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More about our age dispute casework

At Together with Migrant Children we run an age dispute project to work with the unique challenges of age assessments, age disputes to work with young people to have their rights met. As age dispute work is quite complicated, here is more information about the project, what it does and what to expect from it.

What is an age dispute?

An age dispute will often occur when someone who claims to be a child goes to claim asylum and a 'visual assessment' is done by immigration officials, this will result in the Home Office declaring a new date of birth for someone, which is not the one provided to them. This will make them over 18 according to the Home Office, changing the way an asylum claim is dealt with and entitlements to care and support. Anyone who is disputed by the Home Office is entitled to ask a local authority to undertake an age assessment.

In most cases, the local authority will need err on the side of caution and provide support and care to someone as if they are a child, pending the outcome of an age assessment. Any decision not to do this should be looked at carefully.

Local authorities will then do age assessments, which can be short form and long form assessments. There is a specific way that these have to be formulated, following the principles of the 'Merton Judgement'. If a local authority assessment agrees with a young person, then they will be often taken into the care of the local authority where they are still under 18 (or a former relevant child) and they will notify the Home Office of the outcome of the age assessment.

When local authorities disagree, they may through their assessment agree with the date of birth assigned by the Home Office, or they may come to a different conclusion that still places someone older than they claim to be. This will result in a young person being treated as an adult. It is important to get advice as soon as possible when this happens, as you often have to make sure that you look at challenging any decision quickly, within 3 months of the decision being made.

About our specialist age dispute work

Young people come into our project at every stage of this journey. We receive both referrals and young people approaching us directly at the very beginning before an assessment is requested from the local authority, through to providing support post-decision. We always recommend seeking specialist advice as soon in that journey as possible.

Depending on what is needed, we provide a variety of different services based on what a young person needs. One of our practitioners will complete an assessment with a young person to look carefully at both their age dispute case, as well as their support needs. We will then look at the case and what needs to happen and may do any of the following;

  • Provide an appropriate adult to accompany a young person to their age assessment.

  • Provide advise on the age assessment process, what to expect and how to go about challenging an age assessment.

  • Supporting a young person to gather evidence, including making out of country enquiries where needed.

  • Working closely with solicitors to challenge age disputes, including acting as a young persons 'litigation friend'.

  • Providing casework support and social support.

  • Providing evidence and assessment in age dispute cases.

  • Pulling together a plan and coordinating a plan across different agencies and different types of professionals.

The support plan will look different for each young person, depending on what they need and want, alongside the stage that the age dispute is at and what needs to happen. Each young person has an allocated practitioner who will be their central person that supports them.

We can also provide advice, support and opinion to other practitioners.

What can a young person expect from our project

Young people will be given a keyworker who will manage their case, spend time with them and keep them informed of what is happening, as well as give them advice and guidance. We will do this in a way that the young person is most comfortable with and in a language that they understand.

We will start by completing an assessment, where we try and get to know them better, ask questions and find out more about what is working well, what is not going well, what you want and what you need. We will always arrange to meet a young person in this project face to face and do visits to them according to what they need.

We will then provide support for however long that support is needed for. If for whatever reason the age dispute is not challengeable, or a young person decides not to go ahead with challenging an age dispute, we will support them into adult services and support.

Making a referral or contacting us for advice

Given the lack of specialist support for age disputes, we provide this service across England and Wales.

Young people can contact us directly for advice by phoning 01865 528 658 or emailing - We have access to on demand interpreters for most major languages.

Professionals can also call us for advice on 01865 528 658 or email to make a referral for a young person.

More information can be found on our get support page.

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