This blog post is part of a series leading up to our Age Assessment Guides online launch event on September 9th 2020 for the Young People’s Guides to Age Assessments. The guides will be launched on our website, and at 5pm we’ll live stream a discussion on our Youtube and Facebook page. Please see this post for full details.
Laura Gibbons, GMIAU’s Public Law Solicitor, explains the process of creating the four Young People’s Guides To Age Assessments with the All4One Youth Group.
As a Public Law Solicitor at GMIAU my main workload has involved providing advice and representation to young people who have had their ages disputed either by the Home Office or local authorities.
Some are referred whilst in local authority care still, some have been dispersed into adult accommodation, some have been left street homeless and destitute. All are confused about why they have had their ages disbelieved.
They come to our attention in various ways – through referrals from other organisations, from their immigration solicitor, our All4One group or some through other young people who have also had their ages disputed.
We found that the latter, although still concerned, found it reassuring that they had been able to talk to others who had gone through the same ordeal, that they could explain to them what might happen and where they could go to get help. It was wonderful to see young people helping other young people in this way but we realised not everyone had access to such support, particularly those who had been dispersed into adult accommodation without spending any time in local authority care and therefore less likely to come into contact with other young people.
There began the idea for putting together something by young people for other young people who might not find this support elsewhere.
GMIAU run the All4One group, a safe social space for children and young people between the ages of 13 and 21 who are seeking asylum or have been trafficked and are living on their own in Greater Manchester. The group meets monthly for activities and the Young People’s Support Worker was also providing many with additional one to one support with various issues they were facing, including age assessments.
With the Young People’s Support Worker we began talking to young people from the All4One group who had been through or were still going through the age assessment process to see whether they thought something like this would have been useful to them and, if so, whether there was any appetite for helping to put something together. Happily there was!
Having already had a general session looking at age assessments with some of the members of the All4One group we arranged a meeting with those who had expressed an interest in helping to create the guide. We had 9 young people attend the session plus interpreters. After an ice breaker and a drawing challenge we separated into different groups to talk about various issues arising out of the age assessment process. With flip chart paper and marker pens at the ready we drew up flow charts of the process and went through the different stages discussing what it was like going through the age assessment process; who was involved and what were they like; how did it make them feel; what made them feel better; and what advice did they have for other young people going through the same thing.
The young people involved were also very keen for the adults and various professionals involved in the age assessment process to understand what it was like for them, how it made them feel to be disbelieved and, if an age assessment has to happen, how it could have been done better. Thus evolved the information sheets with advice for social workers, appropriate adults and interpreters in the age assessment process. The key feeling for all young people involved was that they wanted the adults involved in the process to understand just how important their role is and how significant (and upsetting) the process can be for them.
It was a long session, with lots of discussion – some happy, some sad – so we ended the evening breaking fast together, for those who were fasting for Ramadan, with food and drinks before bringing the session to a close.
After pulling all of the content together we had follow up sessions to go through the information we had gathered, what it might look like and who we can share it with. Some of the Young People made a voice recording setting out what they had gone through which they hoped would be able to be played at a launch event so that their voices were being heard without having to stand in front of a crowd of people. Sadly with the pandemic there will be no face to face launch event but we hope that the guide will be shared far and wide nevertheless.
It is always inspiring working with the young people we see at GMIAU who have been through so much yet have so much energy and hope for themselves and for others. As the guide says, we all hope that it is able to provide some comfort and help to those who have their ages disputed as well as encourage positive change in the way age assessments are carried out.
The guide has been produced in English. However, it is hoped that funding can be secured to have it translated into other languages to make it more accessible.
For more information about age assessments visit our website at: https://gmiau.org/about-us/speaking-out/children/
To make a referral to the All4One group or for legal advice about an age dispute contact firstname.lastname@example.org or ring 0161 740 7722.