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Migrant children and unaccompanied children

Separated children, including unaccompanied asylum seeking children, should be supported by local authorities in accordance with their duties to children under the Children Act 1989. The system of support for children Local authorities have duties to support all children ˜in need in their area. The basic scheme for supporting children in need is found in Part III of the Children Act 1989.

Subsequent legislation, guidance and case law has further clarified local authorities obligations. [1] Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 requires local authorities to ˜(a) safeguard and promote the welfare of children within their area who are in need; and (b) so far as is consistent with that duty, to promote the upbringing of such children by their families, by providing a range and level of services appropriate to those childrens needs. [2]

Section 20 provides a specific duty to provide accommodation to a child who requires it. As well as this, under section 47 of the Children Act 1989 local authorities have a duty to make enquiries where they have reasonable cause to suspect that the child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm.

Adult asylum-seekers and families are provided with asylum support from the Home Office, but it is local authorities that are responsible for supporting unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. Local authorities receive funding from the Home Office for this, paid at a daily rate, by sending monthly returns, though this funding does not necessarily cover all the costs involved. [3]

For further details see this factsheet which outlines what the duties on local authorities are.

The Migrant Children’s Project has compiled a directory of services available to young refugees and migrants. The directory is to assist practitioners and carers in identifying local and national organisations and projects that can offer support, advice and other assistance to refugee, asylum-seeking and migrant children and young people in England and Wales.

The directory does not include law firms or law centres. For information on how to find a solicitor or legal representative, please see  legal advice and representation resources.

Download the directory here

If you would like further information or advice about working with refugee and migrant children and young people, and their rights and entitlements, call the MCP legal advice line on 020 7636 8505.

Many children travel to the UK each day legally and with appropriate care. However, some children travel illegally to the UK without adequate documentation, in the care of adults who cannot exercise parental responsibility for them, or, they are forced to travel to the UK for domestic servitude, benefit fraud, or sexual exploitation. Safeguarding children from abroad can raise issues of private fostering, inter country adoption or trafficking. These children and young people might present as unaccompanied asylum seekers. See the safeguarding checklist here .