Q: Melissa (on Facebook) – I would like to ask Francesco whether if in his opinion Social Workers are trained sufficiently to carry out age assessment and also how the age assessments could be more accurate without being intrusive?
A: Francesco – Hi Melissa, my colleagues and I go to lots of age assessments carried out by social workers. We see a real variation in social worker training and skills. There is no official training or guidance for social workers doing this very important and very difficult job. Some seem to have a real understanding of the role and of how hard it must be for the young person to go through this process. Others act like immigration officers and ask lots of upsetting questions which don’t have anything to do with the young person’s age. It is usually not possible to be 100% accurate about how old someone is, and benefit of the doubt must be given, otherwise you end up with children treated as adults. Many children don’t know their exact date of birth and come from places where birthdays are not celebrated but will have a good idea roughly how old they are. It would help some social workers to have a bit more understanding of the culture of the children they are assessing. It surprises us how many decisions seem to be largely based on physical appearance, when we all know from our own experience that teenagers of similar age can look very different. It would be great if there was more independent training for social workers on how to do better age assessments.