Lone asylum-seeking children from war-torn countries should be placed in foster care, experts have urged.
Many 16- to 18-year-olds are placed in bed-and-breakfast rather than the more “costly” supported living, a study by child psychiatrists found.
Children living independently had higher levels of post-traumatic stress symptoms, including flashbacks and nightmares, than those in foster care.
The study, comparing the experiences of lone children and those arriving with their families, found unaccompanied children were more likely to have been victims of torture and involved in combat. They were also at higher risk of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Dr Matthew Hodes, lead author of the study at Imperial College, London, said there was a “close relationship” between lone children’s levels of distress and their living arrangements.
Sense of isolation
Hodes added: “These children often arrive in the UK after experiencing terrible things in their home country, and we would like to see foster care or special children’s homes offered to them in order to reduce their suffering.
“Living with a foster family reduces a child’s sense of isolation, provides them someone who can care for them, and helps them to integrate with other children and adults.”
There are about 5,500 lone asylum-seeking children in the UK.
In January, organisations and professionals rejected a government proposal to move unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in foster care to other forms of accommodation when they turned 16. The proposal was included in the government’s consultation on reforms for the group, which were finalised in January.