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Drawing of children

Levelling the playing field

This report is based on research commissioned by UNICEF UK and undertaken in three local authority areas in England (Kent, the London Borough of Harrow, Solihull in the West Midlands). It is based on accounts of professionals dealing with unaccompanied or separated migrant children, and on interviews with the children themselves. The research sought to investigate whether the services provided to these children met their complex needs and complied with domestic and international standards.

While the research revealed a variety of good, if different, practices, it also raised some new issues:
• Unaccompanied or separated migrant children who were accommodated outside inner city areas, where more established ethnically and religiously diverse populations live, experienced greater levels of racism and social isolation.
• The diverse backgrounds in terms of education and class of the unaccompanied or separated migrant children interviewed may have a direct impact on their ability to adapt to life in England.
• The local authorities report often struggling to maintain the quality of care demanded by both domestic legislation and international human rights norms as they lack sufficient central government funding.

Based on these findings, the report formulates the following key recommendations:
• Safe houses and safe foster care placements should be provided to accommodate unaccompanied or separated migrant children who have or are suspected of having been trafficked.
• The funds allocated to local authorities should reflect the actual cost of providing a level of care and support in line with international Human Rights norms.
• A network of adapted local services should be developed to meet the particular needs of unaccompanied or separated migrant children in terms of mental health, psychological or emotional support.
• Local educational authorities and further education colleges should develop courses that combine English-language tuition with courses building on children's existing academic knowledge.
• Training should be organised for the relevant service-providers to strengthen their acceptance that migrant children are entitled to the same level of support and funding as permanent resident children.
• An independent guardian should be appointed for every unaccompanied or separated migrant child as soon as they come to the notice of the UK Border Agency (UKBA) or a local children's services authority.


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