Unaccompanied and Separated Asylum-Seeking Children and Age Assessments (May 2021)

Summary: Overview information concerning age assessments for unaccompanied and separated asylum-seeking children


Unaccompanied and separated asylum-seeking children, is an asylum-seeking child under the age of 18 and not accompanied by a close relative. Almost all these children have no form of identification, and therefore have no way of proving their age with documentary evidence.

For the majority of children, their age will be disputed at the time of the asylum screening interview through the interviewing immigration official, which follow the assessing age guidance (Home Office). The age assessment process is then triggered when the following occurs:
• their claimed age is doubted by the Home Office
• they claim to be a child but are suspected to be an adult or they claim to be an adult but are suspected to be a child
• there is little or no reliable supporting evidence of the claimed age

It is at this stage that local social service authority is required to carry out an age assessment, which must be Merton compliant. In order for the assessment to be Merton compliant (B v Merton LBC)
the credibility of the child and physical behaviour is assessed. The assessment must also include general background of the child, including ethnic and cultural considerations, family circumstances, education and history over the past few years.

In October 2015 the Association of Directors of Children- Services created a best practice guidance for social works conducting age assessments.

It should be noted that even if the Home Office is treating someone as an adult, if a referral is made to children- services then the local authority must make their own decision as to the age. The child should be supported as a child whilst the assessment is being undertaken.

The Coram Children- Legal Centre, have created a short resource that may be helpful in undressing the process around age assessment.