Unaccompanied minors can be among the most traumatised and vulnerable client groups that professionals in this country have to deal with. So it is disappointing to detect a hardening of attitudes against them at the National Asylum Support Service.
A new Nass consultation exercise asks for suggestions as to how to reduce the “pull factor” of our benefits system for under-18s. It also signals an attempt to tighten up the system for dealing with age-related disputes.
Nass is seeking a more “robust” way of assessing age. In future, instead of social care staff being able to carry out their own holistic assessment to determine a young person’s age, they may be asked to refer young people to health staff who will carry out checks using x-rays and teeth examination.
NHS staff have already made clear such tests are anything but robust and can only determine age to within two years. So what is the point of forcing 16 and 17-year-olds to undergo such an invasive experience? The move could have a highly damaging effect on young people. Quite apart from the threat of detention hanging over them if their claim to be under-18 is rejected, they will also be acutely aware they are not being believed or trusted. The people at Nass who came up with this questionnaire need to be reminded that asylum-seeking minors should be treated as children first and refugees second.
See Social workers could face Children Act conflict over mooted age check