Unaccompanied children & young people leaving care

Unaccompanied children & young people leaving care

Local authorities have duties to accommodate and support children in need in their area, up to age 18, regardless of their immigration status. Local authorities also owe leaving care and aftercare duties to former looked after children.

This chapter sets out what a local authority may need to consider when it is responsible for supporting an unaccompanied or separated migrant child and/or young person eligible for aftercare.

Later chapters set out considerations for other groups, including asylum seekers and survivors of human trafficking. 

Key points

  • Local authorities need to have processes in place to identify a child’s nationality and immigration status when their involvement begins or when a child’s circumstances change. As a child’s immigration status can change, this must be kept under continuous review and recorded in the child’s care plan.
  • A child with an outstanding immigration issue needs to be referred to specialist legal advice and support urgently, including a referral to the Scottish Guardianship Service where appropriate. (All Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASCs) and non-EEA national trafficked children in Scotland are entitled to receive independent advocacy support of a guardian.)
  • For children who do not have a form of immigration status that will allow them to settle in the UK permanently, it will be essential to undertake ‘triple pathway planning’ that accounts for how the different outcomes of their asylum or immigration claim may impact on their ability to access healthcare, education and aftercare support from the local authority, and includes appropriate planning for the possibility of their claim being unsuccessful.   
  • When a young person is in an excluded group, for example, they become ‘appeal rights exhausted’ (ARE) following their asylum claim, the continued provision of aftercare support is subject to a human rights assessment that considers whether there are any legal or practical barriers preventing the young person from returning to their country of origin to avoid a situation of destitution in the UK. This exclusion is set out in Schedule 3 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 and means that in certain circumstances, support may be withdrawn before a young person turns 26.
  • Planning to support a young person in these circumstances must involve establishing a durable pathway out of destitution. This could involve signposting to immigration advice to explore the possibility of pursuing a further claim to remain in the UK, support into employment when the young person has permission to work, or help with exploring assistance to voluntarily return to country of origin when the young person is an ARE asylum seeker. 
  • If a local authority withdraws aftercare support to a young person who is ARE, at age 26 or earlier, the young person should be provided with information which may include signposting to: Home Office asylum support, local charities, immigration advisers and the Home Office Voluntary Returns Service.