This is part of our blog series about the journey taken and the barriers faced by children and young people who arrive alone in the UK to seek asylum. To help us continue our work with those young people, please support our Crowdfunder campaign.
Our youth is formative. It’s the period when we gain skills, self-knowledge and better understand our role in society. We make mistakes and learn from them. These experiences that all children should share are cut short for children claiming asylum on their own. Children arrive in the North-West alone, without parents. They have felt the anguish of being torn from their family and friends, of enduring a tense journey to an unfamiliar place. This anxiety is often not lessened upon their arrival in the UK. Treated with far less empathy than a child deserves, children live their lives in limbo, thrown to the “hostile environment”, recovering from long, difficult journeys but unable to put down roots or look to the future due to the threat of future detention or deportation. No parent would ever wish such fear and uncertainty on their child.
“All I want is for them to think of us like your own children. Look after us like you would your own children.”(Quotes taken from the All4One #SixThings guide for local authority staff).
Once young people are under the care of GMIAU, we do everything we can to give them a chance to feel stable, secure and supported. We offer crucial legal advice. Maria, our social worker, introduces them to other children in similar situations through the All4One group – a space where they can also get to know their new home: Greater Manchester. Maria works tirelessly with the children we support; she gives them the help they need to relax and feel more at home during a precarious and isolating time.
But that’s not all that’s needed. Local authority social workers also play an incredibly important role in children’s individual journeys to safety. They provide key support children need in their search for safety: building up children’s confidence, helping them to find appropriate housing, access education and healthcare.
“They ask how you are, you can say ‘good’, but if they were looking at you, they would know the truth. The best social worker I had said ‘let’s go for a 5-minute walk and talk.”
The pivotal role of social workers in a child’s search for safety cannot be underestimated. They are with a child throughout their asylum claim and beyond: they can make all the difference to a child whose life hangs in the balance. The knowledge children gain throughout their journey is often underestimated; it is critical that it is incorporated into an evolving perspective on social work. We must raise them up, listen to their stories and bring them into a conversation about how best to care for others. Our collaborative relationship with the children we support has resulted in #SixThings, a guide for social workers written by members of the All4One group.
“We are experienced and brave. We have big dreams for our futures. We want to make positive change so that young people in our situation have the best care possible.”
#SixThings is a platform that empowers unaccompanied children to share their stories and advice. At GMIAU it allows us to learn from their first-hand experience to improve our support for children and to push for good social work practice to be the norm. This approach towards social work practice helps unaccompanied children to access support that all children should have, no matter their immigration status. You can help us to keep providing the care needed to ensure children have the chance to move beyond trauma towards stability; to live their lives safely, as children should. If you can, please share or donate to our Crowdfunder campaign this December.