Many social workers do not realise the Children Act 1989 covers
asylum-seeking children, an asylum expert told the conference.
Also, some social workers did not see child trafficking as a child
protection issue, said Laurence Chester, chair of the Home Office
sub-group for unaccompanied minors.
“To this day I still get phone calls from social workers saying ‘we
have a 14 year old in a bed & breakfast and we are wondering if
that is okay?’ What is going on? Is there a madness in people’s
heads?” he said.
Chester said that people saw asylum-seeking children as “different”
from other children. “They just see the tag of asylum,” he
He went on to describe the children’s green paper as a “highly
disappointing document” that failed to address the need to do
international checks on children’s backgrounds to see whether they
were known to authorities in other countries – Victoria Climbi’ was
known to French social services.
Chester added that asylum-seeking children receiving services were
not the worst off, with those who professionals didn’t know about
such as the children of failed asylum seekers being at the greatest
He said a register of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children was
currently being put together.
However, Chester added that the situation had improved for refugees
compared to five years ago when “the idea of the government looking
at how to integrate refugees wouldn’t even have existed”, he said.