South East Wales

Age check delay 'risk' for child asylum seekers in Cardiff

Child migrant arriving in the UK Image copyright PA

Child asylum seekers arriving in Cardiff are being put at risk due to "substantial" delays in checks to verify their age, an advocacy agency has said.

The National Youth Advocacy Services (Nays) said some youngsters are waiting weeks for assessments, with some placed in adult accommodation while they wait.

A report said this raised "safeguarding issues" for unaccompanied children.

Cardiff council said it did not believe there was a delay in the process.

The authority said young people were placed in suitable accommodation while assessments were being completed.

The Cardiff Nays team, which acts as a guardian for the unaccompanied children, raised concerns about the support given by the council's children's services department.

Between August 2016 and January 2017, Nays saw an increase in referrals from unaccompanied young asylum seekers looking for advocacy during the age check process.

The report pointed to "inconsistencies" where young people are housed while the age checks are carried out, with some getting support from the service while others do not.

"Some of these young people are then later assessed as children and have not been in receipt of looked-after services whilst other unaccompanied asylum seeking young people are accommodated pending assessment and get the full ambit of services," the report said.

"Such a practice also raises safeguarding issues for this vulnerable group of young people who find themselves placed in adult accommodation."

The report, considered by the council on Tuesday, also highlighted issues with children seeking support from the department during their asylum claim.

It said feedback from the service pointed to "capacity issues" in attending solicitors appointments, court hearings and if they are detained in an immigration centre.

"Whist we recognise that children's services have limited resources they have a duty of care for this extremely vulnerable group who urgently require robust intervention and support at this difficult and traumatic point in their lives," the report said.

Last year, Monmouth Conservative MP David Davies came under fire from dentists after suggesting unaccompanied child migrants entering the UK should be given mandatory teeth checks to reassure people about their age.

'Proud of commitments'

In a joint statement, Cardiff council cabinet members Susan Elsmore and Sue Lent said they were "surprised" by Nyas' concerns as they had not previously been raised.

They said the authority had a sufficient number of social workers undertaking the age checks and young people were placed in suitable accommodation while assessments were completed.

"City of Cardiff Council is proud of its commitment to supporting unaccompanied asylum seeking children," they said.

"Indeed at very short notice, in October and November last year, we were the only Welsh authority to set up reception facilities for children arriving from Calais.

"We continue to support the most unaccompanied asylum seeking children in Wales."

The council has asked Nyas for specific examples of age check delays.

Nyas was asked to comment.

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