arrange an initial appointment with the child/young person. In some cases, a Social Worker will attend the first appointment, but in most cases will be required to attend all subsequent appointments. Social workers will be asked to assist in transporting the young person to/from legal appointments.

Solicitors firms will require a confirmation Section 20 letter to confirm that the young person is Looked After in order to obtain Legal Aid funding. This will be provided by the LAC permanency/Care leavers Team.

First Reporting Event (FRE)

This is normally done over the telephone with the allocated Social Worker, who will share information regarding placement, significant health needs and details of legal representative to ensure that UKVI and Local Authority records match.

At this stage, a UKVI Case Owner will be identified, i.e. the person that will see through the child/young person’s asylum claim. 

Obtaining an Asylum Registration Card (ARC)

An Asylum Registration Card (ARC) is an identity card that all Asylum Seekers can apply for. The ARC displays name and Date of Birth and a photograph. It is only valid throughout the Asylum process and is not valid after a decision has been made on the child/young person’s asylum case.

Young people are mostly keen to obtain this card as they normally arrive in the UK with nothing or very little identification. It can also help as identification when applying/registering at local community facilities.

In order to apply for an ARC, the Social Worker should send an email to UASCARCAppointments@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk outlining the young person’s Name, Date of Birth, Home Office reference and availability. On receipt of this, a confirmation letter with an appointment date and time will be sent out to the Social Worker and Foster Carer.

Either the Foster Carer, Social Worker or Personal Advisor will need to be present at this appointment.

Issued with Statement of Evidence Form (SEF)

This must be returned to the Home Office within 28 days. The allocated Social Worker should ensure that it is given to the solicitor.

The Social Worker should notify a solicitor immediately upon receipt of the SEF as it takes time to get an appointment and witness statements need to be prepared. It will take at least 2 - 3 appointments to complete this and get it sent to the Home Office within the 28 day period.

Failure to comply results in a “non-compliance decision” and Leave to Remain will be refused. The UASC can appeal against this decision, however it would have to be proven that there was not enough time to complete the SEF. This can severely delay the application process and have an impact on future status for the young person.

The solicitor will then complete the SEF with the young person. It is recommended that a Social Worker should accompany a young person to the solicitor’s appointment to support the young person in completing their statement, but also to gain more information and insight to the young person and their background.

Substantive Interview

This is the main Asylum interview where the young person is interviewed by their Case Owner about their asylum claim.

The interview can last up to 4 hours.

A Responsible Adult will attend to ensure that the interview takes place in a child focused manner. This should be the allocated Social Worker or a Personal Advisor. It is not advisable that the Foster Carer attends due to the sensitive nature of the information being discussed. Where there is a request for a Foster Carer to act as the Responsible Adult, this should be discussed and agreed by a Manager.

Accommodation for New Asylum UASC still Awaiting Decision at 18

The New Asylum Model is designed so that UASC will receive a decision on their application prior to their 18th birthday. However if the UASC has not received a decision 4 weeks prior to their 18th birthday then an Asylum Support application form needs to be completed and sent. 

Arrangements should be made to ensure that UASC receive their weekly payment from Asylum Support to continue to accommodate the UASC. If that amount does not cover the full weekly accommodation costs then Worcestershire County Council have a duty to pay the outstanding amount until the asylum application decision is made.

If the initial asylum application has been refused by the Home Office then the UASC will need to contact a solicitor to appeal within 10 working days.


13. Possible Outcomes of Asylum Applications

(For further information, see NRPF network website)

Grant of Asylum – Limited Leave to Remain Refugee Status

Recognised as a refugee under the Refugee Convention (1951) due to issues of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, social group, no state protection (unable to live safely in ANY part of their country of origin).

Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) is no longer granted and all asylum leave to remain is limited to 5 years. Applicant will then have to make a further application for ILR at the end of the first 5 years. However, this is likely to be granted again unless involvement in criminal activity or a significant change in the country of origin.

Grant of Humanitarian Protection (HP)

This does not mean that the UASC is recognised as a refugee. Humanitarian Protection is granted on grounds of risk of unlawful killing, death penalty, or breach of article 3 of the European Court of Human Rights Act (right not to be subjected to torture, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment).

Limited to 5 years, however an application can be made for ILR at the end of the 5 years. This is likely to be granted again unless involvement in criminal activity or a significant change in the country of origin.

Limited Leave to Remain – UASC Leave

If the UASC is refused Refugee Status and Humanitarian Protection (HP) it means that the claim for asylum is not successful or that the UASC is not considered to be at risk to return to the country of origin. This is the most common outcome of application on asylum.

This Leave is granted only up to the age of 17.5yrs or for 3 years, whichever is the shortest period.

If the applicant is over 17.5yrs when the application is made then they will not be granted any UASC leave, but will not be removed from the UK whilst they are under 18 yrs.

If UASC Leave is granted and the UASC has more than 1yrs leave issued, then an appeal on the decision can be lodged to the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal.

The UASC has an automatic right to appeal, however a solicitor may not be able to represent the UASC if the appeal does not meet the specific merits under the Legal Aid criteria.

If there are merits for appeal then it should be made immediately and not wait until the UASC is approaching 17.5yrs.

Main Rights if UASC Leave is Granted

  • Right to work subject to employment legislation;
  • Right to continue to access support from Children’s Services;
  • Right to claim benefits;
  • Right to travel - travel documentation required if the UASC has no passport. Application form and fee will be required. However, the UASC should NOT travel to their county of origin.

Process for Applications for Further Leave to Remain

These should be made at least one month before the date for expiry on the UASC leave papers. An appointment should be booked with a solicitor at least one month prior to the end date. The allocated Social Worker/Personal Advisor is responsible for ensuring that the young person is aware of this and supported to apply for further leave.

For those granted UASC Leave to Remain on or after 1st April 2007, an application for Further Leave to Remain must be made before they reach 17.5 years of age. It is likely that a decision on this application will be made prior to the UASC turning 18 years old, and therefore application of Article 8 under the European Court of Human Rights Act is limited.

The application form should be completed by a solicitor and must be returned to the Home Office by the last day stated on the Leave to Remain documentation. Failure to do so will mean that the applicant is an “illegal overstayer”.

If an application for Further Leave to Remain is made then the applicant has rights under the previous leave that they were granted. Therefore if previously granted UASC Leave to Remain then the UASC can still claim benefits post 18th birthday (Immigration Act, 1971).

There is no fee for the application for Further Leave to Remain, however 4 passport sized photographs need to be provided with the application.

Asylum and Human Rights grounds can be raised again; however Home Office will continue to rely on any contents of previous refusal letters. Reasons for the first refusal therefore must be addressed via the solicitor.

Character references can be used to demonstrate to the Home Office that the UASC has settled into life within the UK and has made a social contribution. However, it is also positive to identify current vulnerabilities for the young person.

A total of 6 years of Discretionary Leave needs to be granted in order for ILR to then be granted.

If Leave is not granted then the applicant has 10 days in which to lodge an appeal with the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal (AIT).

Further information can be found from Coram Children’s Legal Centre website and No Recourse to Public Funds Network.


14. Education and Training

As far as admission to school or college is concerned, UASC’s have the same rights as any other Looked After Child in Worcestershire.


15. Health Needs

The designated Health team will fast track initial health assessments of newly arriving UASC so notifications and IHA form must be forwarded to them within 48 hours of referral. (This is currently subject to approval.)

Consent:

  •  The local authority does not hold Parental Responsibility for an UASC accommodated under Section 20, unless it first seeks a Care Order, and does not therefore hold authority to authorise prophylactic treatment or other invasive medical procedures. However, 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;
  • 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, the decision to treat or otherwise will be made by health professionals who will consider the competency and how necessary the treatment is in accordance with the law and health policy.

NHS prescription charges:

  1. Irrespective of age once an individual has made an application for asylum through the relevant government body they are exempt from all NHS health charges and an HC2 certificate can be requested from NHS website on that basis. This position only changes once their application has been declined;
  1. They also come under the rule of being exempt as vulnerable minors who are in LA care. An HC2 exemption certificate can be applied for by first completing a HC1 special circumstances form which covers all young people and adults in LA care irrespective of immigration status. The phone number to request this form to be posted out is 0300123 0849. Any costs that have been paid for up-front would have to be claimed back within a 3 month timescale.

Please also see information via this link: (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-on-overseas-visitors-hospital-charging-regulations).


16. Financial Support

UASC have the same access to financial support from the local authority as any other looked after child or care leaver.

Any young people aged 16 or 17 who are not looked after but receive a positive decision on their asylum claim will be eligible for state benefits, including Income Support and Housing Benefit.

In some cases, legal aid will be available for asylum cases and trafficking cases where the individual has been recognised as a trafficking victim and legal proceedings relating to immigration detention. Other immigration cases, including applications for leave to remain in the UK on the basis of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, are no longer within the scope of legal aid.

Legal aid is available for judicial review, subject to some specific exclusions. In recognition that any immigration legal advice that a child receives needs to be independent of the local authority and from a qualified Immigration Advisor, the local authority will consider whether paying or contributing to legal fees where this will be the best way to meet the child’s identified needs. An assessment of the merits of an immigration case will be based on an informed legal opinion. 

Any funding from the local authority can only be agreed by the Head of Service. There is a cap on legal fees of £1,500, and the case must be assessed as being ‘not obviously hopeless’. Early identification of cases and early discussion with Head of Service on such cases is required. This would need to be approved


17. Transition at 18 years and Immigration Status

Young people granted UASC Leave to Remain on arrival must resubmit their claim for further leave before reaching the age of 17 years and 6 months. Young people should be reminded of this by their solicitor and social worker, and assisted in attending any appointments by their worker who may wish to liaise with their UKVI case worker. The Home Office intention is for decisions about this application to be made by the time of the young person's 18th birthday.

Where applications are granted, young people may be given ILR (Indefinite Leave to Remain) or further UASC Leave to Remain for a specified period (normally 5 years).

If granted Refugee Status/Further Leave to Remain the young person will be entitled to access the welfare benefits system. In cases where access is denied or delayed, comparable support will be provided by the local authority under the general welfare duty for care leavers.

Where applications are refused, young people will be informed that they are liable to be detained and removed and that they are required to report to the Home Office. Young people may have the choice of voluntary repatriation at age 18 or over or may become subject to physical detention awaiting removal. Solicitors may advise further action such as a legal challenge to a decision or an application for HP (Humanitarian Protection).

Having refused an application, the UKVI may be unable to remove some young people to certain countries or some parts of certain countries due to conditions in the prevailing conditions in that country or region or due to entry requirements by a particular country. For young people whose applications have been refused, this is likely to be a very difficult, anxious and confusing time.

Whether applications are granted or refused, young people who have gained care leaver status through being Looked After remain entitled to the support applicable to that status and most will become Former Relevant care leavers on attaining the age of 18, continuing to be entitled to support from a Personal Adviser and the maintenance of a pathway plan based on their needs. However, those whose Appeal Rights are Exhausted, ongoing support from the local authority will be subject to them complying with immigration requirements (attending appointments, reporting and possible Human Rights Assessment’s etc). Where applications are granted, young people should be entitled to work, train, receive benefits and access accommodation in the same way as other Former Relevant care leavers. Where applications have been refused or not yet decided, young people at 18 can apply to UKVI asylum support to meet their basic needs (accommodation and maintenance) and, if granted, UKVI should continue to pay the local authority to continue supporting the applicant rather than disperse the young person to other areas of the country. Where support to meet basic needs is refused, the local authority may need to use discretionary powers under the Leaving Care Act to provide accommodation and maintenance. In either case, young people will continue to be entitled to other provision relevant to their care leaver status as agreed in their pathway plan and its review.

Where young people are "a legacy case" (i.e. have had applications for asylum considered prior to the introduction of the New Asylum Model in 2007), time scales will be different from the above and attention should be given to the requirements of each case on a case by case basis.

As with other care leavers, support under the Leaving Care Act continues up to the age of 21, or beyond up to 25 where a young person is taking part in an agreed programme of education, employment or training which requires on-going support.

Unlawfully in the UK

Withdrawal of Leaving Care Services

Those who have failed in their asylum application and who become Appeal Rights Exhausted will continue to receive support as care leavers by the local authority up until the age of 21, as long as they comply with Home Office requirements (e.g. attending appointments). Being a failed asylum seeker is not sufficient cause on its own to withdraw or withhold local authority support. They must have in addition, failed to comply with the removal directions issued in respect of them (Schedule 3 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002).

Ongoing local authority support may also be subject to the outcome of Human Rights Assessment (The purpose of these assessments is to identify whether the withdrawal of services would lead to a breach of article 3 or article 8 of the Human Rights Act).

Eligibility for Support from DWP or Asylum Support via UK Visa and Immigration (formerly National Asylum Support Service).

All those eligible for support from Asylum Support or DWP should be supported to make applications. Local authority care leaver funding will not be provided to those who are eligible but have not made a claim.

At 18

Young people who have refugee status, humanitarian protection or UASC leave (including those who are applying for an extension in-time or are appealing a refusal of extension) will be entitled to apply for mainstream benefits.

Others will be entitled to Asylum Support (subsistence and accommodation) at 18 years old. These include:

  • Young people who do not have a decision on their initial asylum application on their 18th birthday;
  • Young people who have an outstanding appeal against an outright refusal of asylum (but only if they have not been granted any other form of leave, such as a period of discretionary leave);
  • Young people who 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.

In addition those who are not eligible for leaving care support because they arrived within 13 weeks of turning 18, will be transferred from Children’s Services support to Asylum Support on their 18th birthday, as long as if they fit the Asylum Support criteria.

If they are receiving some support from social services as ‘qualifying children’, then it should be possible to argue for the young person not to be dispersed and to remain in the area where they are receiving this support.

Those turning 21 years old

Prior to their 21st birthday, and through pathway planning, the young person will be advised regarding alternative avenues of advice and support from the voluntary sector, such as the Refugee Council, and support via Asylum Support.

Detention and Removal

Young people who have become Appeal Rights Exhausted and exhausted all lines of appeal are either expected to make arrangements to leave the country voluntarily, or if not, are likely to have their removal enforced by the Home Office. In line with Immigration legislation, young people in this category are expected to comply with all reporting conditions.

Prior to their 16th birthday and beyond, all unaccompanied young people should have a Pathway Plan to prepare them for the transition period to adulthood. Support for unaccompanied young people turning 18 is especially important where their immigration status means that their future in the UK remains uncertain. In such circumstances, they will need to be prepared by triple planning for the three possible outcomes of their asylum applications by their plans, and should be part of their regular statutory planning through the care plan, pathway plan and review process. As part of triple planning, workers should ensure that those unlikely to have leave to remain after their 18th birthday prepare a young person to be returned to their country of origin, either if they are refused an extension to remain in the UK and are likely to be returned, or if they decide to return of their own accord.

As part of ongoing pathway planning, discussion about voluntary return for those whom it may be relevant should be explored, and the plan developed accordingly with realistic and achievable pathway goals.

For young people who have turned 18 and have been refused asylum or any other form of status, and who have exhausted the appeals process (including those who have been refused an extension to their discretionary leave), reporting conditions will be put in place by the Home Office. The IS96 is the written notification that will inform the young person about their reporting conditions, and will detail where to report and how often.

The IS96 also notifies the individual that they remain liable to being detained, and individuals should be aware that there is a likelihood that they will be detained prior to their removal.

Up until a time that a young person may be detained, they continue to be entitled to support as care leavers up until they reach 21, and beyond if they are eligible in line with The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations Volume 3: Planning Transition to Adulthood for Care Leavers.


18. Policy Relating to Detention

Once it has been established that a person has been detained, the allocated/duty worker should ensure that they establish which Immigration Detention Centre they are at and arrange to make a visit. Whilst there is no set timeframe for this visit to take place, consideration should be given to whether their removal is imminent.

The worker should establish that the person has been issued with all relevant documentation (See Enforced Removal). Where they already have an Immigration Solicitor acting for them, they should be notified immediately of the situation, even where you suspect they may already know. Where a person does not have an Immigration Solicitor acting for them, the worker should ensure that they have access to legal advice whilst in detention.

Where a person has been in accommodation provided by Worcestershire County Council, immediate notice must be given to end the placement. Should the person subsequently be released, they will be re-assessed to establish whether they meet the criteria for further support. Placements can not be held open on the basis that they might subsequently get released.

Where a person has been in receipt of financial support from Worcestershire County Council, this must be stopped with immediate effect. However, we can provide some financial support to a person in detention, on a discretionary basis.

The worker should make arrangements with the person and the Immigration Detention Centre to take their belongings to them. There are limits about what and how much will be allowed, and therefore this will need to be negotiated directly with the Immigration Detention Centre. Discussion will need to take place with the young person about surplus items, and agreement sought about either identifying someone else to keep them, or to discard items.

People may have savings from care, as well as other money which they may want to be able to access. The worker should ensure that where possible, people are able to access that money, or have the ability to access this money in their home country (i.e. with a bank card).

Consideration should be given to supporting the person to contact family and friends, and provide support to enable them to visit the person if requested.

The worker has a responsibility to ensure that the person is clear about their rights whilst in detention, and is able to access information about Voluntary Return, access to Independent Visitors, applying for Bail etc. An application for Voluntary Return can be made at any time, even when Removal Directions have been served on the individual, although it is unlikely to be accepted once these have been served.

Whilst a person remains in detention, they are entitled to ongoing support and should continue to receive a service. At the point that they are removed from the country, the service event should be closed.

A Notification of Change should be completed reflecting change in circumstances (i.e. address) within 48 hours. Should the person subsequently be removed from the UK, a further Notification of Change will be required for the case to be closed.

Rights in Detention

People detained for removal should be given access to telephone facilities, to enable instruction of and on going contact with legal representatives. They also have the right to make and receive telephone calls, and send and receive faxes. They are also able to access free, independent and confidential advice from organisations such as the Detention Advice Service (See Important Contact Details below for further details).

They are also entitled to receive visits from family, friends as well as professionals working with them. In addition, all people in detention can request visits from volunteer visitors provided through the Association of Visitors to Immigration Detainees (See Important Contact Details below for further details).

Bail / Legal Advice

There is currently no time limit on how long people can be detained in the UK, however people should not be detained for any longer then necessary. If they have been detained for more than 7 days, they are eligible to apply for bail. Bail applications can be completed by an Immigration Solicitor representing the individual. Young people receiving a leaving care service should be supported by a representative of the Local Authority with this application (See Role of Social/Support Worker for further details).

Alternatively, Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID) support bail applications for people in detention, and have produced an information book which is free to detainees How to Get out of Detention, and should be available in the library of the Immigration Removal Centre.

Medical / Health

While in detention, all people are entitled to receive proper, medical care which is appropriate to their needs. Medical Justice have produced an advice leaflet for people in UK Immigration Removal Centre’s.

The Medical Foundation for Care of Victims of Torture also provides medical care to people in Immigration Removal Centre’s.

Ex-Detainees

Some people may be released from detention if their planned removal did not take place, or where there is an outstanding Judicial Review. Former Relevant young people will need to be assessed to establish whether they meet the criteria for a service. Those that do not meet the criteria can obtain support from organisations such as Dover Detainee Visitor's Group: Ex Detainee Project.

This project aims to support released ex-detainees to reintegrate into society. It is a nationwide project and can provide help to anyone who has been released from any of the Immigration Detention Centre’s across the country. You do not have to have been a detainee in Dover to receive support from the project. They can offer emergency financial support, support in accessing accommodation, help with contact via phone cards, clothing and funding for essential travel (See Appendix 3: Useful Information and Contacts for further details). 

Services available for Voluntary Return

The United Kingdom provides an opportunity for all individuals with no basis to remain in the UK to return to their home country voluntarily, and is open to all non detainees as well as detainees. All detainees are advised about the scheme during their centre induction.

The AVR (Assisted Voluntary Return) programme is provided to the Home Office by a non-government organisation, Refugee Action, and is designed to achieve a dignified and sustainable return. 

Support is provided in obtaining travel documentation, provision of a flight to their country and onward domestic travel, as well as assistance at departure and arrival airports. Financial assistance is also provided to help with immediate reintegration needs, to enter training or education or to generate an income.

The service provided by Refugee Action is discrete and impartial and only basic information about applicants is shared with the Home Office. This is simply to enable them to confirm someone is eligible to leave the UK, for example, to make sure they are not subject to an outstanding criminal matter.

Relevant Legislation

Power to Detain

There are four circumstances in which a person may be detained as set down in Schedules 2 and 3 of the Immigration Act 1971 (as amended by the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999), however in relation to failed asylum seekers, points 2 or 3 will be the relevant section:

  1. Pending the giving of removal directions and removal for those refused leave to enter and for those determined to be illegal entrants (Schedule 2, paragraph 8,9 and 16(2) IA 1971 as amended by section 140(1) of the IAA 1999);
  2. Pending removal of those served with notice of intention to deport under s.3(5) of 71 Act, in respect of whom a deportation order has been signed and those recommended for deportation (Schedule 3, paragraph 2 of the IA 1971).

Once a person has exhausted all rights of appeal against the Secretary of State’s decision to refuse them asylum, or leave on the basis of a Human Rights claim, they will become Appeal Rights Exhausted (ARE). As a result, they will have no legal right to be in the UK, and where they have refused to leave voluntarily, the Home Office will move to enforce their return.

Criteria for Detention

Procedures must be in place to ensure that detention is lawful and fair. The initial reasons for detention will be provided to the individual in the Form 1S91R; there should be regular reviews of detention, and the reasons for any subsequent detention being given in Form lS93. These procedures are set out in the Immigration Service’s Enforcement Instructions and Guidance. There is a duty to promptly provide reasons for detention and a failure to do so renders the detention unlawful (although, controversially, this is not necessarily the same as qualifying the detainee for release from detention: see Saadi v UK 13229/03 [2008] ECHR 80).

It is possible that initial reasons for detention may be built upon at a later stage should bail be sought, because at that point a bail summary will have to be prepared. Those representing detainees should seek disclosure of the initial reasons for detention. Sometimes the Immigration Service will reveal these on application; on other occasions, it may be necessary to seek disclosure via other measures, such as a Subject Access Bureau request under the Data Protection Act.

Guidance on detention policy can be found in the Enforcement Instructions and Guidance (EIG) on the Home Office website at chapter 55. This includes extremely useful instructions on the factors to be taken into account in assessing whether a person is to be assessed as an absconding risk and re-detention of those subject to Bail conditions. Chapter 55 also incorporates commitments given by the Government in the 1998 White Paper and subsequently that detention is a tool of last resort and alternatives would be used whenever possible.

Removal Process

There are a number of types of removal as listed below:

  1. Enforced removal is when removal is necessary because a claimant takes no steps to leave by their own accord;
  2. Administrative removal (Section 10 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999) takes place when a person previously granted leave to enter or remain in the UK fails to leave at the end of their stay.   There are also provisions to make an administrative removal under Section 47 of the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006.  These are the decisions made in the case of most former unaccompanied asylum seeking children. The power to remove illegal entrants and those refused leave to enter is in Paragraphs 8-10 (Schedule 2) of the Immigration Act 1971;
  3. Deportation usually takes place when someone has indefinite leave to remain in the UK, but their continued presence here is considered not to be conducive to the public good.  E.g. usually convicted criminals sentenced to 12 months or longer – or repeat offenders. 

Enforced Removal

The IS.151A Part 1 (Notice that a person is to be treated as an illegal entrant/a person liable to removal) can be served on those liable to administrative removal. The Notice of Liability is not an appealable immigration decision.  It informs the individual that they are an illegal entrant/immigration offender and they are liable to detention and removal.  It also allows reporting restrictions to be placed on the individual.

An IS.151B will be served where a protection or human rights claim has been made and refused. It informs the individual that a decision has been made to remove them from the UK and that their asylum/human rights claim has also been refused.  It notifies them that they have an “in-country” right of appeal against the decision. The immigration decision (IS.151A or IS.151B) must specify the country/territory to which the individual will be removed to.  Where the nationality of the individual is disputed, doubtful, they are a dual national, or where they are removable to more than one country/territory, more than one country/territory can be specified on the decision. (See the Instruction on Nationality: Doubtful, Disputed and Other Cases for further information).  

An individual subject to removal can only be detained or placed on restrictions where an IS.151A Part 1 has been served.                            

After the service of the removal decision, an IS.151D (Removal Directions) can be served on the individual. The IS.151D informs the individual of the specific details of their removal from the UK. Only one country/territory can be specified on the IS.151D. Removal cannot take place when an appeal is pending or until the time limit for lodging such an appeal has expired. Therefore, following the service of the IS.151B you must allow at least 10 working days (or at least 5 working days in the case of an individual in detention) before serving the IS.151D.  

The following notice period applies to enforcement cases (including administrative removal and deportation) except third country cases or those being removed on chartered flights:

  1. A minimum of 72 hours must be allowed between informing a detainee of their removal directions (i.e. issuing of the IS.151D) and the removal itself;
  2. This 72 hour period must always include at least two working days;
  3. The last 24 hours of this period must include a working day unless the notice period already includes three working days.  

Services available for Enforced Removal to Afghanistan

A condition of the tripartite Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the UK, UNHCR and the Afghan Government is that a reintegration service is provided in Afghanistan to enforced returnees from the UK. Their aim is to provide training and employment activities for returnees with a view to sustainable involvement in the job market. This service is designed to contribute to the successful reintegration of Afghan returnees.

The Home Office provides post arrival reception and reintegration services in Afghanistan through Refugee Action (RA).

The following services are available to all enforced returnees:

Post Arrival Services:

  • Reception at Kabul airport by RA airport staff and a RA doctor;
  • Medical consultation/ treatment at RA Kabul airport clinic (if needed);
  • Information on mine-awareness;
  • Information on the reintegration services available;
  • Onward transportation to the returnee’s final destination – air or road transport with public transportation companies (if requested);
  • Temporary accommodation with full board for up to 14 days at the Jangalak Reception Centre (if requested).

Reintegration Services:

  • Assistance in vocational and educational training;
  • In kind support toward the development of a small business;
  • Employment / job referrals for those interested in direct employment;
  • Existing skills and vocational experience are assessed as part of this process and used in delivering appropriate reintegration assistance.

The Home Office has a Migration Delivery Officer based at the British Embassy in Kabul who oversees the provision of services to returnees. The officer liaises directly with the Afghan Ministry for Refugees and Repatriation to resolve any problems identified by returnees or regarding conditions on return, as appropriate. 


19. Practice Guidance Reunification with Family and Friends

Although this area is not taken into account in the 2010 statutory guidelines on Family and Friends Care, it is not unusual for unaccompanied asylum seeking children to have been trafficked into the UK. In order to ensure their safety, extensive checks on people claiming to be family members must be undertaken (the person claiming to be a relative may actually be a trafficker).

Under present legislative arrangements, children’s social care is responsible for UASC claiming asylum in Worcestershire, through its powers and duties under the Children Act 1989.

By definition, UASC do not have parents available to exercise parental responsibility in this country. Because of this, they are extremely vulnerable in the UK and the duties placed upon local authorities are extensive.

Where consideration is being given to placing a UASC with family members, the Family & Friends policy should be followed.

Exemptions from these Procedures

Exemptions from these procedures include:

  1. Where parent/person(s) with parental responsibility capable of caring for a UASC are identified and their documents in relation to the child/young person are independently verified;

    In these circumstances, the child/young person is no longer an unaccompanied asylum seeker;

    To independently verify that someone is the parent of, or has parental responsibility for, an asylum seeking child:
    • Check with the Home Office about the identity of family members;
    • Ask the council legal section to make legal checks.
  2. Where active involvement of the Police and Immigration Services indicate a risk of significant harm to the child/young person due to trafficking/exploitation that is directly associated to the identified relatives;

    In these circumstances, the child/young person remains a child in care and, where necessary, child protection procedures are followed.

Good Practice Guidelines

  • Remember that unaccompanied minors are children first;
  • Remember that the principle of ‘best interests' is the prime consideration of the local authority in its decision-making;
  • Make sure that practice takes into account:
    • Culture;
    • Ethnicity;
    • Language issues.
  • Maximise the positive impact that can be made by the child/young person’s extended family;
  • Do not assume that family ties are sufficient to ensure that living with a relative will successfully meet the needs of the child/young person. The assessment, planning and review process is essential;
  • Only apply these procedures to the reunification with relatives who are assessed as over 18.

Procedure for Assessment and Reunification of Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children with a Relative

  • Follow the assessment framework guidelines;
  • Complete a detailed assessment of the child and the relative before agreeing to any planned reunification of the child/young person with that relative;
  • Take into account the needs, wishes and feelings of the child/young person regarding their future care;
  • If English is not their first language, always use an interpreter;
  • Seek a balance between the time allowed to gather sufficient information, relating to the child/young person’s needs and circumstances, and ensuring that delay is minimised;
  • Include in the assessment a detailed account of steps undertaken to verify the exact nature of the relationship between the child/young person and the potential care;

    Remember that the use of the term ‘mother’, ‘father, ‘sister’, ’brother’, and so forth, does not necessarily denote a blood relationship. For example, many young people in Africa refer to any woman older than them as ‘mother’;
  • How willing is the relative to take on the caring role for the child/young person? Fully discuss with the potential carer the impact of the arrangements on them;
  • Obtain independent social histories where possible;
  • Check the immigration status of the child/young person. Where necessary, include preparations for possible repatriation to the country of origin or the country of the first claim in the EU, in the care plan;
  • Check the immigration status of the potential connected persons carer. This may limit the relative carer’s capacity to take responsibility for the child’s well being in the long term;
  • Undertake DBS checks of any person aged 16 and over who lives in the same property;
  • Identify suitable education provision for the child/young person near the potential carer’s home;
  • Explain benefit entitlements (if any) of the young person and the impact upon the potential carer’s financial circumstances. Include any additional entitlements to benefits;
  • Record the assessment of the potential carer on the Family and Friends Carer’s Assessment Record;
  • Please note that once an unaccompanied minor is reunited with a member of their extended family, the Home Office guidance is that they are no longer unaccompanied. No grant is available from the Home Office to support any Section 17 payments to relative carers in these circumstances;
  • Follow the process outlined in Family and Friends Care Policy;
  • If financial support authorised by the Family and Friends Care Panel, Once the child/young person is reunified with a relative, they cease to be a child in care. Hold a statutory LAC Review to confirm this;
  • If the placement with the relative cannot offer permanence, identify and discuss any contingency plans with the child/young person.

Supported Family and Friends Care and Immigration Issues

  • If the proposed family and friends carer has residency in the UK or has been granted leave to remain, provision of suitable housing for children reunited with their extended families is the concern of the relevant housing department. See Possible Outcomes of Asylum Claim (Coram, Children's Legal Centre);
  • If the proposed carer is seeking asylum or has other temporary admission status (e.g. student visa), they are not eligible for housing services. The National Asylum Support Services (NASS) will provide their accommodation or they will have to provide it themselves;
  • Contact NASS to agree for inclusion of the child in the kinship carer’s household.


Appendices

Click here to view Appendix 1: UASC Checklist.

Click here to view Appendix 2: Potential Indicators of Children who may have been Victim of Modern Slavery.

Click here to view Appendix 3: Useful Information and Contacts.

Click here to view Appendix 4: Unique UASC Record Form.

Click here to view Appendix 5: Information Sharing Form for Sharing Outcome of Age Assessment.

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