New Arrivals and Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children (UASC)
- Meeting of Children and Young People Scrutiny Committee, Wednesday, 21st June, 2023 10.00 am (Item 26.)
Report and presentation of the Strategic Director of Children and Education Services
This report and presentation highlight Children’s Services’ and partners’ response to the step change increase of Unaccompanied Asylum-seeking Children and young people (UASC) coming into Manchester.
The Committee considered the report and presentation of the Strategic Director of Children and Education Services which highlighted Children’s Services’ and partners’ response to the step change increase of Unaccompanied Asylum-seeking Children and young people (UASC) coming into Manchester.
Key points and themes in the report and presentation included:
- Background information;
- Profile and demographic; and
- Responding and meeting the needs of Manchester’s UASC.
The Executive Member for Early Years, Children and Young People highlighted the problem of children who were initially assessed by the Home Office as being adults and placed in dispersal accommodation with adults and reported that the Council was lobbying on this issue.
Some of the key points and themes that arose from the Committee’s discussions were:
- To welcome the work that the Council was doing to support UASC;
- To seek clarification on the process for age assessments;
- The education of UASC; and
- What happened while the young person was waiting for the age assessment to be completed.
In relation to age assessments, the Assistant Director (Children in Care and Care Leavers) explained that the Home Office undertook an initial screening, but that about 20% of these would be incorrect. She reported that, when they arrived in Manchester, either as a spontaneous arrival or via a dispersal hotel, her team undertook a brief enquiry to determine whether, in their professional opinion, they were presenting as under 18, in which case the Council had a duty to accommodate them. She advised that the team’s social workers, who were trained in age assessments, then carried out an assessment process, which could take up to 45 days, based on observation, what the young person said and the relationship with the social workers involved in their assessment. The final assessment on the young person’s age was then communicated to the Home Office. In response to a Member’s question she reported that, if the person presenting could be a child, they were given “benefit of doubt” and accommodated while the assessment was being carried out. In response to a Member’s question about how culturally aware and trauma-informed the social workers undertaking these assessments were, she reported that the New Arrivals team were from varied backgrounds and different countries of origin, including two former UASC, whose experiences had been invaluable. She advised that the whole team had been trained on trauma-informed practice and worked closely with the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).
The Assistant Director (Children in Care and Care Leavers) reported that, at the point of determining a young person’s age, if they were of school age, her team would work closely with the Virtual School to get them on a school roll and into school as soon as possible. She advised that, for those over school age, ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) provision was a priority, again working with the Virtual School. In response to a comment from the Chair about the Communicate School, she stated that she would look into this. In response to a Member’s question about high numbers of new arrivals being allocated to a specific school, the Strategic Director of Children and Education Services reported that this was more likely to relate to families with children arriving in the city rather than UASC but that, if the Member wanted to raise an issue about a specific school, this could be picked up after the meeting.
In response to a Member’s question, the Strategic Lead for Homelessness and Migration confirmed that her service engaged with charities and with local colleges. She reported that the demand for ESOL courses in the city outstripped supply and that work was taking place to lobby on this issue and look for ways to increase funding for and provision of ESOL courses. In response to a question from the Chair, she reported that more males than females were coming into the UK seeking asylum. She stated that dispersal hotels were usually single sex and the ones in Manchester were for males, which was also part of the reason for the disparity in numbers.
In response to a question from the Chair about trafficking, the Deputy Strategic Director of Children’s Services reported that this was part of the multi-agency complex safeguarding work and that he would ensure that information on trafficking was included in the next report that the Committee received on complex safeguarding.
1. To note the impact of the increase in volume of UASC coming into the city and the wider socio-economic impact.
2. To endorse the decision that Manchester will ‘opt out’ of the National Transfer Scheme and will refer young people into the scheme as a response to our increase in number of UASC into the city, whilst acknowledging that this decision can be reviewed as young people naturally ‘age out’ of the system.
3. To recognise the service’s response, whilst acknowledging the strength of the partnership work that has wrapped around our young people, in a ‘child first’ approach.