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New strategy announced to improve the care of unaccompanied child migrants

Thousand foster carers and support workers to receive specialist training

The Department for Education and the Home Office have announced a new strategy to improve the care of unaccompanied children. The strategy includes:

The training, which will be made available to 1,000 foster carers and support workers, is backed by updated statutory guidance, a review of local authority funding and a drive to improve inter-agency advice and information sharing. It complements the guidance already available to every foster carer as part of their duties under the government's Prevent strategy.

These measures are part of a wider government strategy to improve support for councils as they care for these children, and delivers on a commitment made last year as part of the Children and Social Work Act. Other measures in the strategy will help prevent children from going missing and support those who are reunited with family members.

New research will also be carried out on the effectiveness of existing support for unaccompanied children and families reunited under the Dublin Regulation and whether more help is needed.

Places on the new training courses will be allocated to each local authority area based on the numbers they have under the National Transfer Scheme.

Last year almost 3,000 unaccompanied children claimed asylum in the UK and they all require ongoing care and protection. This strategy is intended to increase the information and support available to the local authorities who play a crucial role in looking after them.

The strategy sets out plans to make best practice guides available to social workers, a review of first encounter standards for the police, and comprehensive information for asylum seeking and refugee children to make sure they understand their rights and entitlements.

Kamena Dorling, Head of Policy and Programmes at Coram Children's Legal Centre, said:

"Coram Children's Legal Centre (CCLC) welcomes the government's long-anticipated Safeguarding Strategy for unaccompanied asylum-seeking and refugee children. The Strategy's clear message is that these children are children first and foremost and must not be defined by immigration status. All children seeking protection in the UK must have access to the care, services and support they desperately need, and we are pleased that the best interests of the child have been at the heart of the government's approach in developing this strategy.

"As a specialist centre for child rights, we fully support the revised statutory guidance's clearer references to the need for children to access legal advice and representation. We also commend the government's commitment to improving the information and advice available to children and families who have been reunited from across Europe through the Dublin Regulation. We hope that the government will continue to work with local authorities to improve and resource the National Transfer Scheme, and ensure that children are only transferred to different parts of the country when it is in their best interests.

"We particularly welcome the government's commitment to 'supporting professionals caring and working with these children through revised guidance, information and resources', and especially the commitment to fund and develop downloadable training resources for social workers and to commission additional training places for carers. Thanks to charitable funding, we train over 1,000 individuals a year and have published three editions of 'Seeking Support', the only comprehensive guide to working with, and caring for this group. CCLC has provided advice and information on the rights of unaccompanied children and young people for over 12 years, and witnessed first-hand how social workers, foster carers and other practitioners struggle to deliver the right care for this group due to the complex laws and processes involved.

"We look forward to working with the government to help deliver the commitments in this strategy, and to help the children and young people at the heart of it to make their rights a reality."

For the strategy document, click here. For the statutory guidance, click here.

3/11/17