§ Mr. Dawson
To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if he will make a statement on Government policy on the support available to unaccompanied asylum seeker children in respect of the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000; and what the implications of section 55 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 are for unaccompanied asylum seeker children. 
§ Margaret Hodge
[holding answer 8 March 2004]: Local authorities have duties placed on them by the Children Act 1989 and the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000 to continue to care for children beyond their 16th birthdays, either as 'eligible' children who remain in care or as 'relevant' children who have left care but still receive their support from the local authority. Section 55 of the Nationality Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 does not affect the support that is provided to these or any other children. There are no implications arising from section 55 for the continuing local authority care of any unaccompanied asylum seeker child.31W
The duties of local authorities are also extended by the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000 to include planning for and where necessary supporting young people who are no longer children, having passed their 18th birthdays. Care leavers aged 18 or over (up to 21 or, in some circumstances, 24) are defined in the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000 as "former relevant children". The access to leaving care support from responsible local authorities for "former relevant children" who were unaccompanied asylum seeking children is not affected by section 55.
In order to provide additional support to local authorities with responsibilities for former unaccompanied asylum seeking children, I have announced an additional £17 million funding for 2004/05, to be directed towards those local authorities with the greatest responsibilities for such young people. The arrangements are set out in Local Authority Circular LAC (2004) 6 (formerly numbered (2004) 1). I have placed a copy of this circular in the House of Commons Library.
When an unaccompanied asylum seeker child is approaching their 18th birthday the person may apply for support to the National Asylum Support Service (NASS), provided they are not eligible for DWP benefits and they have an outstanding asylum claim. Each case is considered on its merits, taking account of the age and other relevant circumstances of the young person. If support was refused under section 55, the person would in most cases continue to be supported by the responsible local authority. In the small minority of cases where such support is not available, NASS will provide support if it is necessary to avoid a breach of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.