Berkshire Safeguarding Children Board Procedures
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4.2.1 Unaccompanied Children Policy


  1. Policy Aim
  2. Legislation, Central Government and other External Documents References
  3. Policy
  4. Procedure
  5. Monitoring and Review

1.Policy Aim

To ensure that unaccompanied children receive quality services that meet their needs.

2. Legislation, Central Government and other External Documents References

  • Children Act 1989 - Section 17, 20;
  • Local Authority Circular - LAC (2003) 13;
  • Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000;
  • Southwark Judgement May 2009;
  • Merton Judgement 2003 - Disputed Age Cases

Slough Borough Council and Social Services Department References
Slough Borough Council - LAC procedures

3.  Policy

Local Authority Circular - LAC (2003) 13 states -

Where a child has no parent or guardian in this country, perhaps because he has arrived alone seeking asylum, the presumption should be that he would fall within the scope of section 20 and become looked after, unless the needs assessment reveals particular factors which would suggest that an alternative response would be more appropriate. While the needs assessment is being carried out, he should be cared for under section 20.

Some older asylum seeking children may refuse to become looked after. In such cases, the child being without a family or responsible adult in this country would appear to trigger a duty under section 20(1). However, after taking account of the child's wishes as required by section 20(6), it may be appropriate to determine that the child is competent to look after themselves. In such cases section 17 may be used for support, including help with accommodation, without making the child a 'looked after' child.

Southwark Judgement - 2009

The department for Children Schools & Families indicated that there should be a presumption that all lone children who meet the criteria in section 20(1) must be accommodated by children's services department until their needs have been properly assessed and plans are in place to meet those needs. Authorities should presume any homeless child should be accommodated unless he is not a child in need. Authorities' should carry out core assessments and attempts made to get a child back home. If these attempts fail there might be cases in which the child's long term needs might best be met by a move to accommodation where he can live independently without the need to be a looked after child maybe under section 17. The reasoning preferred is that if a child in need does not have accommodation and meets the criteria in section 20(1) the local authority must accommodate them under section 20.

Merton Judgement - 2003

The Merton Judgement gives guidance as to the requirements of a lawful assessment by a local authority of the age of a young asylum seeker claiming to be under the age of 18 years. All local authorities are required, following the Merton Judgement, to ensure that their assessments are full and comprehensive (Merton Compliant).

4. Procedure

Procedure for Unaccompanied Minors

4.1 Interview young person with an interpreter and complete Merton Compliant assessment. Refer to addendum 1- to follow for details
4.2  If young person is aged 18 years+, they should be re-directed to the National Asylum Support Service (NASS) (Ph: 0845 602 1739).
4.3 If young person is deemed to be a minor, then an appropriate placement should be identified and a referral made to the Family Placement Team. Authorization for the young person to be placed will need to be gained from the Assistant Director.
4.4 If the young person is between 16 years and 18 years, does not want to become LAC and is deemed capable of living independently then he will be provided with services under sec.17 and appropriate supported accommodation.
4.5 If the identified placement is out of area, then the relevant Local Social Care Office will need to be notified that the young person is placed in their area.
4.6 The social worker must ensure the young person has access to a telephone interpreter during their placement. This can be arranged via STAIS or EITI.

The social worker must write to the Home Office in Croydon providing details of the young person's circumstances, which led to their presentation at the office. Details should be provided regarding -

  • Action taken by the Department;
  • Current placement information;
  • Confirmation that the young person presents as that of the chronological age given. (Determined by completion of an 'age assessment' during initial interview).

Home Office - Ph: 0870 606 7766
Lunar House, 40 Wellesley Road, Croydon, CR9 2BY.

4.7 The social worker must accompany the young person to the initial visit to the Home Office to ensure that a funding claim is made, this should be done as soon after the age assessment as possible as the local authority will not receive funding for the young person until the application is made.
4.8  If the young person is believed to have been trafficked into Britain they will be granted a 45 days temporary admission. This is to give the young person time to recover and consider what they want to do next. From day 30 The UK Human Trafficking Centre will commence an assessment and by day 45 a conclusive decision will be made about whether the young person has been trafficked.

If a carer or relative comes forward in respect of the young person and proposes to offer alternative care then the following options should be considered pending further assessment:
NB Please note - the Young Person would not be viewed as 'unaccompanied' by the Home Office in the above circumstances.

  • If a child/young person under 16 is living with and being cared for by someone other than a close relative (i.e. not a grandparent, step-parent, uncle, aunt, brother or sister) then he/she is privately fostered and falls within the Children (Private Arrangements for Fostering) Regulations 2005. This does not apply if the child/young person is LAC or subject to a RO/SGO.
    In these circumstances the Local Authority will not be financially supporting the child/young person, though there may be circumstances where a one off S17 payment is appropriate;
  • If the carer or relative has no recourse to public funds and their current immigration status remains uncertain then strong consideration should be given to the Young Person remaining accommodated in a LAC foster placement;
  • If the carer or relative is an asylum seeker, then they should be advised to approach NASS with a view to including the young person on their current application for asylum;
  • If the carer or relative is entitled to benefits then they should be advised to include the young person on their current claim;

  • The carers or relatives should be encouraged to consider applying for leave to apply for a Child Arrangements Order or Special Guardianship Order. This would be subject to a full assessment by Education and Children's Services, Kinship Care Team. This route is not appropriate for those without recourse to public funds.

    A Child Arrangements Order allowance or Special Guardianship allowance may be payable.


LAC Procedures to be followed -

  • Notify Independent Reviewing Officers of placement and book a Child Care Statutory Review within 28 days of the placement. Copy of LAC Care Plan/Report for Child Care Statutory Review to be given to IRO's two days before the Review;
  • Contracts Manager, David Banham, Contracts Placement Officer, Gill Howell and Nila Saunders, Finance Officer all to be emailed to advise of the young person and their placement;
  • Placement planning meeting to be set up within 7 days of placement;
  • Complete LAC panel referral and send to Brenda Duckworth. Await panel date;
  • Send out notification to Health and Education regarding LAC status;
  • A medical to be arranged;
  • Complete Child and Family Assessment with a view to transferring to CPLAC at first Child Care Statutory Review;
  • If young person placed in an out of county placement, then the relevant Local Area office should be notified.

5. Monitoring and Review

This policy will be reviewed by the Team Managers in CPLAC & Referral & Assessment on a yearly basis