Social Workers conducting age assessments of young people claiming asylum. (25 05 09)

Cassidy, J made this Freedom of Information request to Merton Borough Council

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The request was partially successful.

Dear Sir or Madam,

The recent court ruling A v London Borough of Croydon, WK v Kent Borough Council [2009] EWHC 939 (Admin), 8 May 2009, [1] makes a number of references to the practice of two Social Workers conducting age assessments of young people claiming asylum.

In view of the fact that the Care Standards Act 2000 (Chapter 14 (part 1V) section 61) contained provisions for the protection of the professional title of "Social Worker" and that anyone using this Title has to be registered on one of the UK Social Care Registers, (since 01 April 2005) can you Confirm or Deny the following:

1) Age assessments are always conducted by at least two Social Workers?

1.1 If they are not always conducted by at least two Social Workers, can you provide information that explains this apparent anomaly and provide details of the job Titles of those who currently conduct age assessments.

2) That since 01 April 2005 you have always used at least two Social Workers?

2.1) If you have not always used two Social Workers, since 01 April 2005, please provide details of the job Titles of those who currently conduct age assessments.

3) During said Court case a Helen Johnson, Refugee Council's Children's Panel, questioned the assertion by a Ms Janet Patrick, senior manager of the Croydon Council's Unaccompanied Minors' Team, that Council's are routinely advising applicants that they can have an adult present to give support during their age assessment.

Therefore can you provide copies of any information you hold, such as policies, memos, notes and guidance, (showing dates issued/written/drafted) as given to Social Workers, the applicants or anyone else, that Confirms or Denies that applicants are routinely advised that they can have an adult present to give support.

4) Please provide copies of any age assessment guidance or training material you hold.

Relevant quotes:

"The social workers involved in the decision making process who are employed by the local authorities in these cases have had training and do have substantial experience in assessing the age of UASCs.

My conclusion is that age determination, being part of broader questions relating to the provision of accommodation, and being but one of the many responsibilities for local authorities to provide support for children and families under Part III, are decisions which fall squarely within the social field of child care and are, therefore, customarily and properly entrusted to the social workers to decide.

This is based partly on the contention that their judgment can be no better than that of the experienced social worker...

It is said that her opinions in a number of cases show a consistent disagreement with the social workers' factual observations always in favour of the individual in question.

While recognising and indeed supporting the use of social workers and other professionals he records concerns that financial pressures can influence the assessment of age since the particular age of an individual will require a greater or lesser expenditure on him.

But the real question in these cases is whether a report from a paediatrician which reaches a conclusion contrary to that found by experienced social workers means that the assessment must be varied in the UASC's favour.

It is Dr Stern's view that a paediatrician is unlikely to be able to reach a conclusion which is superior to that reached by an experienced social worker, provided, of course, that the social worker is properly trained and experienced and conducted the necessary interview in an appropriate fashion.

Thus I do not think that the existence of a report from Dr Birch can generally attract any greater weight than the observations of an experienced social worker. In order to comply with the Hillingdon and Croydon guidelines, the assessments of social workers will be made by two working together and based upon interviews and observations over a far greater time period than that available to Dr Birch or indeed any paediatrician instructed by a UASC representative.

All this presupposes that the authority's decision is made by properly trained and experienced social workers in accordance with the guidelines approved by Stanley Burnton J in B v Merton.

Each authority has put before the court evidence of the training given to and the experience of the social workers who have to deal with age assessment.

She is satisfied from her experience that the reports of Drs Michie and Birch do not raise matters which cast doubt on the reliability of the decision reached by the two social workers."

etc

Reference:

[1] A Claimant - and - London Borough of Croydon - and – Secretary of State for the Home Department Defendant Interested Party And WK Claimant - and - Secretary of State for the Home Department First Defendant - and - Kent County Council Second Defendant
[2009] EWHC 939 (Admin), 8 May 2009
http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admi...

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Yours faithfully,

Cassidy, J

XXXXXX, Merton Borough Council

1 Attachment

Dear J Cassidy

Please find attached the acknowledgment to your freedom of information
request.

Yours Sincerely

XXXXXX
Complaints and Customer Services Officer
Children, Schools and Families Dept
London Borough of Merton
0208 545 3086
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XXXXXX, Merton Borough Council

2 Attachments

Dear J Cassidy

Please find attached the response to your Freedom of Information
request.

Yours Sincerely

XXXXXX
Complaints and Customer Services Officer
Children, Schools and Families Dept
London Borough of Merton
0208 545 3086
^**********************************************************************^
Reduce waste - please do not print this message unless you need to. This
email and any files transmitted with it are intended solely for the use of
the individual or entity to whom they are addressed. This email may
contain information that is confidential and may contain sensitive or
protectively marked information up to RESTRICTED and should be handled
accordingly. This communication may be subject to recording and/or
monitoring in accordance with relevant legislation. If you have received
this email in error you must not copy, disclose or make any further use of
the information contained within it. Instead we request that you notify
the system manager. [email address] http://www.merton.gov.uk
**********************************************************************

XXXXXX, Merton Borough Council

1 Attachment

Dear J Cassidy

Please find attached the response to your Freedom of Information
request.

Yours Sincerely
XXXXXX
Complaints and Customer Services Officer
Children, Schools and Families Dept
London Borough of Merton
0208 545 3086
^**********************************************************************^
Reduce waste - please do not print this message unless you need to. This
email and any files transmitted with it are intended solely for the use of
the individual or entity to whom they are addressed. This email may
contain information that is confidential and may contain sensitive or
protectively marked information up to RESTRICTED and should be handled
accordingly. This communication may be subject to recording and/or
monitoring in accordance with relevant legislation. If you have received
this email in error you must not copy, disclose or make any further use of
the information contained within it. Instead we request that you notify
the system manager. [email address] http://www.merton.gov.uk
**********************************************************************