Skip to main content

Care of unaccompanied and trafficked children

Statutory guidance for local authorities on the care of unaccompanied asylum seeking and trafficked children

1. Unaccompanied asylum seeking children and child victims of human trafficking are some of the most vulnerable children in the country. Unaccompanied children are alone, in an unfamiliar country and are likely to be surrounded by people unable to speak their first language. Trafficked children can be at risk of returning to their traffickers and of further exploitation for sex, forced labour, domestic servitude or criminal activities. Both groups may have experienced emotional trauma in their country of birth, in their journey to the UK or through their treatment by adults in the UK. They are likely to be uncertain or unaware of who to trust and of their rights. They may be unaware of their right to have a childhood.

2. The local authority providing for their care has a duty to protect and support these highly vulnerable children. Because of the circumstances they have faced, unaccompanied and trafficked children often have complex needs in addition to those faced by looked after children more generally. The special support required to address these needs must begin as soon as the child becomes looked after by the local authority. It will be most effective where this support is provided through a stable, continuous relationship with the child.

3. This guidance sets out the steps local authorities should take to plan for the provision of support for looked after children who are unaccompanied asylum seeking children and child victims of trafficking. It does not provide detailed guidance on steps that local authorities should take, in partnership with other agencies, to identify and protect trafficked children before they become looked after. This is described in practice guidance “Safeguarding children who may have been trafficked”1, published by the Department for Education and Home Office in 2011.

4. This guidance should be read alongside The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations, Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review; and, Volume 3: Planning Transition to Adulthood for Care Leavers.