Responding to the government’s new Safeguarding strategy on unaccompanied asylum seeking children, Ilona Pinter, Policy and Research Manager at The Children’s Society, said:

“We very much welcome the government’s first ever strategy on safeguarding unaccompanied asylum seeking children as it is a positive step forward in granting these vulnerable young people the urgent support they truly need. Pledging to update existing guidance on ‘friends and families’, reviewing the funding given to local authorities and increasing fostering capacity and training are all steps that are urgently required.


“We remain concerned about the proposed focus on supported lodgings. This should not be the default option for unaccompanied children and doesn’t offer them the specialist protection they need. Instead the vast majority of unaccompanied children will have complex safeguarding and other needs – such as learning English, dealing with bereavement or overcoming the violence and abuse that they’ve suffered. Children placed in supported accommodation face a number of risks – such as going missing, being groomed for sexual or criminal exploitation. Without the right training to providers on how to the spot signs of exploitation and make appropriate referrals to safeguarding agencies, these children will be left at risk of harm.  We would like to see a commitment to housing these young people in appropriate settings that keep them safe and support them to thrive. 


“We are also worried that the government has not committed to reviewing access to legal aid for unaccompanied children’s immigration applications to remain in the UK. Although this strategy is focused on asylum-seeking children who can still access legal aid, thousands of lone children including trafficking victims or those who have been abandoned, aren’t protected. The lack of legal aid combined with exorbitant Home Office application fees which have increased as much as 119% over the last 4 years means that many children who are in this country on their own stay stuck in legal limbo. This has left many young people with an uncertain immigration status facing exploitation and destitution. We at The Children’s Society would like to see a clear commitment to making sure that young people who are on their own can remain safe and to secure their futures.

“Nevertheless this strategy is an important step forward and we commend the level of engagement that the government has demonstrated.”

  

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            Notes to editors

·         The Children’s Society is a national charity that runs local services, helping children and young people when they are at their most vulnerable, and have nowhere left to turn. We also campaign for changes to laws affecting children and young people, to stop the mistakes of the past being repeated in the future. Our supporters around the country fund our services and join our campaigns to show children and young people they are on their side.