Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children

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Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children


I would take this opportunity to thank my research supervisor, family and friends for their support and guidance without which this research would not have been possible.


In England, social services departments have a responsibility to give care and protection to unaccompanied asylum seeking children from the point they enter in the country. In recent years, research studies have identified a number of practice and policy issues of concern regarding the social services response to unaccompanied children.

Table of Content



Chapter 1: Introduction5

Research Background5

Existing Views of Social Work with Unaccompanied Minors8

The right to care and protection from social services14

The changing context16


Research Design19

Literature Search19


The Assessment of Need21

The referral stage21

The question of age22

Assessing need25

The Use of The Legislative Framework29

Providing Placements and Support32

Foster care33

Residential care35

Placements with extended family36

Young people's experience of placements and support39



Chapter 1: Introduction

Unaccompanied asylum-seeking children have been coming to industrialized nations, looking for sanctuary for many generations (Ressler et al . 1988) either in large clusters at particular moments in history or in smaller groups in the more recent past (Bell 1996; Williamson 1998; Conde 1999; Harris & Openheimer 2001). In response to their presence, researchers across a number of countries have begun to contribute to developing an understanding of their lives and circumstances (Jockenhövel-Schiecke 1990; Ayotte 2000; Green 2000; Anderson 2001; Engebrigtsen 2003). The emergent pictures of their movements within their new territories show that they face many testing circumstances, including finding the right people at the right time to help them with their practical, legal and psychosocial needs (Kohli & Mather 2003).

Research Background

In examining how unaccompanied children are helped to resettle, many commentators have focused on what appear to be impoverished and sometimes hostile responses they receive within host nations in relation to their needs and vulnerabilities. As discussed below in reviewing some important research studies within the UK, the equation is presented in quite simple ways - the children and young people's needs are said to be ignored or misunderstood by service providers who act defensively in creating restrictions in the ways resources can be accessed to help them resettle, particularly for those deemed to be on the threshold of adulthood.

In addition, in lobbying for change to these restrictive policies and practices, many commentators recommend that social workers ought to practice in ways that are based on open access to services for children in need. For example, there is an emergent consensus between these lobbyists and central government in insisting that in the case of unaccompanied children needing assistance there should be a 'presumption' that they should be treated on par with all children in need and, where necessary, looked after under section 20 of the Children Act 1989 unless there are clear reasons related to the child's well-being for not doing so (Department of Health 2003).

This view also has judicial support, through what has come to be referred to as 'the Hillingdon judgement'. In August 2003, in conducting a judicial review, the High Court ...
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