Aim To identify and explore the barriers to accessing a range of services in London for unaccompanied minors and to formulate strategies to overcome any barriers identified.
Method A qualitative study was undertaken with unaccompanied minors from a human rights support group based in London. A number of key experts working within this field (key informants) were identified through contacting different organisations in order to gain a deeper understanding of barriers and difficulties faced. The semi-structured interviews took place over 2 months in 2009, they were then transcribed and analysed for themes. These themes were then triangulated with findings from among the key informants.
Results A total of seven unaccompanied minors and nine key informants were interviews. All unaccompanied minors were from Africa fleeing violence and persecution. Barriers to accessing services experienced included age disputes, provision of support under section 17 of the children's act, a lack of understanding and knowledge as to how to navigate the UK system and what entitlements are available.
Conclusions Barriers to access are multi-dimensional and closely intertwined with one another. The barriers that have the most impact and lead to multiple other barriers are policy and funding. There appears to be a conflict of interest that arises between those providing these services but also trying to remain within their budgets. This then leads to variability in the quality of service provision, which has a direct consequence on the experience of unaccompanied minors trying to access services in an unfamiliar environment.