“This guidance is long awaited and badly needed. For many years, CLCC has worked with children who have been assessed to be adults or to be older than they actually are. Each year, at least one quarter of all unaccompanied children claiming asylum in the UK have their ages disputed, because they arrive with no documents, or with false papers. Children who arrive alone in the UK are regularly disbelieved about how old they are and can spend many years without access to education or appropriate support, or end up in unsupervised accommodation with adults or even in adult immigration detention centres or prisons. The only way to challenge this treatment is to pursue costly and protracted legal proceedings.
“The number of children arriving alone in the UK is increasing, and throwing into sharp relief some of the weaknesses in the system for children seeking asylum. There have been frequent calls for guidance to enable social workers to undertake the specialist task of age assessments but until now practice has been largely established through case law following legal challenges. This new guidance is therefore an important step in improving the treatment of children in need of protection. It will help social workers to conduct holistic assessments and to work with all relevant professionals and carers to respond to the needs of this particular group of children in need.”
- The guidance can be found here.
- The Age Assessment Strategic Oversight group included representatives from the Home Office, Department for Education, the Department of Health, ADCS, the Office of the Children’s Commissioner, individual local authorities, UNHCR, National Policing, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, Refugee Council and the Refugee Children’s Consortium. Coram Children’s Legal Centre represented the Refugee Children’s Consortium on this group.
- In 2013, a report published by Coram Children’s Legal Centre highlighted just how long, costly and damaging to children the age assessment process is. Cases can take from months to over four years to resolve, with many children denied access to support, accommodation and appropriate education during that time. These cases are not only harmful for children, but can be incredible costly for local authorities if they end up in court. The report emphasised that where an assessment is necessary, it must be conducted in a fair and lawful manner, with the views of independent professionals and carers feeding into an holistic, multi-agency assessment process.