A new code of practice has been introduced by the UK Border Agency in an attempt to improve the safeguarding of children within the UK’s immigration system.
The statutory code requires agency staff to promote the welfare of asylum-seeking children and keep them safe from harm. Any employees dealing with children will undergo CRB background checks and receive mandatory training in safeguarding.
The guidance is a stop-gap measure and will eventually be replaced by a duty of care to children under the new Border, Citizenship and Immigration Bill. This will effectively bring the UKBA under the same duty as other public bodies, under section 11 of the Children Act 2004, to promote and safeguard the welfare of children.
UKBA ‘should be judged by same standards’
Border and immigration minister Phil Woolas said: “It is right that the UK Border Agency is judged by the same standards as every other authority that deals with children. These rules bring together for the first time a common set of values all staff must abide by.”
Key measures in the code include referring a child to local children’s social services departments if there is evidence of under-achieving in his or her physical, mental or emotional development.
Under the rules immigration officials are also expected to arrange for a health assessment if a child is expected to be detained for more than two to three days. A social work assessment should also take place within the first 21 days of detention to monitor the effect on the child.