Working with Unaccompanied Asylum Seekers

When working with unaccompanied asylum seekers, please use the guidance to assist you in meeting their needs. The chapter contains a number of links to relevant resources and tools and should be read in conjunction with statutory guidance and other relevant chapters.


Care of unaccompanied migrant children and child victims of modern slavery, DfE

ADCS Age Assessment Guidance

National Transfer Scheme Protocol for Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children

Nationals Transfer Scheme Frequently Asked Questions

Outcome of Age Assessment Pro-forma


Access to Resources (ART) Placement Process Procedure

Child & Family Assessment Framework Procedure


This chapter was reviewed and updated in December 2022.

1. Make Them Children Looked After

On Child Protection Teams receiving a referral of an UASC:

  • Even if it suspected that they are over the age of 18, see Child & Family Assessment Framework Procedure to assess under Section 17 Single Assessment as they should be considered to be 'in need';
  • Consider whether they can be accommodated by friends or family (work with the Home Office to ascertain their legal status, identify any relatives in the UK or whether they have presented in another borough initially), or choose not to be accommodated. The young persons file should evidence the efforts undertaken to explore placement with family members as this will provide an improved sense of belonging for the young person;
  • They may be eligible to become Section 20 accommodated, assuming they are homeless there is a duty to offer them accommodation;
  • For advice on families seeking asylum, contact Family First resettlement case managers and the Stronger Families Programme Team can provide support and share their experiences.

2. Seeking Asylum

  • If the child presents to the police on arrival, the police should refer them to Home Office and Children's Services.
    If not referred to the Home Office already;
  • Prior to referring to the Home Office, assess the risk of them absconding. They may be economic migrants and fear being sent home. In which case you may access an Advocate or Immigration Advice (see below) to consider whether there is grounds to claim asylum and whether this is in the child's best interest;
  • If there is no resistance to making a Home Office application, you may book an appointment at the Home Office Asylum Screening Unit by calling the appointment booking line.

    Telephone: 020 8196 4524
    Monday to Thursday, 9am to 4:45pm
    Friday, 9am to 4:30pm

    You will need the following information when you book your appointment:
    • Child's name, date of birth and nationality;
    • The number on their passport or national identity document, if they have one - or the number on their birth certificate if they do not;
    • Their foster carer's name and contact details;
    • Details of any medical conditions.
  • Contact Liverpool Home Office for an asylum claim and request a welfare interview which they can attend with you or their foster carer/ accommodation.

    (Liverpool Home Office contact number 0151 213 4330);
  • Access an interpreter to attend the Home Office appointment;
  • Check they are aware of the child being in the country, advise them whether you are treating as a minor or age assessing, request welfare interview;
  • The Home Office will give conditions of living in the country (e.g. where to stay);
  • They will take the child's finger prints and if they are believed to be over 18 and have tried to seek asylum elsewhere, they can be sent back to the last country in which they applied for asylum. If they are considered to be a child, this would not happen. Identify if this is mandatory and the interpreter can identify if the young person consents to this;
  • After the interview they will give them paperwork to complete with a solicitor on what they will cover in the welfare interview;
  • Contact a Solicitor that offers legal aid on behalf of the child to support in seeking asylum;
  • It might be an option to get initial advice from a charitable organisation such as:
    • Asylum Link Merseyside (ALM), 0151 709 1713;
    • CAB immigration specialists;
    • Find an immigration legal representation using the Adviser Finder function on the OISC website; or
    • The British Red Cross for advice on where the child / family can go to access legal advice who is Officially Immigration Certified / Regulated.
  • After The Home Office welfare interview they will provide them with an I.D. card that will come in the post 2 - 3 weeks later;
  • Contact City Region Link to identify whether you need to inform Immigration and Enforcement Team Liverpool (National Helpline: 0300 123 7000).

3. Age Assessment

  • If you believe the child appears over 18 an Age Assessment will be required.
    This should be completed by age assessment trained social workers;
  • Follow the ADCS Age Assessment Guidance;
  • See Right to remain toolkit;
  • If the young person is assessed to be an adult you may need to continue to provide accommodation in the short term while they transition to the relevant immigration service support;
  • Do not share the full assessment with the Home Office unless the child agrees this with a solicitor. There is a pro-forma to provide to the Home Office;
  • If you believe the child is 16 or under then provide note of this in writing when contacting the Home Office to confirm this. If deemed a child who has presented in another country prior to the UK, they would not be sent to the last country they presented at and would remain for assessment;
  • If you believe the child is age 18 or over, then refer to Adult Services (through MASH). Stronger Families Asylum and Refugee Team may also provide advice. If deemed to be an adult who has presented in another country prior to the UK, they may be sent back to that country.

Useful Links


Advocacy Assessment

4. Trafficking / Modern Slavery

  • If you suspect the child has been trafficked you must ring legal for advice as to whether to complete the National Referral Mechanism form. Very few children are not suspected of trafficking but yet they should not all be referred;
  • Also arrange for a strategy meeting;
  • City Hearts is a great Liverpool service to support the young person and addresses issues of Modern Slavery. The impact of the trauma of being a victim of trafficking must be explored as part of the assessment and any identified needs met by referral to specialist services, with the young persons consent.

See: National Referral Mechanism Form for potential Child Victims.

Useful Links

5. Health

  • Register with GP, Dentist, Optician;
  • Apply for Cared for Children Free Leisure Pass. See Leisure Passes for Looked after Children letter;
  • With their consent, consider Butterflies Listening Ear referral or Spinning World (Person Shaped Support) through Liverpool CYPMHS.
    Spinning World (PSS) is a specialist psychological therapy service working with trauma and recovery. The aim of the service is to improve the mental and emotional well being of migrant and refugee Children and Young People;
  • Refer the child through for Cared for Children medical (see Health care Assessment and Plans Procedure) and prepare the child for the questions and processes within the medical (e.g. questions they may be asked, can be quite intrusive);
  • Social Worker to arrange an Interpreter to attend the Cared for Children Medical;
  • The standard procedure is for all UASC to be sent for TB and other immunisation. This should be arranged within the Cared for Children Medical and will be conducted at Alder Hey;
  • Most children will be referred for digestive worms medication also, due to the potential infections picked up whilst travelling.

6. Education

  • Inform the Virtual School of a child new into care;
  • Arrange a PEP within 10 days of the referral including Virtual school and all relevant professionals;
  • Consider referring age 16 plus children to Careers Connect for advice on applying for education;
  • Ask the Team Manager or use services as in useful links below to purchase resources to use with the child (e.g. visual learning aids to go shopping or identify what they like to do/ eat etc or stationary for education).

If the child is residing in Knowsley:

  • Contact Knowsley School Admissions (call 0151 443 5142 / 5143 / regarding school places and admission process;
  • Inform Children Missing Education (CME) Team;
  • Contact Nerissa Lea (English as an Additional Language Manager) on 0151 443 5136 / global email around access to learning English whilst in education or awaiting a Knowsley school place.

If the child is residing in Liverpool:

  • Submit an application for Liverpool School Admissions (call 0151 233 3006).
Useful Links

7. Further Support

  • Gain consent from child to contact British Red Cross: 0151 702 5067 if they wish for support contacting their family. This may place them at risk so Red Cross will explain this to them;
  • Refer to NYAS for an Independent Visitor to take the child out once a month on trips / excursions;
  • Link in with Young Peoples Team (YPT) for advice on services and activities available. They may have a weekly football match or activity the child can join or they may have advice on housing / accommodation / life skills;
  • Local Solutions now have AIM services to provide support for age 16+ NEET children who have been Looked After or involved with Social Care;
  • Asylum Link Merseyside is a great service to integrate the young person into society and meet their cultural needs.

Useful Links


8. Housing

  • Identify appropriate accommodation through discussions with Foster Care Team/ ART Team/ Knowsley Resource Panel. (See Access to Resources (ART) Placement Process). Is the child of an age to access housing for UASC or requiring foster care support?
  • Consider SHAP for housing support.

9. Religion

  • Identify the young persons religion and whether they wish for support to access a place of worship;
  • If you struggle to find an appropriate place of worship, perhaps contact Asylum Link/British Red Cross for advice. (See useful Links);
  • Using the British word 'Mosque' is confusing for some UASC as this is not used in their language and they may misinterpret this as Moscow, it is best to say 'place of worship/ place for prayer'.

10. How to Access DA Languages Interpreting Services

  • To access an interpreter go to DA Link;
  • Under 'Client Login' select 'Request Invite' and set up your own online portal to request a face to face interpreter. They may need 2 weeks' notice;
  • For advice call them on: 0161 928 2533;
  • Ask Admin for your teams Purchase Order Number as you will need this to place your order;
  • To access a telephone interpreter you can call DA Languages on: 03300 882 443;
  • Ask Admin for your department code (the CP department code is 587059);
  • Enter your 'Language Pin' from the list attached. (See DA Languages).

11. Questions for the Child

  • What are your interests? (Would they like to join any teams, do any activities)?
  • Any health issues? (Allergies, medical problems, emotional wellbeing, family history);
  • Learning needs? (Can they read / write in their own language or other. Identify when they were last in school, did they have any educational needs)?
  • What are their wishes / feelings? (Education / friends / activities);
  • What skills do they have and how did they learn this (cleaning, cooking, etc)?
  • What religion are they? Do they practice? Do they need access to religious facilities? (Do not presume religious needs);
  • Any dietary requirements (halal)?
  • Where are they from? Village name? Their Address?
  • What are there parents details (name, DOB, address)?
  • How did they get here?
  • Who paid for the transportation?
  • Did they arrive with any documentation / items (phone)?
  • Who did the travel with? How long for? Through which countries?
  • Have they claimed asylum in any other country on the way to the UK? (If so, the Home Office may send them back to this country)?
  • Where are their parents? Do the parents know they are here? (Would the parents object to the child becoming Section 20 and leave the local authority legally vulnerable)?
  • Would they like help to contact them using the British Red Cross? Would it be dangerous for the parent to contact them (due to political / threat of violence)?
  • Why are they here? Are they fleeing violence? (Who from - relative / gangs / war torn country)? Remind them to be honest as the Home Office will check;
  • Have they got any relatives/ friends in this country (they may be able to live with)?

Don't be afraid to clarify what they mean. Be aware that interpreters may misinterpret or the young person may give different answers depending on their feelings at the time (e.g. are they scared to answer initially).


12. National Transfer Scheme

The Home Office has announced that its National Transfer Scheme (NTS), designed to evenly disperse unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC) across all local authorities, has been made compulsory.

The scheme, which was previously run on a voluntary basis, was first announced in 2016.

The Home Office increased funding for the scheme in June last year before announcing in November that it would be made compulsory on a temporary basis.

The changes to the scheme have raised questions over whether all local authorities are equipped to take on lone migrant children, and if increased funding is enough to support them.

How much has the NTS changed?

Local authorities are now legally bound to accept arrivals through the NTS if the current population of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in their care is less than 0.07 per cent of its general child population.

The figure is based on the Office for National Statistics 2016 mid-year population estimates, according to the Department for Education’s National UASC dispersal protocol, which was published in March 2018.

It states that the percentage is "not a target but will be used to indicate when a participating local authority has reached the point where they would not be expected to receive any more unaccompanied children".

The scheme has been temporarily made compulsory, but the Home Office states that it "will be kept under review and the length of time for mandating will be determined by a range of factors including intake levels and how long it takes to end the use of hotels" as accommodation for lone migrant children.

What is good practice in transferring a child?

When a child arrives in the UK, the entry local authority has an obligation to provide suitable temporary accommodation and contact with a duty social worker, Home Office guidance states.

Social workers will identify any immediate risks to the child and will take all safeguarding actions necessary, it adds, noting that if there is any concern that the child has been trafficked, the local authority should contact relevant agencies and initiate enquiries under section 47 of the Children Act 1989.

The entry authority must also register a child with a local GP and arrange a health check.

In response to the introduction of the NTS in 2016, health professionals in Kent developed a UASC Health Project Team to share learning on providing health care to asylum-seeking children with other local authorities.

"The UASC Health website is a tool to quickly share what we know, and what we have. We have worked hard to ensure that everything that has been drafted is clinically valid and responds to what we know about this population," the team’s website explains.

Home Office guidance also shares tips to prepare a child for transfer, including highlighting the opportunities and positives of the move to the child and asking unaccompanied children in the receiving local authority to share their experiences.

Ofsted’s national director of social care, Yvette Stanley, shares the importance of supporting a child’s integration into a new community, saying: "We want the children to be moved into the local authority as swiftly as possible so that the local authority, as corporate parents, can make them safer and supported so they can integrate into the communities they are going to stay in."

What is expected of receiving authorities?

As soon as a receiving local authority collects a child, the council must allocate a social worker, independent reviewing officer and independent advocate, and put arrangements in place to ensure that a care plan, first review and single assessment will be completed.

The child’s social worker will then make a placement decision based on information provided by the child and entry local authority.

Social workers are also advised to be aware of global and regional conflicts, and the tensions between some nationalities as a result of that, and consider placing the child near other children of similar backgrounds.

The local authority is also responsible for providing suitable education and health care, including mental health support.

13. The Difference Between Refugee and Asylum Seekers


Children/ families entering the UK and requesting to seek asylum are supported through a Home Office commissioned contract which Serco delivers in the North West. Serco provides housing and limited support services to the adult asylum seeker while their claim is being heard. They claim section 95 funding (about £37 pw) pending the decision on their asylum claim/appeal. If their claim/appeal is successful they will gain refugee status and leave to remain in the UK for up to 5 years.

If they are refused asylum but have a child in the household they continue to claim section 95 funding or, if there is no child, they might be eligible for section 4 funding from the Home Office. Children can attend school or access 15 hours childcare and they have access to primary health care and accident and emergency health care.

Asylum Seeking Families (assessed destitute or in need of financial recourse by social care) might be eligible for support under s17 (Children Act 1989) if it is in the child's best interests to be supported within his family unit. CIN assessment would be required that might incorporate a Human Rights assessment if the parent is excluded from accessing social care under schedule 3 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 (e.g. unlawfully present such as a visa overstayer, illegal entrant or appeal rights exhausted asylum seeker). Or a separate Human Rights assessment could be undertaken. The assessment should consider if the family is in a position to freely return to their country of origin. The assessment can determine that the Local Authority can legitimately provide support to the otherwise excluded family. The Local Authority has an obligation to inform the Home Office about people unlawfully present.

UASC are not supported by Serco. UASC would only be entitled to council funds if they were assessed under s17/s20 (Children Act 1989). Only adults can make asylum claims so UASC can only make a claim for Asylum from age 18.


There are two routes that people will have come through in Knowsley to become Refugees:

  1. Via the Syrian or Vulnerable children resettlement programme

    The Local Authority has agreed to resettle individuals and families who have been displaced because of conflict and have been granted refugee status in UNHCR camps. Refugee children/ families will have presented at a refugee camp in the middle east and been assessed and granted refugee status. These families enter the UK with Refugee status and leave to remain for 5 years. The Home Office provide a tariff to support the resettlement of these families and each family has a case worker assigned for the first 12 months following their arrival. In Knowsley this support is provided via 2 Family First case managers who are assigned to the resettlement programme.

    Stronger Families Programme Team manager the overall resettlement programme and know these refugees. There is a LCR resettlement lead officer funded by all LCR authorities and hosted by Liverpool City Council who can provide advice if needed. This officer can be contacted via the Stronger Families Programme Team;
  2. Via the Asylum Route

    People who seek asylum may receive a positive decision and be granted refugee status with leave to remain for a specific period of time. Refugees through this route do not receive case work support to help them establish themselves and are expected to navigate the UK housing and benefits system themselves. There is no funding to support them but once they have been granted Refugee status they are entitled to access public funds and support like any other resident would be able to.

    Once a person is granted refugee status they usually have the right to access public funds (welfare benefits) and to work.