Children and Young People

Separated childrenSeparated Children

Separated children are minors who arrive in Ireland alone seeking safety and protection from war and conflict in their own country. These children face many challenges on their own without the care and support of their parents and family.

Aged Out Minors

When a separated child arrives in Ireland, they are placed in the care of the HSE, who situate the child within foster care, hostel or residential centre accommodation, while their application for refugee status is processed. If Refugee or Subsidiary Protection status is granted while the separated child is still a minor, they are usually supported by the HSE care system and enjoy the provision of aftercare and support throughout the transition to independent living upon reaching 18 years of age. However, in cases where a separated child is still awaiting a decision on their application and turns 18, they automatically become known as ‘Aged Out Minors’ and are no longer considered as part of the HSE care system.

How does Ireland deal with aged out minors?

Aged Out Minors must leave the HSE care system and enter the adult Direct Provision system operated by the Reception and Integration Agency. In many cases, these young people are still in full time school education. They may still be completing their Leaving Certificate or have begun third level courses but must move to adult accommodation in Dublin or elsewhere around the country. Being dispersed to a new location creates many problems for Aged Out Minors. On a practical level, it is not always possible to get a place in another school or on the courses needed to finish their education. Emotionally too, it is very distressing to leave a foster family and the support network they have built. As separated children they had one or more key care givers allocated to them in addition to an agent of the HSE.  As an Aged Out Minor they are moved from a community to a position where specialised support may not exist.

The system of Direct Provision is in stark contrast the care afforded to the young person under the HSE residential centres or foster placements. Residents in Direct Provision are supplied with only a bed and accommodated in shared rooms (sometimes with a capacity of up to 5 persons).It is a full board service in which meal times are strictly allocated by the centre. Beyond these provisions, adult residents are eligible for just €19.10 per week to cover any other needs. As such, the lack of privacy and quiet area for homework or further study, restrictive mealtimes and financial constraints are some of the significant areas of concern for aged out minors within the direct provision system.

The work Nasc does to support aged out minors

Aged out minors are a vulnerable group of care leavers and often feel isolated. They often become traumatised by the transition to Direct Provision and struggle to adjust to the new living environment which can lead to the development of mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety. Nasc is concerned over the welfare of these young people and aim to advocate on behalf of Aged Out Minors and look after their needs since they no longer have anyone allocated to do this for them by the state.

Nasc provides much needed financial support in the form of fee payments for educational courses as well as the day to day needs such as food, study materials, books and transport. The Aged Out Minors we support also drop into the office once a week which gives them the opportunity to raise with us any concerns that they have.

What is the change we are looking for?

  • Government policy must be changed to afford Aged Out Minors the same system of aftercare as Separated Children granted status and other residents and citizens
  • The HSE must take back responsibility or duty of care
  • Taking the best interests of children as the top priority for all government agencies and services

Age Disputed Minors

In particular, Nasc has found that the best interests of the child are not being upheld when a situation of age-dispute arises and advises that the state must provide alternative, more appropriate accommodation for these vulnerable minors. Nasc has worked with several separated children who were placed in adult hostel accommodation rather than being cared for by the HSE in either a foster or residential setting as required.

Case Study: Jane

After Jane’s parents were involved in a fatal car crash in 2009, her ‘aunt’ brought her from Nigeria to Ireland in 2010 at the age of 14 under the premise that she would be able to have a better life. However on arrival and for a year following, Jane was subjected solely to domestic servitude. Though an extremely timid and gentle girl, Jane managed to escape and came into the care of the HSE. She was placed into a foster family where she was happily involved in all normal aspects of family and school life. She and the other children in the house were treated equally and enjoyed taking summer holidays together. This family life however, came to an end soon after Jane turned 18 as she was transferred to a Direct Provision centre. This drastic change left Jane feeling like she was ‘excluded from the world’.

Jane came to Nasc for help in August 2012 after which we were able to secure her a place at a local college to study a FETAC level 5 course. This was not an easy process as the college were initially looking for international fees since Jane is an Asylum Seeker, eventually we were able to secure the regular rate which Nasc covers but the worry is that this is not absolutely guaranteed for the duration of Jane’s studies. As she lives in Direct Provision, on college days she often misses the centre mealtimes, because of this Nasc gives her spending money every week so that she can afford lunch with her friends while she is in college. Nasc also provides the books and uniform that Jane needs or her studies and a monthly bus pass so that she does not have to use her allowance for these items.

Jane is flourishing in education; she absolutely loved the course she was on and gained very good grades. Having recently completed 2 weeks of work experience at a local hospice for the elderly where she built up good relationships with most of the staff and residence, she has now graduated onto a FETAC level 6 course. Jane hopes her studies will help her to benefit others and the community.

Watch our video highlighting the experience of one separated child living in Cork, ‘Deyemi’s Story’:


For a complete review of Nasc’s Separated Children’s Programme from 2012 – 2014 please see our latest report here.

Da Vinci Project

Nasc participated in a European transnational project spanning five countries which looked at the integration of vulnerable groups, focusing on the transition from school to vocational training or employment. Educational and vocational research has shown that there are considerable numbers of adolescents and young people who are failing to succeed in the transition process. The goal of this project was to identify problems in the transition to the world of vocational education and training or to the world of work, and to develop an ‘index of integration’ for targeted local and regional planning of education and training to facilitate equality of opportunities for migrants. Nasc participated in the project with a particular focus on the needs of separated children as a vulnerable group. Further information about the project including good practice models, country reports and the ‘index of integration’ are available on the project website.

Additional Resources:

Barnardos Ireland ‘Separated and Trafficked Children‘ April 2009

Irish Refugee Council ‘Closing the Protection Gap‘ 2011

Irish Refugee Council ‘Making Separated Children Visible‘ 2006

If you would like to donate to Nasc’s Separated Children Fund, please visit our Donate page.