Association of Directors of Children’s Services: Support for unaccompanied children

FAQ General

Q. What is the definition of an unaccompanied asylum seeking child?

The definition of an unaccompanied asylum seeking child (UASC) is set out in the Immigration Rules. It states that a UASC is someone who:

  • is under 18 years of age when the claim is submitted;
  • is claiming in their own right; and
  • is separated from both parents and is not being cared for by an adult who in law or by custom has responsibility to do so.

Q. How was the ceiling of 0.07%1 UASC to child population decided?

Through agreement with the Association of Directors of Children’s Services. The formula is a simple and transparent way of checking whether the responsibility for looking after unaccompanied children is distributed fairly across the country. It is based on analysis of the total child population from the 2014 census and our understanding of UASC numbers.

Q. What happens when the 0.07% threshold is exceeded in all regions?

We do not expect that to happen, but will monitor the situation closely and will review the proportions annually.

Q. Does the data on the current number of UASC in my local authority include those placed here by other local authorities or only those we are legally responsible for?

The data is based on the number of UASC per local authority based in financial claims submitted by local authorities to the Home Office for UASC for whom they are responsible. This will not include those placed in their areas by other local authorities. However, it is intended that the transfer scheme will reduce the need for out-of-area placements, and will also enable responsibility for out-of-area placements to be transferred to the host authority where this is agreeable and desirable.

Q. Will a child who is reunited with a responsible adult be considered part of the 0.07% allocation?

No. The 0.07% is the ceiling for how many UASC and unaccompanied refugee children a region or local authority is reasonably expected to be looking after at any time, as a proportion of its total number of children. Children who are not looked after by the local authority because they have been reunited with their families will not count towards this figure. 1 This percentage is agreed for the year 2016-17 and will be reviewed annually.

Q. Does the data on the current number of UASC in my local authority include former UASC who are care leavers? No. Only those aged under 18 are included in the 0.07%.

Q. What data will be included in the National UASC database?

For the scheme to operate effectively, we will need an accurate and up to date picture of the numbers of UASC supported by each local authority, which is what the national UASC database will capture. We will need local authorities to notify our central admin team in a timely way of changes in their looked after UASC populations, using the single Unique Unaccompanied Child Record proforma we have designed.

Q. Will there be a regional data base in each region – if so how will they be funded?

Each region is considering its own data, process and resource requirements. We will consider any funding requests that we may receive for regional structures to underpin the scheme.

Funding Q.

What benefits are UASC entitled to?

If UASC are granted leave (status is regularised) they are entitled to the same benefits as any other child in the UK. However, support for UASC care-leavers will depend on their immigration status. If they are refused asylum they would be expected to leave the UK and will therefore have different benefit entitlements.

Safeguarding Q.

Which LA would have legal responsibility for children in reception centres?

In all cases, it will be for the local authority in which the reception centre is located to determine the status, under the Children Act 1989, of each child that is accommodated in that centre. The level of local social care support that should be provided to children while they reside in these reception centres will be for that local authority to determine. The circumstances and vulnerabilities of these children may well mean that each is a ‘child in need’ under section 17. Whether section 20 duties also apply will depend on the needs of individual children and whether the accommodation in which they are placed (the reception centre) meets those needs. If the local authority is content that accommodation is suitable, the child will not need to be accommodated by the local authority under section 20. If children stay in the reception centres for a longer period of time, and staff in the centres consider that they need to make a referral to children’s social care services that referral should be made by reception centre staff to the local authority where the reception centre is located. The local authority will respond in the normal way. If a child has been referred to local authority social services while accommodated in a reception centre, this would not be an impediment to the child being transferred to another local authority, but the local authority in which the reception centre sits should ensure that all relevant information is available for consideration at the time of the request to transfer.

Q. In cases where supported lodgings/shared/supported accommodation placements are deemed appropriate, can UASC be placed under Section 17 of the Children Act as a child in need, as opposed to Section 20 of the Children Act as a looked after child?

Once UASC have been accommodated for 24 hours by a local authority (and this may be the entry local authority) they are then looked after children. Looked after children can be accommodated in independent living arrangements as set out in the paper now on the ADCS website.

Q. Could there be dispensation from government to not make UASC “looked after” even when accommodated in a placement by the LA? (i.e. make UASC s17 instead of s20/s22)

Local authorities have a number of statutory duties under the Children Act 1989 and other related legislation for children in their area and those duties remain. These duties are set in primary legislation and continue to apply: local authorities will therefore need to ensure the proper exercise of professional judgement in all cases.

Q. Can LAs be given dispensation to use support workers instead of social workers for UASC?

It is important that a qualified social worker is responsible for case management, which means having a meaningful influence on the way in which a case is handled and the decisions that are made. The decision to use unqualified support staff to assist social workers in their case management duties is at the discretion of the local authority.

Q: If the child is under 16, does this constitute a private fostering arrangement and should a private fostering assessment be undertaken?

No, we do not expect that these arrangements will constitute a private fostering arrangement, and therefore statutory provisions, including for private fostering assessments, will not apply. This is because private fostering, as defined under the Children’s Act 1989, is an arrangement made privately between individuals – that is to say without the involvement of a local authority – and requires that the child is being cared for by someone other than their parent or relative (amongst other limitations, including on  the child’s age and the duration of the placement). A relative is defined as a grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt (whether full or half blood or by marriage or civil partnership) or a step-parent. Where a child is reunited with a relative, as defined above, through an arrangement that is not made privately, this would not be a private fostering arrangement. The definition of a private fostering arrangement is given in the General Introduction to the National Minimum Standards for Private Fostering, found here: 2/national_minimum_standards_for_private_fostering.pdf.

The statutory guidance for private fostering can also be found here: 4/Children_Act_1989_private_fostering.pdf.

Q. What pre-assessment is required by LAs prior to a child being reunited with family?

In addition to UKVI’s checks on the Police National Database and the identity of the family, local authorities will need to satisfy themselves that the family in question is suitable to take responsibility for the arriving child. This will require appropriate checks being carried out by the local authority, for example, a visit by a social worker to the home in which the child is intending to live (if possible before the child arrives) and a follow-up visit some days after arrival to ensure that the child is safe and well. Since we anticipate that most of these children will, at least to begin with, be in informal family and friends care arrangements, the appropriate guidance for these arrangements should be followed (including Family and Friends Care: Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities (2010))

Q. What if a placement goes wrong?

Where the placement of a child who has been reunited with family breaks down the local authority where the family resides will be responsible for that child’s welfare. The Home Office is amending its UASC grant agreement to ensure that local authorities can claim for funding for these children as it would with other UASC.

Q. If children are accommodated in centres for longer than a few days (for example a few weeks) will the responsibility of the local authority hosting the reception centre change?

Whether section 20 duties also apply will depend on the needs of individual children and whether the accommodation in which they are placed (the reception centre) continues to meets those needs. If the local authority is content that their needs are met, the child will not need to be accommodated by the local authority under section 20 and can continue to receive additional support to meet their needs as assessed under section 17.

Q. What is the role of central government in assuring the quality of reception centres services?

Home Office are working with local authorities to source supported accommodation facilities which are suitable for use as reception centres. Where facilities are identified the local authority where they are situated will need to be satisfied that it meets the standard that would normally be commissioned by that local authority.

Q Will children who are accommodated in reception centres become looked after children in the local authorities hosting reception centres if there is no other local authority offering to accept responsibility for them?

Host local authorities will not be expected to accept these children as their looked after children. If they are not reunited with families, they will be accommodated in other local authorities.

Q What is the legal status of children placed with families?

It is for the local authority in whose area the child is placed to determine the legal status of that child. We anticipate that most of these children will, at least to begin with, be in informal family and friends care arrangements and so the appropriate guidance for these arrangements should be followed (including Family and Friends Care: Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities (2011).

Q. Do family members need to be approved as formal kinship care foster carers?

Whether the child’s circumstances trigger the section 20 duty is a judgement for the local authority in whose area the child is accommodated. Statutory guidance states that “not all children who are cared for by friends and family carers will be looked after by the local authority. Some arrangements may simply require the kind of support which the local authority can offer under section 17 of the 1989 Act.” (p.10 Family and Friends Care: Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities). Local authorities should look to this guidance to understand the range of legal situations in which family and friends care takes place.

Q. If so, do there need to be court proceedings to ensure that formal kinship carers have parental responsibility? Where a child is being supported under section 17 or looked after under section 20, no person will have parental responsibility (PR) for these children, however the local authority will have legal responsibility for the child and will be able to do anything that is necessary to safeguard and promote the welfare of that child. Some local authorities have expressed a concern that there is a need to confirm PR through a court process. This is not a requirement although the relatives may decide to initiate proceedings to acquire PR by applying for a relevant private law order.

Q. Which LA will be responsible for children where relatives are unwilling or unable to care for them?

If a child is being reunited with relatives and (immediately or subsequently) they are unable or unwilling to care for the child, the local authority where the family lives will be responsible for that child’s welfare. If a child is unable to be placed with relatives, then once that becomes known they will be referred to the National Transfer Scheme and transferred to a local authority which can provide a placement for them.

Q Where will section 67 children be accommodated while they are waiting for transfer via the NTS? Will they use the same reception centre arrangements, and if so will they be accommodated by the LA under S20 or by the Home Office?

If a child is male and sixteen years or over they will most likely be accommodated in a reception centre. Any boys under sixteen, and all girls, will need to be placed directly into temporary placements with a local authority.

Q Which local authority is responsible for undertaking family checks in the event that the port of entry local authority and the ‘receiving’ local authority is not the same?

When it has established the identity of the family links of a child arriving from France, UKVI will contact the relevant local authority where the family life, seeking to give a minimum of 24 hours’ notice whenever possible.

Q Where a child is placed within a reception centre pending transfer to a receiving local authority while the checks on extended family are being made, is the S17 responsibility with the host authority or with the prospective receiving authority?.

The responsible local authority is the one in whose area the child is, therefore while the child lives in the reception area local authority that is the local authority with the duty. When the child moves to live with their family, that local authority has the duty.

Q Where a referral has been made to the National Transfer Scheme for a child, which authority is responsible for the S20 responsibilities until such point as a receiving authority has been identified?

While the child is being accommodated in the reception centre, as long as the local authority is content that the accommodation is suitable, the child will not need to be accommodated by the local authority under section 20 and therefore section 20 responsibilities are not activated.

Q Will fostering/adoption services be available for unaccompanied children?

Unaccompanied children will be eligible for foster care if it is considered that that this placement type will provide appropriate support and best meet their individual needs. It is unlikely that adoption will be an appropriate option however. The United Nations and other humanitarian charities advise that no new adoption applications should be considered in the period after a disaster or fleeing from war. It is not uncommon for children in these circumstances to be temporarily separated from their parents or other family members who may be looking for them. Efforts to reunite children with relatives or extended family should therefore be given priority.

Q. Will LAs hosting reception centres be responsible if children go missing?

The local authority from which the child has gone missing will have duties under the Children Act 1989 towards that child, for example towards children in need under section 17 and the local authority should ensure that the missing child is made known to the police. The local authority, the police and other relevant partners will also still be under a duty to discharge their functions having regard to the need to safeguard and promote the child’s welfare, and they should therefore make every attempt to locate the child. Local authorities should refer to Statutory Guidance on children who run away or go missing from home or care (2014).


More information on their website: 

Dave Hill, President of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, said:

“Unaccompanied asylum seeking children are very vulnerable; they’ve fled their home countries, faced unimaginable dangers and have risked their lives in search of safety. Councils take their responsibility to care for UASCs very seriously and a lot of work has been happening both in local areas and at a regional level to support the development of the national transfer scheme for UASCs. Local authorities continue to work together to share learning and experiences in order to be able offer these children and young people the right helps and support when they arrive.

“For those children and young people who are eligible under the Dublin III regulations to be settled with family in the UK we would want to ensure the suitability of these placements and that children would be appropriately cared for.

“We are clear that their best interests must be at the heart of the arrangements put in place to deal with the fallout of the events in Calais over the coming days and we are talking urgently with government officials about the additional funding that is required now and in the longer term to put in place the support services these vulnerable children need and so that local services can safely meet any additional demand.”



To all Local Council Leaders

8 September 2016

Dear Councillor,


I am writing to you about the commitments the Government has made in relation to supporting and caring for unaccompanied asylum seeking and refugee children …


Local authorities hold a number of duties in relation to preventing the most vulnerable migrants from falling into destitution because of their immigration status. The Association’s Asylum Taskforce provides an interface between local and national government on the statutory responsibilities of directors of children’s services in relation to unaccompanied asylum seeking children (UASCs) and families who are subject to immigration legislation.