How to use this tool

Who should use this tool?

Responsible officer

The term ‘responsible officer’ is used in a generic way to include all officials who could potentially be involved and interact with an applicant for international protection. This could include border guards, police officers, registration officers, reception officers, social workers, case officers of the determining authority, etc. The tool is designed for those without expert knowledge in medicine, psychology, trafficking in human beings or other related fields. Therefore, for many of the categories of special needs, identification based on this tool would only be preliminary and would need to be followed by a referral to a specialist. Moreover, while the tool refers to a single responsible officer, an approach to identification and support which is multidisciplinary and involves experts from different fields could be promoted as a good practice.

We have designed the tool primarily for the EU+ officials, but it could also be found useful to any other practitioner in contact with applicants for international protection.

How to use the different sections of the tool?

There are different ways to use the IPSN tool, depending on the case at hand, what information you already have, and depending on your purpose.

The focus of the IPSN tool is on identification. Therefore, using the indicators would normally be your ‘step one’. Then you will have to make an assessment, based on the additional information you have about the case, your knowledge and experience, and select among the indicated categories of persons with special needs those that you would like to consider (‘step 2’). Depending on your role in the asylum system or your interest in the particular case, you may then select one or more of the support stages (‘step 3’).

Alternatively, you may access the content under ‘special needs’ directly.

In order to retrieve the guidance under ‘support’ you need to select the respective stage and one or more categories, as the outlined measures are tailored to the categories.

For more information on the different sections see below.

How to use the indicators?

‘Step one’

Using the indicators would normally be your ‘step one’ in the IPSN tool, unless identification of special needs has already taken place and you would like to access additional information regarding a respective category and/or support stage directly.

In order to facilitate the identification process, indicators are grouped under categories (such as age, family status, psychosocial indicators, environmental indicators, etc.) and in some cases under sub-categories. Each indictor is linked to one or more categories of persons with special needs.

You should select as many of the indicators as you consider apply to the individual applicant, based on your observations or other available information. Some indicators may be quite easy to detect early in the process, but others may become apparent only at a later stage (e.g. where a diagnosis of serious illness has taken place), or may be more difficult to recognise (e.g. deterioration in an applicant’s mental health). The tool should therefore be revisited when new indicators become apparent.

Psychosocial indicators: It should be underlined that with the indicators found in the ‘psychosocial indicators’, you would not be making any clinical diagnosis. As with the other indicators, you should freely choose the indictors you consider applicable based only on your opinion and experience in working with applicants for international protection: i.e. Does this person, compared to others, seem in a depressed mood, withdrawn, to be avoiding others?, etc.  Based on this preliminary identification, you may find that there is a need to refer the applicant for further assessment and assistance.

The indicators are in no way meant as a list of questions that the responsible officer should directly ask the applicant. You can see the sections on ‘evidence’ for more information on how the indicators may be detected.

What is under the 'special needs' section?


Each of the special needs categories has an opening ‘about’ section, which provides some of the context regarding the category, further general information relevant to identification and to the special needs which the person could have in the asylum procedure. This is followed by a section listing all indicators associated with the special needs; and then a section on relevant pieces of evidence which could be available (for example, a personal statement or medical evidence). In the results, you would also be reminded that certain other categories are closely related to those you have marked and, therefore, could be worth adding and considering.

‘Step two’

The number of marked indicators would appear next to the category(ies) of persons with special needs they are linked to. You should then make a further assessment which of those categories could be relevant to the particular applicant, some you might be able to exclude already based on additional information available in the case file. The number of marked indicators is of course not a direct measure of relevance; the indicators would naturally have different weight, which is not reflected in the tool. For example, marking ‘unaccompanied (child)’ would be a very clear indicator that the applicant is an unaccompanied minor. However, marking ‘high arousal levels’ and ‘sleep disturbances’ would not necessarily mean that the applicant has been subjected to torture, rape or other serious form of psychological, physical or sexual violence, although the number next to these categories would be bigger than in the previous example. Further assessment would need to take place in many of the cases, including with the means at the disposal of the responsible officer and potentially through referral to a specialist.

Once you have made this ‘step two’ assessment, you can mark the categories you consider relevant to retrieve further information.

Direct access

In some cases, identification of special needs would have taken place already and you can directly access the relevant categories by marking them.

What is under the 'support' section?

Once you have selected the category you are interested in, you can also select the relevant stage(s) to retrieve brief guidance on the possible measures of special procedural guarantees and/or reception support:

Each stage includes the various actions (e.g. adjustments to the personal interview room, referral to medical services) that the responsible officer should consider. The actions put forward in this tool are not definitive and individual solutions may be necessary, but the brief guidance in those sections is indicative of what should be considered in line with the relevant EU standards.

Although reception support is placed along with the procedural steps, it should be underlined that reception is not a singular step and reception support is relevant throughout the procedural steps.