Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children Toolkit

The UK Home Office defines an Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Child (UASC) as a person under 18 years old, who is applying for asylum and is separated from both parents, and not in the care of a guardian. The number of unaccompanied children in the UK has been increasing as a result of spontaneous arrivals and through processes under the Dubs Amendment and Dublin III arrangements. IRiS, in collaboration with Save the Children, has developed this toolkit with a range of resources to inform and assist local authorities, foster carers and practitioners working with unaccompanied children. 


Unaccompanied asylum seeking children face distinct challenges in the UK due to their legal status, age and experiences of trauma, separation and loss. They require dedicated support to help address these challenges, promote resilience and achieve their potential. 

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) states that the 'best interests of the child must be a top priority in all decisions and actions'. According to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) 98,400 unaccompanied minors sought asylum in 70 countries worldwide in 2015. In the UK, there were 3,043 asylum applications made by unaccompanied children.


Becoming Adult project. This paper explores the dispersal policy and gives an overview of unaccompanied asylum seeking children in England 

House of Lords European Union Committee report on unaccompanied migrant children in the EU  

UNHCR Safe & Sound provides extensive information on the best interests of unaccompanied and separated children in Europe

Statutory guidance on care of unaccompanied migrant children and child victims of modern slavery

Rights and Advocacy

Children seeking asylum in the UK need support from a wider range of professionals who understand the challenges they face and can offer practical expert advice to access their rights, navigate the asylum system, and aid integration into their new environment.

Unaccompanied minors are entitled to care and protection under the provisions of the Children Act 1989 and 2004. A number of legal requirements, regulatory guidance and best practices are outlined below.



Support needs to be provided for unaccompanied asylum seeking children when they enter education to address their particular needs. A welcoming and supportive environment is essential to promoting the wellbeing and progression of children and young people.

The way that unaccompanied minors are inducted into their new school is essential to their future success in education. The school should be made aware of the child's background including their first language, their country of origin, their religion, whether they will need an interpreter, and if there are any health issues. Some unaccompanied minors may have had very fragmented education or have received no formal education at all prior to coming to the UK. They may need pastoral or welfare support throughout their entire education.


The Schools of Sanctuary website offers an extensive range of resources and assessment tools to enhance support for unaccompanied and refugee children in education. 

Websites to learn English and other subject support: 


Children require security and stability to adapt to their new environment and build resilience, with extra support needed to promote a child’s culture, language and identity and enable them to flourish in future.



Many unaccompanied minors are at increased risk of exploitation and abuse due to their legal status, age and experiences. Support and protection for unaccompanied children and young people needs to recognise their particular needs and vulnerabilities, as well as drawing on their strengths and protective factors.


Statutory guidance on care of unaccompanied migrant children and child victims of modern slavery

Working Together to Safeguard Children guidance on inter-agency working to safeguard and promote the welfare of children

Working Together to Safeguard Children statutory framework setting out legislation relevant to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children 

UNHCR Safe & Sound provides extensive information on the best interests of unaccompanied and separated children in Europe

NSPCC Child Trafficking Advice Centre (providing specialist advice and information to professionals who have concerns that a child may have been trafficked)

Health and Wellbeing

Children may arrive with particular health needs and require assistance navigating the complex healthcare system in the UK. Unaccompanied minors are entitled to free NHS care. However, there remain concerns regarding registering with a GP, lack of knowledge of existing services and language barriers. 

With children arriving with physical and mental health problems, it is essential they are aware of their entitlements to free healthcare and have the appropriate support to access these services.


Report on the health needs of unaccompanied children  

The Children’s Society report on access to mental health care

Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health information on refugee children

The UASC health website has information about public health, mental health and primary care of unaccompanied minors

Burnett, A. (2002). Meeting the health needs of refugees and asylum seekers in the UK: an information and resource pack for healthcare workers in the UK