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Definition

This procedure is concerned with children arriving into Jersey:

  • In the care of adults who, whilst they may be their carers, have no Parental Responsibility for them;
  • In the care of adults who have no documents to demonstrate a relationship with the child;
  • Alone;
  • In the care of agents.

Evidence shows that unaccompanied children or those accompanied by someone who is not their parent are particularly vulnerable. The children and many of their carers will need assistance to ensure that the child receives adequate care and, where their immigration status allows, accesses health and education services. If children from abroad arrive without persons with parental responsibility for them and/or documentation the Jersey Custom and Immigration Service should be contacted.

It is important to note that regulations and legislation in this area of work are complex and subject to constant change through legal challenge. This guidance, therefore, intends only to reflect broadly the additional issues faced by families operating also within the context of immigration law. All practitioners need to be aware of this context to their contact with such families. Legal advice about individual cases will usually be required by Children's Social Care.

See Statutory Guidance to the UK Border Agency on Making Arrangements to Safeguard and Promote the Welfare of children issued in November 2009.

For details when there are concerns that the child may be trafficked see Trafficked Children.


Risks

Children who arrive in Jersey from abroad, alone or who are left at a port of entry by an agent, require to have their immigration status established. Officers from the Jersey Customs and Immigration Service will work with relevant partners* to establish the circumstances behind the child’s arrival and determine whether the child should be refused leave to enter the Island or whether alternative arrangements need to be made.

Children who arrive in Jersey from abroad, with or to be with carers without Parental Responsibility, must meet the relevant immigration requirements. Officers from the Jersey Customs and Immigration Service will work with relevant partners* to establish the circumstances behind the child’s arrival and determine whether the child should be refused leave to enter the Island or whether alternative arrangements need to be made.

*Airlines and shipping companies, overseas immigration agencies, Children’s Social Care, etc.

Children’s Social Care will have responsibilities towards them if they are assessed to be In Need. If that is the case support and accommodation can be provided by Children's Social Care for the child, and may also be provided for the family, if otherwise the family would be destitute. In addition, Children's Social Care will have responsibilities towards the child if he or she is Privately Fostered.

It is important that practitioners never lose sight of the fact that children from abroad are children first - this can often be forgotten in the face of legal and cultural complexities.

Children arriving from abroad who are unaccompanied or accompanied by someone who is not their parent should be assumed to be a Child in Need unless assessment indicates that this is not the case. The assessment of need should include a separate discussion with the child in a setting where, as far as possible, they feel able to talk freely.

Assessing the needs of these children is only possible if their legal status, background experiences and culture are understood, including the culture shock of arrival in this country.


Indicators

Whenever any professional comes across a child who they believe has recently moved to Jersey the following basic information should be sought:

  • Confirmation of the child's identity and immigration status;
  • Confirmation of the carer's relationship with the child and immigration status;
  • Confirmation of the child's health and education arrangements in Jersey;
  • Confirmation of the child's health and education arrangements in the country of origin and any other country that the child has travelled through.

This should be done in a way which is as unthreatening to the child and carer as possible.

If this information indicates that the child has come from overseas and is being cared for by an unrelated adult or one whose relationship is uncertain, Children's Social Care should be notified in order that an assessment can be undertaken; the Jersey Customs and Immigrations Service should also be informed.

The immigration status of a child and his/her family has implications for the statutory responsibilities towards the family. It governs what help, if any, can be provided to the family and how help can be offered to the child.

During this interim period the children may suffer particular hardship - e.g. live in overcrowded and unsuitable conditions with no access to health or educational services. They are particularly vulnerable to exploitation because of their circumstances.

Children who disappear, where there are concerns about the child's welfare should be considered to be missing.


Protection and Action to be Taken

When an unaccompanied child or child accompanied by someone who does not have Parental Responsibility comes to the attention of a practitioner a referral should be made to Children’s Social Care in accordance with the MASH Enquiries Procedure. An Assessment will be undertaken in order to determine whether they are a Child in Need of services, including the need for protection.

Such children should be assessed as a matter of urgency as they may be very geographically mobile and their vulnerabilities may be greater. All agencies should enable the child to be quickly linked into universal services, which can begin to address educational and health needs.

The assessment has to address not only the barriers which arise from cultural, linguistic and religious differences, but also the particular sensitivities which come from the experiences of many such children and families.

The needs of the child have to be considered, based on an account given by the child or family about a situation, which the professional has neither witnessed nor experienced. In addition, it is often presented in a language, and about a culture and way of life with which the professional is unfamiliar.

It is vital that the services of an interpreter are employed in the child's first language and that care is taken to ensure that the interpreter knows the correct dialect. Agencies should ensure that the interpreter shares a common language with the child, is professionally trained and has been screened through a DBS check.

The first contact with the child and carers is crucial to the engagement with the family and the promotion of trust which underpins the future support, advice and services. Particular sensitivities which may be present include:

  • Concerns around immigration status;
  • Fear of repatriation;
  • Anxiety raised by yet another professional asking similar question to ones previously asked;
  • Lack of understanding of the separate role of Children's Social Care, and that it is not an extension of the Police;
  • Lack of understanding of why an assessment needs to be carried out;
  • Previous experience of being asked questions under threat or torture, or seeing that happen to someone else;
  • Past trauma - past regime/experiences can impact upon the child's mental and physical health. This experience can make concerns from the authorities about minor injury or poor living conditions seem trivial and this mismatch may add to the fear and uncertainty;
  • The journey itself as well as the previous living situation may have been the source of trauma;
  • The shock of arrival - the alien culture, system and language can cause shock and uncertainty, and can affect the mood, behaviour and presentation.

In such circumstances, reluctance to divulge information, fear, confusion or memory loss can easily be mistaken for lack of cooperation, deliberate withholding of information or untruthfulness.

Professionals should ensure that the engagement with the family is planned and thought through. This will provide opportunities to expand on the initial contact. The ethnicity, culture, customs and identity of this child must be a focus whilst keeping this child central to the assessment.

Seeking information from abroad should be a routine part of assessing the situation of an unaccompanied child. Practitioners from all key agencies - Health, Education, Children's Social Care, Customs and immigration Service and the Police - should all be prepared to request information from their equivalent agencies in the country or countries in which a child has lived, in order to gain as full as possible a picture of the child's preceding circumstances.

Other factors to consider are:

  1. The child's developmental needs;
  2. Parenting capacity;
  3. Family and environmental factors.

Children in Need of Safeguarding

Where the Assessment indicates that a child may have suffered, or is likely to suffer, Significant Harm, the child's welfare must be safeguarded.

During the assessments, additional factors need to be taken into account.

  • Perceptions of authority, the role of the Police in particular;
  • The additional implications for a family where deportation is a real threat;
  • Balancing the impact of separation on a child with the likely history of separation/disruption;
  • Judgements about child care practices in the context of such different cultural backgrounds and experience.

Issues

Immigration legislation impacts significantly on work to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and young people from abroad.

Age is central to the assessment and affects the child's rights to services and the response by agencies. In addition it is important to establish age so that services are age and developmentally appropriate.

Evidence from other jurisdictions indicates that unaccompanied children very rarely have possession of any documents to confirm their identity or even to substantiate that they are a child. Their physical appearance may not necessarily reflect their age.

The assessment of age is a complex task, which often relies on professional judgement and discretion. Such assessment may be compounded by issues of disability. Moreover, many societies do not place a high level of importance upon age and it may also be calculated in different ways. Some young people may genuinely not know their age and this can be misread as lack of co-operation. Levels of competence in some areas or tasks may exceed or fall short of our expectations of a child of the same age in this country.

The advice of a paediatrician with experience in considering age may be needed to assist in this, in the context of a holistic assessment. However, the UK High Court has ruled that, unless a paediatrician's report can add something specific to an assessment of age undertaken by an experienced social worker, it will not be necessary.

An adult whose own immigration status is unresolved cannot apply for a Child Arrangements Order to secure a child for whom he/she is caring.

Children whose parents' whereabouts are not known have no access to their parents for consent when making important choices about their life. Children who do not have someone with parental responsibility caring for them can still attend school, and schools should be pragmatic in allowing the carer to make most decisions normally made by the parent.

Such children are entitled to health care and have a right to be registered with a GP. If there are difficulties in accessing a GP, the local Patient's Services should be contacted to assist.

Emergency life-saving treatment should be given if required. However, should the child need medical treatment such as surgery or invasive treatment in a non life-threatening situation, the need for consent will become an issue and legal advice will be required.


Further Information

UK Visas and Immigration - formerly UK Border Agency.

Jersey Immigration Rules

Immigration Rules Part 11: Asylum, 13 February 2014, Policy paper, Home Office, UKVI: Rules for people applying for asylum in the UK (paragraphs 326A to 352G).

Care of Unaccompanied and Trafficked Children: Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities on the Care of Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking and Trafficked Child (2014)


Amendments to this Chapter

In June 2015, Definitions was updated to reflect if children from abroad arrive without persons with parental responsibility for them and/or documentation the Jersey Custom and Immigration Service should be contacted.

End.