Evaluation of Support for Care Leavers with Insecure Immigration Status

Testing four different, innovative service and advocacy models for young people with insecure immigration status in four different cities across England.

Last updated: 26 July 2022

In Autumn 2018, NCB was commissioned by Paul Hamlyn Foundation to evaluate, over a three-year period, four projects that had been funded to work with young people leaving care with insecure immigration status. Each project was led by a charity or group of charities working in collaboration with the local authority (or local authorities) for their area.

This evaluation explored the approaches of the projects and their impact. Its findings are intended to inform the work of local authorities, charities and their funders in improving support for all care leavers with insecure immigration status.

The methodology comprised a series of in-depth interviews over six phases with young people, project staff and local authority staff. This was complemented by other activities such as a literature review and quantitative analyses.




Providing help to young people leaving care with uncertainty looming over their immigration status, can improve lives, save money, and strengthen the system of wider support.

It is estimated that nearly 19,000[1] looked after children and young care leavers in England have not had their immigration status resolved.

These young people are at risk of losing their entitlement to housing, benefits and legal aid if they are not given the right support whilst still in the care of the local authority.

Care leavers can have insecure immigration status for many different reasons. Some arrive in this country as unaccompanied asylum seekers or victims of human trafficking, while many others have been taken into care from families subject to immigration control in the UK.

Often left deeply traumatised by their experiences in their home country, their journey to the UK or within our borders, these young people often struggle to cope. Mental health difficulties can further hamper how they engage in the complicated process of resolving their immigration status.

Key learning

  • The projects being studied helped these young people get back on their feet. This included giving expert guidance on the immigration and asylum systems, but also offering holistic support to improve young people’s wellbeing, mental health and ability to engage with services.
  • This type of early intervention work to identify and address the needs of these young people can help avoid costs later on which would normally be borne by local authorities. Researchers estimated that these savings could be as much as £100k for just one young person. If these figures are multiplied by the number of young people with insecure immigration status supported by the local authorities, the potential cost savings are significant.
  • Young people described how they benefited from the projects, helping them to understand their rights whilst supporting them to engage in informal support networks, and access education and training opportunities.
  • Crucially, the projects enabled local authorities to better meet the needs of young people with insecure immigration status under their care. Local authorities particularly valued training for professionals and carers, and support for social workers and personal advisors on individual cases.

For further information regarding the research, please contact:

Keith Clements, Senior Researcher at National Children’s Bureau, [email protected]

[1]South London Refugee Association and Coram Children’s Legal Centre (2021). Taking Care: How local authorities can best address immigration issues of children in care. https://www.slr-a.org.uk/campaigns/taking-care