Home Office system creates safeguarding crisis

24 January 2024

A report released by the Refugee Council, Helen Bamber Foundation, and Humans for Rights Network entitled ‘Forced Adulthood’ has this week highlighted the harmful impact of Home Office decision-making on children seeking safety in the UK. The damning findings of the report expose entrenched failures in age-assessment processes used by the Home Office, uncovering the high incidence of children wrongly deemed to be adults.

The age assessments, sometimes lasting as little as 10 minutes, have resulted in more than 1,000 children being wrongfully assessed as adults. This has led to children as young as 14 spending time in adult prison, while others have been forced to share rooms with unrelated adults with no safeguards in place. In 2022 one child was sexually assaulted by an adult they were forced to share a room with. Being wrongfully placed in adult accommodation increases the rates of suicidal ideation, and the risk of absconding, with long term impacts on mental health and wellbeing.  

After losing more than 200 asylum-seeking children from hotels across the south of England last year, the Home Office is failing in its duty of care to young people. The abject failures of the Home Office to keep children safe, and the continuation of age assessment practices that are proven to have failed demonstrates a dereliction of duty and a failure to protect.  

The unnecessary and lifelong traumas inflicted on children through these practices are the direct consequence of hostile policies; they are the direct result of political choices. This broken asylum system is rigged against children, threatening their human rights and wellbeing in this safeguarding failure. All children, no matter where they are from or what they have experienced deserve effective and sustainable care and protection.  

Adam Paterson (Advocacy and Campaigns Officer) and Iona Taylor (Advocacy and Campaigns Lead)

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