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2.2.12 Unaccompanied humanitarian minors

Last Modified: 11-Feb-2019 Review Date: 04-Jan-2021

Purpose

These guidelines provide information about the management of unaccompanied humanitarian minors (UHM) whose guardianship is delegated to the CEO fo the Department of Communities by the Minister for Home Affairs, through the Department of Home Affairs.

Practice Requirements

 

  • The child protection worker must assist nominated UHM custodians and others living in the home to undergo Department record checks, criminal record checks and Working With Children (WWC) checks. These checks must be cleared before delegated guardianship is accepted.
  • The child protection worker provides case management and support to the UHM as is provided to children in the CEO's care.
  • The child protection worker must notify the UHM Network Officer (UHM Officer) and the Principal Policy and Planning Officer Cultural Diversity, Professional Practice Unit about any significant issues or changes of circumstances of UHMs. 

Procedures

  • Context
  • Referral and allocation process
  • Assessment of UHM custodians
  • Support to custodians and UHMs
  • Recording a UHM on Assist
  • Planning and reporting requirements
  • Submitting a request for a service extension under the UHM programme
  • Notification of case closure
  • Context

    A UHM is a child under 18 years of age who has entered Australia without a family member to care for them. Upon arrival in Australia the UHM is placed under the guardianship of the Minister for Home Affairs.

    In some cases, the Minister for Home Affairs may delegate the guardianship of an UHM to the Department through an 'Australian Government delegation'. This occurs as a function of the Immigration (Guardianship of Children) (IGOC) Act 1946.

    This normally occurs when a 'nominated custodian' has offered, or has been nominated by the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) to care for the UHM.  The Department must assess this person and the potential care arrangement and determine whether guardianship is accepted.

    A UHM is not a child in the CEO's care as defined in the Children and Community Services Act 2004. 

    When an 'Australian Government delegation' is agreed and the Department accepts delegated guardianship, we provide the same level of case management and support to the UHM as is provided to children in the CEO's care on behalf of the DHA.

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    Referral and allocation process

    Requests from DHA in relation to UHMs are made in writing to the CEO.  Requests may be one of three types:

    • a UHM who arrived in Australia with a carer identified by DHA and that carer has previously signed a care undertaking with DHA
    • a request for assessment of a nominated custodian identified by DHA as willing to care for an UHM who is already in Australia, or
    • a request that the Department identify an appropriate care arrangement for a UHM.

    UHM requests are processed in the following manner:

    1. DHA contacts the prospective custodian and undertakes a preliminary assessment interview.
    2. DHA sends a request for carer assessment or delegation of guardianship of a UHM to the CEO.
    3. The request is directed to the Principal Policy and Planning Officer Cultural Diversity (PPPO) based in the Professional Practice Unit.  The PPPO processes the request and refers it to the relevant district office for allocation.
    4. The district office conducts the carer assessment, and forwards it to the PPPO.
    5. The PPPO determines the cost sharing arrangements in line with the current costing model and prepares a recommendation for the CEO's approval, and
    6. Where the CEO accepts guardianship of an UHM, the PPPO notifies the relevant district, and forwards copies of correspondence to DHA confirming acceptance of guardianship.

    Although the CEO has the delegated guardianship of the UHM, the Minister for Home Affairs retains guardianship and ultimate responsibility for the UHM.

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    Assessment of UHM custodians

    Nominated UHM custodians must undergo Department record checks, WWC checks and an assessment.

    For UHMs up to and including 15 years of age at the time of the DHA delegation request the assessment should be undertaken as per Chapter 3.1: Family or significant other care.

    For UHMs who are 16 or 17 years old at the time of the DHA delegation request, the assessment should be undertaken as a 'Private Living Arrangement' assessment—a streamlined assessment process focusing on the needs of the young person for support toward independence and settlement in Australia.  For more information about this process refer to Guidelines for UHM Private Living Arrangement Assessment (16 and 17 years old) (in related resources).

    If a nominated custodian has not formally signed for their appointment as custodian with DHA when referred to Department:

    • the PPPO, by phone and in writing, should contact and remind them of the assessment and custodianship appointment processes
    • the child protection worker must provide the relevant DHA information forms to the nominated custodian, and
    • the child protection worker must request that they sign their appointment as custodians.

    If the nominated custodian declines their appointment the assessment must not proceed.  The child protection worker must advise the PPPO, who in turn must advise DHA.

    Where the Department is requested to identify an appropriate care arrangement, child protection workers must apply the Child Placement Principle when placing children from culturally and linguistically diverse (CaLD) backgrounds. This information is available in Chapter 3.4: Child placement principle.

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    Support to custodians and UHMs

    Approved custodians of UHMs aged 15 years and under at the time of the DHA delegation request are eligible for a foster care subsidy to support the care arrangement.  Information on the subsidy application process is available in Chapter 3.5: Case management costs - basic subsidy provisions.  UHM custodians are also entitled to a Maintenance Allowance (MA) that is provided by the Commonwealth.  This MA is paid concurrently with the foster care subsidy until the child reaches 16 years of age.

    Custodians of UHMs who are 16 and 17 years of age at the time of the DHA delegation request should not receive a foster care subsidy, as the young person is entitled to Centrelink benefits, and financial arrangements must be negotiated between the UHM and the custodian for their living costs. 

    A UHM and their custodian may be entitled to services under the Humanitarian Settlement Program or the Settlement Grants Program (SGP).  Child protection workers should liaise with the HSP or SGP provider located in their district to check which services are available.

    UHMs requiring immigration-related legal information should be referred to their allocated HSP or SGP worker who will direct them to the most appropriate community or legal organisation.

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    Recording a UHM on Assist

    Child protection workers should record UHM cases on Assist as follows:

    Upon intake:

    Primary issue: “Child Protection”

    • Child of Concern - Issue: “Transfer of Guardianship”
    • Detail: “Unaccompanied Minor”

    Upon acceptance of guardianship:

    • Period of Care – Reason: “No Guardian”
    • Order type - “Australian Gov’t Delegation”

    Child protection workers also need to record relevant identity information in Assist.  Refer to Assist User Guide – Update a Person's Information in related resources.  On the 'Details' tab, record available Identity Types, for example, Medicare or Health Care Card numbers, passport number etc.  Then select the 'Immigration' tab, complete the child's Immigration and Visa details.   

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    Planning and reporting requirements

    Child protection workers must develop care plans and cultural plans for UHMs aged 15 years and under.   Child protection workers must also provide copies of the Quarterly Care Reports to the UHM Contact Officer via email: uhm.operations@homeaffairs.gov.au.  The UHM Contact Officer can also be contacted via:

    UHM and Guardian Section

    Child Wellbeing Branch

    Health Services Policy and Child Wellbeing Division

    Corporate and Enabling Group

    Department of Home Affairs

    Ph:  02 6122 5523 

    Email: uhm.operations@homeaffairs.gov.au

    When developing a health care plan, child protection workers should note that children entering Australia under the humanitarian program are generally required to attend an assessment with the Humanitarian Entrant Health Service (HEHS).  Child protection workers should inform the relevant community or school health nurse of the HEHS assessment.  The HEHS should be notified that the child protection worker is the contact person for all necessary HEHS correspondence for the period the UHM's guardianship is delegated to the Department.

    Under the IGOC regulations, custodians must notify the Department about any serious incidents involving a UHM in their care.  This information must be passed on to the Department's PPPO.  PPPO must advise DHA via uhm.operations@homeaffairs.gov.au immediately.

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    Submitting a request for a service extension under the UHM programme

    In order to improve settlement outcomes, the Department may request an extension of case management arrangements for those UHMs whom it considers will benefit from continued support after meeting a requirement to exit — for example, turning 18 years of age, becoming an Australian citizen, or having a parent arrive in Australia.

    There is no set format for extension requests; an email outlining the reasons is sufficient.  If the need for an extension of case management for a particular UHM is identified, child protection workers must write to the to the UHM Contact Officer for WA via email uhm.operations@homeaffairs.gov.au outlining the rationale for that request at least one month before the UHM’s scheduled exit date. 

    For more information about this process refer to Tip Sheet: How to submit a request for a service extension under the UHM programme (in related resources).

    UHMs are also entitled to financial assistance through the Federal Government’s Transition to Independent Living Allowance (TILA).  The TILA is managed by the Department of Social Services (DSS) and enables eligible young people to buy material goods or access opportunities that support their transition to independent living.  TILA is generally accessed through our funded leaving care services on behalf of young people leaving care.   More information about this process is available on the TILA website.

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    Notification of case closure

    UHMs cease to be wards of the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection upon:

    • reaching 18 years of age
    • becoming Australian citizens
    • leaving Australia permanently, or
    • being reunited with their parents or placed in the care of a relative as defined under the Migration Act 1958. 

    In these cases, the Department should consider closing its involvement with the UHM.

    The PPPO must be notified of allocation and case closure dates for all UHMs.

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