Many local authorities do not understand their legal duties towards
asylum-seeking children and are failing to help them access
education, health and social services as a result, a new report
A study of refugees and asylum seekers and the professionals
working with them in eastern England reveals major gaps in
provision as a result of complex procedures.
One of the most pressing concerns uncovered by the research,
carried out on behalf of the Children’s Legal Centre charity, is
the number of children left at risk of exploitation because of last
year’s amendment to section 17 of the Children Act 1989. This
obliges local authorities to provide only accommodation for
children, not other services.
Centre director Caroline Hamilton said the research painted “a
dispiriting picture”. “There is nothing to prevent social services
sending a lone 14 year old into bed and breakfast accommodation and
telling them ‘you’re on your own’.
“These young people need support as well as housing, particularly
if you do not want them to be drawn into prostitution or referred
to the juvenile justice system.”
The study finds confusion over whether an asylum-seeking child,
estranged from his or her family and no longer living with them,
could claim support under the 1989 act.
There are also child protection concerns around the Immigration and
Nationality Directorate’s refusal to classify a child as
“unaccompanied” if he or she is with an adult, regardless of who
that adult is.
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