The Government today published its safeguarding strategy for unaccompanied children seeking asylum and unaccompanied child refugees, exactly a year after Ministers announced it in parliament. It is published jointly by the Department of Education and the Home Office.
The statutory guidance for social workers responsible for the care of these children has also been reissued, following a period of consultation earlier in 2017.
Both documents usefully remind professionals that all of the same legal safeguards and systems to protect and care for children apply equally to children seeking asylum and those who are refugees. The strategy outlines government plans to assist these children and those responsible for their care, including by providing resources to help social workers understand the asylum process and promoting more appropriate placements for older teenagers. It also commits to reviewing the funding provided to local authorities to ensure they are able to fulfil their duties to these children.
The guidance reminds social workers that young people are vulnerable to exploitation and need help to integrate into society and access relevant services, even when they may appear to be resilient. It reminds social workers to listen to children and young people and take their views into account.
The Refugee Council has been involved in discussions during the development of the strategy and guidance and is particularly pleased with the statement in the strategy that: We recognise that all children need to be protected from harm, their views heard and acted upon, and to have consistent support provided for their individual needs.
Judith Dennis, Policy Manager at the Refugee Council, said: “We very much welcome the publication of this strategy and the work that has been done by both departments to make it happen. We are particularly pleased to see commitments to ensure foster carers and social workers understand the asylum process and are better able to meet the specific needs of children alone in the asylum system.
“We look forward to the actions promised in this strategy becoming a reality. A really important aspect of that will be the government ensuring that people are fully equipped to fulfil the government’s very important commitments to protect, support and properly listen to this group of children and young people.”