Posted: 19 June 2014

'The young people we work with are incredible and have so much to offer'

This year during Refugee Week we're celebrating the contributions children and young people make to the UK. If you haven't yet visited the Refugee Week website and taken helped us increase the very low levels of support asylum seekers receive, please do.

Today, Programme Manager Shohana Shabnam answered our questions about what we do to support young refugees in the Oxford area.

Q: How long have you worked for us?

A: I have worked for The Children’s Society for three years and four months.

What do you do?

I am programme manager at The Children’s Society in Oxford programme. I manage all our Oxford-based services, provide supervision and support to all front line workers working with children and young people. I also develop new projects and lead on funding bids for the programme.

What types of children do you work with?

At Oxford, we deliver a range of services for refugee, asylum seeking and new migrant children and young people. The age range of children and young people we work from five to 19 years old.

How does the service provide this support?

Our programme runs a range of school and college-based services. We run drop-in services in schools and colleges for young refugees providing advocacy, advice and practical support. We run a four-week orientation and induction programme for newly arrived, unaccompanied asylum-seeking minors. This includes education assessment, functional English lessons, transitioning to school or college and information sessions on how the legal, social and educational frameworks in the UK work.

We also run some after-school and holiday activities for young refugees to reduce social isolation and promote their emotional well-being. Young refugees who are struggling with psychological distress and trauma are referred to our therapeutic service where qualified therapists work with them individually, in groups or as a family. We provide consultation support to a number of schools and the local further education college to help them ensure young refugees’ support needs are understood.

Currently there are eight members of staff working in Oxford. We also have a social work student on placement with us.

What is the most challenging part of your job?

The most challenging part of my job is to secure enough funding to continue the vital services to support refugee children and young people.

Why is what you and your colleagues do important?

I think the most important thing we do with young people is that we listen to what they are trying to say to us. Many young refugees can face a very adverse environment after arriving in the UK. They often tell us that they are constantly questioned and often not believed and feel they often do not have a say in the matters affecting their lives. We try to reverse this in our work so young people feel supported and believed.

What's your favourite part of your job?

My most favourite part of my job is to see longer term positive outcomes happening in young people's lives. Positive outcomes could mean a young person having refugee status, having their age dispute resolved in their favour, doing well in education or having good friendship networks developed. When I see these positive outcomes I remind myself that this is why I am doing this job.

This week is Refugee Week, so what is one thing you want others to understand about working with refugees?

The young people we work with are incredible and have so much to offer. They often need someone to believe in them. I am regularly amazed at how they turn their life around with a bit of help on the way.


More about Refugee Week

Read our policy officer's blog the very low levels of support asylum seekers receive, and how you can help

Visit the Refugee Week website

By Shohana Shabnam - Programme staff

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