Age Dispute Project - Refugee Council

Age Dispute Project

Most unaccompanied children arriving in the UK have their age accepted. But in some cases the Home Office or local authorities don’t believe the age they claim to be. When we believe a child is being treated as an adult, we help them to get the support and protection which all children need.

Young people judged to be adults miss out on vital support and protection they are entitled to as children under UK law. They are housed with adults and they will not have access to the care and education they need. They might be detained and go through legal processes as adults. This puts them at high risk of further harm and can be deeply traumatising.

“If not for [my case worker] Francesco, I would have been sent home straight away. When I was in detention, I was told I will be sent home … I know friends who were sent back to Afghanistan. Some didn’t even make it to their parents’ home.” Young person released from detention through the Age Dispute Project

How we safeguard children

The Age Dispute Project is the only one of its kind, ensuring that many children across the country each year are accepted as such and can begin to recover from their experiences with appropriate support and safeguards.

We only take on cases where we believe the young person is aged under 18. We gather as much information as we can about the young person and meet with them to see whether we are able to take on their case.

We work across the country, liaising with young people and stakeholders wherever they are. Where possible, we work with local authorities and other agencies to resolve a young person’s case without recourse to legal representation. Where this is not possible we work with solicitors and barristers to ensure that the young person has proper legal advice and representation so that they are properly safeguarded.


young people were supported through the project in 2018/19


were accepted as children


were found to be aged 13 or under


cases were ongoing
“Without this project I wouldn’t have been treated fairly, nobody helped me, even though I kept telling people about my age, until the Refugee Council believed me.” Young person helped by the Age Dispute Project

Support our work

We provide the only project of its kind in the UK. Sadly we are unable to help all the young people we would like to because of our capacity. It is very difficult to know that there are children who are being told that they are not believed and who are being left without our support.

You can help young people rebuild their lives by making a donation or volunteering on one of our projects.

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Age Dispute Project