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Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children

Every day children arrive in this country from overseas. Most of these children do so legally in the care of their parents and do not raise any concerns for statutory agencies. However, evidence indicates that a number of children are arriving into the UK:

  • In the care of adults who, whilst they may be their carers, have no Parental Responsibility for them;
  • In the care of adults who have no documents to demonstrate a relationship with the child;
  • Alone; or
  • In the care of agents.

Evidence shows that unaccompanied children or those accompanied by someone, who is not their parent, are particularly vulnerable. These children (and their carers) will need assistance to ensure that the child receives appropriate care and accesses health and education services.

A small number of children who arrive from abroad may be exposed to the additional risk of commercial, sexual or domestic exploitation. For further information please see Safeguarding Children who may have been trafficked and Safeguarding Children and Young People from Child Sexual Exploitation: Policy, Procedures and Guidance.


The purpose of this guidance is to assist staff in all agencies to:

  • Understand the issues which can make children from abroad particularly vulnerable;
  • Be able to identify children from abroad who may be In Need, including those who may be in need of protection;
  • Be confident of the action they should take in accordance with their responsibilities.


There are some key principles underpinning practice within all agencies in relation to unaccompanied children from abroad or those accompanied by someone who does not hold Parental Responsibility. These are:

  • Never lose sight of the fact that children from abroad are children first – this can often be forgotten in the face of legal and cultural complexities;
  • Children arriving from abroad who are unaccompanied or accompanied by someone who is not their parent, should be assumed to be a Child in Need unless assessment indicates that this is not the case. The assessment of need should include a separate discussion with the child in a setting where, as far as possible, they feel able to talk freely;
  • Assessing the needs of these children is only possible if their legal status, background experiences and culture are understood, including the culture shock of arrival in this country;
  • Workers must be prepared to actively seek out information from other sources;
  • When completing assessments, take care not to “interrogate” the child; and
  • Where interpreters are required, it is important that they are screened and trained.

Useful Information


Working together to welcome Asylum Seekers and Refugees into Kirklees: Directory of Services and Organisations Providing Support (in folder)

Lessons from Serious Case Reviews

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