RCPCH responds to the Age Estimation Scientific Advisory Committee’s report on age assessment methods

This week the Interim Age Estimation Science Advisory Committee published their report on the use of biological evaluation methods to assist in assessing the age of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children.

The report recommends the use of radiography (x-ray) of the third molars (wisdom teeth) and the bones of the hand and wrist and MRI imaging of the bones of the knee and clavicle (collar bone) in combination with Merton-compliant social work assessments. The report suggests that paediatricians may be involved in the assessment process.

It remains RCPCH’s position that age assessment methods only give an age-range estimate and are therefore not precise enough to determine, with any degree of certainty, the age of a young person. The report itself acknowledges this. 

RCPCH continues to hold ethical concerns about the use of biological assessment methods which subject a child or young person to medical investigations for anything other than a clinical need. The report also emphasises the need for informed consent for all biological age assessment age investigations which, by definition, must be free from duress. RCPCH is concerned that such informed consent is, in reality, difficult to obtain in the circumstances that these young people face. This is reflected in the report’s recommendation that ‘no automatic assumptions or consequences should result from refusal from consent.’ 

We continue to review this report and its implications on our current position and will issue any necessary further responses once we have done so.