The reception and social inclusion of unaccompanied migrant children in EU countries is a pressing issue across Europe. On February 15th a study day was organised in Barcelona (Spain) by our member, the Association of Catalan Municipalities, to discuss crucial issues affecting unaccompanied migrant children. The European Social Network (ESN) along with representatives from public social services across Catalonia, Spain and the EU participated in the event.


Key steps to improve the reception and inclusion of unaccompanied migrant children


The first in a number of key messages presented at the meeting was that child reception should first be addressed from a child protection perspective and then from a migration one. Setting adequate reception conditions and pathways for inclusion is a key social investment in children with a migrant background and pay-offs for host communities are high.


The second takeaway was that effective service coordination between departments is central to ensuring effective integration into European societies. Kate Eccles, from the Children’s Social Work Services in the City of Brighton and Hove (UK), explained the importance of having a case manager and a team working around the child. This helps the child to navigate the system of available services, and for services to be provided in more efficiently.


The final point was that the transition to adulthood for unaccompanied children needs to be better managed with a comprehensive aftercare plan including housing, financial support, education and training, healthcare and psychosocial support. Although many countries in the EU have now extended the provision of care beyond 18, the lack of adequate aftercare support is still considered an issue that needs to be tackled in the short term. Ulf Wallin, from the national coordination of Folk High Schools in Sweden, also emphasised the key role of a mentor and social networks for young migrants in their transition to adulthood, as they allow better outcomes in terms of integration.


ESN report: ‘Promoting the social inclusion of migrant children and young people: The duty of social services’


Our report presented at the event by Valentina Guerra, Policy Officer, is the result of information gathered at our  2017 seminar in Stockholm  and an online questionnaire sent to ESN members and external organisations.


The report contains practice and policy analysis on issues faced by social services when supporting unaccompanied migrant children. See the report for more in-depth information on how social services are approaching and implementing the key messages shared at the event in Barcelona.