Transitional Plus Care has long history of working with Young Refugees and Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC) which stretches as far back as 1990 having set up a number of accommodation, integration and support schemes for this client group in respect of the Somali Civil War and the Kosovo Evacuation Programme.
We have been involved in the dispersal across the North West in respect of NASS ensuring appropriate accommodation and support was in place for newly arrived Young Refugees and UASC. We were responsible for the setting up and chairing of the Merseyside Refugee Support Network which consisted of 96 Refugee/Asylum Seeker community organisations across Merseyside.
Our approach to working with Young Refugees and UASC is tried, tested and successful over a long period of time.
Young Refugees and UASC have many of the same issues as UK children who are looked after in terms of vulnerability, isolation and marginalisation.
However, the needs of Young Refugees and UASC are acutely different as they are often unified as group by their separation not only from their family of origin, but from their community and country of origin and are seeking refuge from political, cultural, religious or other forms of persecution including armed conflict and war.
Their experiences may include direct experience of beatings, rape or torture and they may have been witness to the beating, rape, torture and killing of others including family members. Some may have been ‘child soldiers’ or fleeing from attempts to enlist them as ‘child soldiers’
Their journeys to the United Kingdom may include the payment and the involvement of human traffickers and those journeys may have been lengthy and fraught with danger and uncertainty. For some, the death of companions may have accompanied the journey and the possibility of death may never be far away.
When Young Refugees and UASC arrive in the United Kingdom they will be met by a massive culture shock where language, food, routine, religious observance, attitudes to animals, education, sexuality, gender, dress, alcohol and those in authority including parental figures may be very different and even objectionable as previous expectations and experiences of custom and culture are breached.
The Police, Border Agency staff, Social Workers and others may be feared because of previous experiences of state officials in home countries who demand payments and may routinely use force or threats.
Therefore, defining Refugee & Asylum Seeker integration is made more complex because it is not only something that happens passively to an individual over time, but is a process in which an individual may actively and selectively control certain aspects.
Nonetheless, Central Government, Local Authorities and Local Communities want newcomers to engage with certain aspects of integration in order to ensure functioning cohesive communities in which all members contribute and benefit.
The range of ways in which Transitional Plus Care delivers its services to Young Refugees and UASC towards sustainable integration varies from facilitation and enablement, to encouragement, to coercion.
Put simply, the goal of integration is equality, inclusion and achievement, however disparity may intervene as local communities may view integration one way, while newcomers live it another way.
When a Young Refugee or an Unaccompanied Asylum Seeker Child arrives in a new country, providing them with effective support, culturally appropriate food, ESOL, immigration advice, health screening and access to established local refugee/asylum seeker communities is key to supporting their integration.
It is vital to ensuring that they can access employment, training or education opportunities thus making their transitions into host communities a lot smoother.
Transitional Plus Care has a clear approach to promoting effective integration and services required when working with Young Refugees and UASC, which is set out below:
Language and Communication
Language skills are a key component to the integration of Young Refugees and USAC. It is important that local community colleges, provide Young Refugees and UASC with English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) courses, which cover a range of different levels and abilities.
Once the newly arrived Young Refugees and UASC have mastered the entry level of ESOL they should be invited to continue their language education within local Refugee Community Organisations who often deliver courses themselves.
Many of the the teachers within these Refugee Community Organisations do not only teach English language, but also provide orientation in terms of British culture and society.
As language and communication skills are perceived to be the main ingredient for successful integration, its important to offer free language classes for those newly arrived
Similarly there are many volunteers with local communities who provide language classes (“survival training”) and provide cultural orientation for Young Refugees and UASC. Local Council for Voluntary Services (CVS’s) will be able to employ their knowledge to sign post individuals.
It is very important to open employment opportunities for Young Refugees and UASC as early as their immigration status will allow, ideally upon their arrival. This includes through traineeships, volunteering and other schemes to connect them with potential employers and training providers.
Facilitating the recognition of qualifications will speed up the process of Young Refugees and UASC accessing employment and enables us to create a network of companies, trade unions and chambers of commerce to offer employment opportunities for them.
Similarly, providing information and orientation in the job application phase by organising application workshops which enables young people to address local employers directly and in turn connecting employers to Young Refugees and UASC searching for employment
In order to integrate Young Refugees and UASC as soon as possible into the education system its important for educational establishments to develop welcome classes” which offer opportunities for young people to learn the English language, emphasising a quick acquisition of English in order to make sure that the young people can be integrated as soon as possible into the regular education system.
Depending on their educational background and capacities, the young people should stay for six months to one year in the welcome classes.
In parallel, the young people can join the other young people in the mainstream lessons, in which English language is not the main focus, such as sports, mathematics, music and arts.
Transitional Plus Care’s approach to accommodation for refugees is based around shared values and group living in which the housemates cook together, share stories and experiences, and live in a creative community in which singing, art and theatre are important.
The ideal approach towards accommodation is to provide 24/7 staffed provision which allows staff to act not only as a mentor but to also be the conduit to the young people accesing wider provision which will support the integration process.
In addition, TPC will develop the independent living skills of the Young Refugees and UASC in preparation for post 18 housing
Transitional Plus Care takes a multi agency approach to ensuring the health and wellbeing of Young Refugees and UASC is a priority in line with the 2002 guidance (Department of Health, 2002) and revised draft 2009 guidance which stresses the importance of a comprehensive initial health assessment for all children on becoming looked after that the assessment should be completed within 28 days of arrival into care.
Staff will support the young people to register with Doctors, Dentist and specialist health services which are required.
Providing timely, appropriate and quality immigration advice to Young Refugees and UASC is essential to them in order to regulise their stay within the UK without further unnecessary stresses to what they have already had endured.
To this end we will work closely with the Placing Local Authority to ensure the appropriate Legal Representative is identified and that the young person is supported to both legal visits and Home Office interviews along with ensuring interpreters are available should they be required.
Everyone employed by Transitional Plus Care and who are involved in the support of Young Refugees and UASC will be trained to recognise and understand the particular issues likely to be faced by these young people.
This includes recognising the indicators of trafficking and trauma as young person’s previous history or current experience of being trafficked might not be apparent on entering care.