Directors doubt age judgement accuracy

The Association of Directors of Social Services has warned of the
difficulties in determining the age of asylum seekers after the
High Court ruled that fairer investigations into age should be
carried out by councils.

Last week Mr Justice Burnton ruled that Merton Council acted
unfairly when it gave inadequate reasons for deciding a destitute
asylum seeker was “at least 18” and not entitled to

Under-18s are protected by the Children Act 1989, which places a
duty on local authorities to provide accommodation to children in
need. Immigration staff carry out a basic age assessment on entry
to the UK and it is thought that around 30 per cent of these claims
are disputed while a further 5 to 10 per cent are disputed with
local authorities.

But chairperson of the ADSS asylum task force intake sub-group,
Steve Liddicott, said he was aware of only one paediatrician in
London who would go on record saying he had perfected age

Medically, a guess can be made about the age of a child to within
around two years either side. But Liddicott warned that this could
be the difference between being entitled to a foster care placement
and being denied all social services.

Liddicott, who is also divisional director of children’s services
at Croydon Council, said staff from Croydon and Hillingdon Councils
had been developing guidance with the ADSS to help staff assess the
ages of unaccompanied minors.

The guidance, which has now been in use at intake authorities for
about six months, suggests staff obtain information about the
asylum seeker’s background, family, education, health and
development to ascertain the child’s age.

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