Care of Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children

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2008 Local Government Service Group Conference
25 February 2008
Carried as Amended

This Conference notes

)the recent publication of ‘Better Outcomes: the way forward – improving the care of unaccompanied asylum seeking children’ by the Borders and Immigration Agency (BIA) which sets out the framework for providing services to unaccompanied asylum seeking children;

2)That unaccompanied asylum-seeking young people arrive in this country separated from their family and without anyone to care for them. Young people experience the same human rights abuses experienced by adults as well as child specific forms of persecution. Some young people may have experiences of trafficking, child soldiering or forced marriage;

3)That the ‘Better Outcomes’ proposals will create conflicting duties for Social Workers and will potentially place workers in breach of the GSSC Code of Conduct which is a condition of their employment. The proposals identify the following roles for Social Workers:

a)Close collaborative working between case workers from the BIA and local authority social workers. (para 6.3);

b)Preparing young people for the expectation of return and making preparations for their return. (para 6.3);

c)Care planning to take account of immigration processes ( para 6.4);

d)Sharing information that will enable the identification of young people’s whereabouts that will enable deportation.

Conference is concerned that the overriding political objective of ‘Better Outcomes’ is to make quicker decisions on asylum claims by young people and to remove failed asylum seekers from the country and these proposals are intended to weaken the use of discretionary leave and extend the threat of deportation to the under 18s. Liam Byrne, the Home Office minister has stated that “we will therefore consider, on a case by case basis, enforcing the removal of those who have not reached 18 and who do not accept the offer of an assisted voluntary return where it is clear that the consequences of their actions have been explained and understood by them.” (The Independent 01.02.08)

It is concerned that the Government is pushing Local Authority Children’s Services to have an ‘immigration focus’ and to be subordinate to the objectives of the BIA and that ‘Better Outcomes’ will further entrench a two tier and discriminatory care service with a cheaper inferior service for asylum seeking young people. The declared objective of the Government identified in its previous Consultation paper was to cut the costs of care services for young asylum seekers.

This Conference is deeply concerned that The ‘Better Outcome’ proposals have significant ethical and professional implications for UNISON members, particularly Local Authority Social Workers, who work with this group of young people. It is intended that Social Workers’ responsibilities to promote the rights and welfare of young people, as established in the Children Act, will be compromised by these proposals.

This Conference welcomes UNISON’s key involvement in setting up a campaign with other relevant bodies to lobby for the UK Government to lift the reservation to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child so that it does not apply to children subject to immigration control in the UK.

It recognises the work that has gone into attempting to produce detailed and up to date guidance jointly with BASW for our members working with asylum seeking children, identifying the dilemmas they face and their professional and ethical responsibilities to promote and protect the rights of young people. UNISON re-asserts its position, as was the intention of children’s legislation across the UK, that the welfare of ALL children should be paramount, irrespective of their immigration status and that this should not be compromised.

The Conference instructs the Local Government Service Group Executive to work with the relevant parts of the union to:

i)Support campaigns against the forced removal of unaccompanied young asylum seekers;

ii)Campaign for properly funded services for unaccompanied young people which reflects the real costs involved in providing the right level of care for these children;

iii)Continue to build alliances with a range of organisations with a view to developing a common campaign to support the ‘welfare principle’ and the rights of all children;

iv)Continue to support our members through the dilemmas they face in trying to ensure that the welfare of asylum seeking children is seen asparamount.