Unaccompanied asylum seeking children

Definitions

An Asylum Seeker is a person who has made a claim for asylum within the meaning of s16 (3) Nationality Immigration Asylum Act (NIAA) 2002 and is awaiting a decision from the Home Office.

Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC) is a term used to describe children who enter the country, apply for asylum and meet the following criteria:

  • is, or (if there is no proof) appears to be, under 18
  • is applying for asylum in his or her own right
  • has no adult relative or guardian in this country

Or those young people who enter the UK accompanied but become unaccompanied during their stay in the UK and subsequently claim asylum in their own right.

Legal status

UASCs are entitled to care and protection under the provisions of the:

They are children first and asylum seekers second, regardless of their immigration status. All UASC have ‘Looked After Child’ status until their 18th birthday.

Entitlement

As the role of the Virtual School is to promote the educational achievement of all the children looked after by the local authority, we support the education of UASC. We do this by working with looked after children until the end of their chosen course (in year 13). We will help create a Personal Education Plan to do this.

Pupil Premium Plus

In line with all looked after children, all UASC in Year 11 or below are entitled to the Pupil Premium Plus grant.

Safeguarding

As with all children in care, UASC are vulnerable. In particular, some UASC may be particularly vulnerable to radicalisation, trafficking or Child Sexual Exploitation.

School and college staff are important as they may be able to identify concerns in these areas and help to prevent them from escalating.

Additionally, some UASC are at a heightened risk of absconding. Schools and colleges should work closely with housing providers and social care to help prevent this.

Barriers and challenges

It is recognised that the admission of UASC to schools and colleges may present a challenge in terms of organising appropriate provision and resources.

Many UASC are determined and enthusiastic learners. One of the obvious and common barriers for UASC is a lack of English language skills. They may find conversations difficult to begin with and will often appear shy or reserved. This can make group work and informal situations like break times difficult for them.

Children may need need support to learn basic spoken English before progressing to reading and writing. Their English language and communication skills may be limited but this in no way reflects their intellect or ability to learn with the right support.

Cultural differences and lack of experience of school environments may also be a challenge. Some UASC may be overwhelmed by the size of a school, the day to day routine of school life, and mixing with people of the opposite sex.

Further barriers which may present include:

  • disputes by home office regarding age assessments
  • delays in communication between social care and virtual school
  • challenges in appointing interpreters or translators
  • clarification about a child’s details (specifically misspelling of names and incorrect dates of birth)
  • enabling UASC to attend interviews
  • child not put on roll until an ESOL beginners class is available