Failures in the placement and follow up of unaccompanied minors

The Parliamentary Ombudsmen’s investigation points to significant failures in the placement of unaccompanied minors and the social service’s follow up of the minor’s care

Portrait of Parliamentary Ombudsman Stefan Holgersson Photographer: JOParliamentary Ombudsman Stefan Holgersson

During autumn of 2015 a large number of unaccompanied minors arrived to Sweden. Parliamentary Ombudsman Stefan Holgersson has conducted a series of inspections and investigations to examine how the social services administrated their duties during this period. 

When receiving the minors the social services have coped well with the acute difficulties, largely due to the strong commitment of the staff members involved, but in many cases the social services have lacked the resources to conduct an adequate assessment and arrange acceptable housing for the minors, says Parliamentary Ombudsman Stefan Holgersson. 

The large influx of unaccompanied minors forced the social welfare boards to come up with emergency solutions. In this situation, it was not possible to consider the best interests of the child; it was a matter of finding roof above their heads. The acute situation led to the social services conducting placements without assessing the necessary requirements usually observed concerning care and appropriateness. Because of this some minors were placed in housings that were directly unsuitable and, in certain cases, it was found that the private companies that had been contracted to assist with housing did not carry out their functions accurately. 

Recently the Swedish Parliament decided to introduce a licence for consultant activities. The new regulation will probably eliminate some of the issues I have come across during my investigation, says Parliamentary Ombudsman Stefan Holgersson. 

An important role for the social services is to follow up on the minor’s care. The social services need to keep in close, continues contact with the minor, and make regular visits where the minor resides. By the time of the inspection the Parliamentary Ombudsmen found cases without any assessment at all, and no allocated responsible case officer. 

It is unacceptable that a municipality, considering the amount of time that has passed from when the minor was assigned to the municipality, takes this long to administrate cases, says Parliamentary Ombudsman Stefan Holgersson.

There seem to be a difference in the follow up of care between administrations that have placed minors in their own municipality and administrations that have placed minors outside of the municipality. Generally, this implies that the best way for the administrations to safeguard the minor’s care is to place them in their own municipality. 

An important lesson from the chaotic autumn of 2015 is that there are great advantages in placing minors in the administration’s own municipality or within such distance from the municipality that the board is able to access sufficient methods to follow up on the care, Parliamentary Ombudsman Stefan Holgersson concludes by saying. 

The investigation

The investigation is foremost based on eight inspections conducted during autumn of 2016 including: the unit for unaccompanied minors in the district of Kungsholmen, Norrmalm and Östermalm of Stockholm municipality, the social welfare board administration of Västerås municipality, the social and employment market administration of Köping municipality, the social services administration of Örebro municipality, the social services administration of Kumla municipality, the social services administration of Flen municipality, the social services administration of Katrineholm municipality and Älvsjö city district administration of Stockholm municipality.

The Parliamentary Ombudsmen’s supervision aims to assess if a case is processed according to applicable rules and instructions. The Parliamentary Ombudsmen does not, as a general rule, look into how an authority has valued the facts in a specific case.  

Updated 4/7/2017