Providing support to refugee and asylum-seeking children and young people in the Leeds area
Who is this service available to?
Since 2005, the Children’s Society in Leeds has been supporting refugee and asylum seeking children, young people and families who face significant harm, inequality and neglect. We work with children and young people up to the age of 21 and their families, including unaccompanied asylum seeking young people (UASC).
Our beneficiaries include:
- Asylum seekers (including UASC)
- Undocumented young people
- Destitute young people and families
- Refused asylum seekers
- Trafficked young people
We provide five areas of support: Advocacy Service, Mentoring/peer mentoring, Orientation and prevention programme, Social and creative activities, and Participation/influencing.
A dedicated Advocate/Keyworker provides support to young people aged 14 to 21 who may be unfairly denied support or experience difficulties as a result of their immigration circumstances. Young people in need of support may find themselves in the following situations:
- Not in education, employment or training (NEET)
- No access to local support (e.g. healthcare, emotional support or local authority services)
- Poor emotional and mental health
- Housing issues, destitution
- Immigration issues (undocumented, ARE etc…)
- Age disputed
- Risk of exploitation and abuse (such as trafficking, FGM, forced marriage, forced labour, sexual exploitation)
The Advocate/Keyworker delivering the service is registered with The Office of Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC) Level 1 and is able to directly assist with some basic immigration work.
The role of the Advocate/Keyworker is to:
- Assess young people’ needs in a way that accounts for language and cultural barriers
- Build a trusting relationship with young people ensuring they are involved in decisions that impact on them - represent their views and best interest
- Support young people to meet their basic needs: for instance, through accessing education and financial assistance
- Guide young people through the immigration process helping them to understand their rights and entitlements, improve their access to immigration advice (for example, identifying solicitors) and help them to regularise their status
- Help young people access the support they are entitled to, including housing, health services, benefits and education
- Act as a responsible adult when required
- Contribute to LAC reviews
- Work closely with the allocated social worker
The aim is to match young people with a volunteer mentor (taking into account the young person’s interests, gender and cultural preferences) to offer practical help with areas that they identify as important to them. This could include:
- Help with English language skills (conversational English); educational support (homework)
- Orientation (showing around the city, delivering our internally developed orientation and prevention programme etc)
Orientation and prevention programme
Our orientation and prevention programme is aimed at reducing the risks of exploitation and risk taking behaviour for young people who often lack awareness of their rights and entitlements and lack parental guidance (in particular unaccompanied asylum seeking young people). The aim of the programme is to ensure that following arrival in their new city, young people are empowered to become full members of their new community.
The programme covers the key skills and areas of knowledge that young people need to develop in order to sustain an independent and safe life, such as:
- The UK culture
- Rights, entitlements and responsibilities
- Education pathways
- Money management
- Bullying/hate crime
- Sexual health awareness/relationships
- Drugs and alcohol awareness
- First Aid
The programme can be delivered as part of a group or within the mentoring capacity. The choice of themes to be covered and the length of the sessions is determined by the level of awareness and understanding of the young people.
Social and creative activities
To enable young migrants to connect with others and build social networks, we offer a range of weekly social and creative activities in partnership with local partners (such as First Floor in Leeds - a creative arts organisation) who promote young people’s confidence and self-esteem. This is delivered with the support of volunteers, students on placements and coordinated by the youth programme and volunteer coordinator.
From our experience, young people who have been part of our services are keen to give back, contribute to making their community a better place to live in and help their peers. We harness young people’s determination and resilience by creating participation and influencing opportunities that will enable them to be actors of change through:
- Peer mentoring
- Focus groups (informing the delivery of the service)
- Contribution to our national Policy/advocacy work (through APPGs, media work etc)
Service manager: Amra Bibi