Unaccompanied children and parental responsibility

Coram Children's Legal Centre
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This fact sheet provides some basic information about the situation faced by unaccompanied children who have no one in the UK exercising parental responsibility for them. It outlines the circumstances in which an unaccompanied child may be placed under a care order so that social services will hold parental responsibility. Parental responsibility is defined as ‘all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property’. For unaccompanied children, including those who are seeking asylum, there is usually no one in the UK who has parental responsibility for the child. These unaccompanied children will be looked after by the local authority and they will be accommodated under section 20 of the Children Act 1989; children’s services owe the same duties to them as to other children in care, but children’s services do not have parental responsibility for them. Children’s services should seek a care order for an unaccompanied child, and acquire parental responsibility, if the child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm. This may be the appropriate course of action particularly in cases where an unaccompanied child is a victim of trafficking and is at risk from traffickers, where there are capacity issues, an in cases of younger children and those with significant vulnerabilities. (Edited publisher abstract)

Subject terms:
unaccompanied asylum seeking children, unaccompanied refugee children, local authorities, childrens services, looked after children, court orders, child protection, parental responsibility;
Content type:
practice guidance
United Kingdom

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