Unaccompanied minors reunited with their family in the UK, what are local authorities doing to support the transition?
Date posted: 21 March 2017
Nusrat Uddin, Public Law department solicitor, met with the Children Society last week to share concerns about the lack of involvement and oversight from social services when unaccompanied asylum seeking children are transferred to the UK under the Dublin III Regulation to be reunited with their family.
In the majority of cases these children have left their war-torn countries, already traumatised by their experiences and face the perilous journey to Europe; many have lost their family members or lose them along the way. Some had spent time in the Calais ‘jungle’ before being accepted to be transferred to the UK and were overjoyed at being able to join other family members, supposedly ending their ordeal.
In reality reaching the UK is only the beginning of their recovery process, as adjusting to life without the family members they lost or left behind and a life in a new country with a completely different culture is an enormous transition. Indeed when British children have to leave their parents and are placed with other family relatives as carers, local authorities can oversee this process and provide the appropriate support to ensure the kinship placement does not break down in the future. However these asylum seeking children do not appear to receive the same treatment.
Each local authority is informed by the Home Office when a child is being transferred under the Dublin III Regulation into their area, however routinely no action is taken once the child is here. In some cases we have approached local authorities to ask them to assess the child as a ‘Child in Need’ under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989, however we have seen that most local authorities delay in these assessments or fail to carry them out at all, leaving these children without the appropriate support and services that may be provided in other kinship placements or foster care arrangements.
Given the background of these children and the trauma they have encountered at such a young age, it is highly likely that they will need assistance. Instead many are left without places in school or without services from the relevant mental health teams. Indeed without appropriate support from the local authority the child’s needs may be left undetected or if they struggle to adjust to their new surroundings their placement with their family could even breakdown, potentially leaving them homeless. Without the social services involvement and oversight of these children from the outset, there is no way to ensure their best interests and as a result they could be left in an insecure and vulnerable position.