Supporting unaccompanied asylum-seeking children and young people

Resources for providers and professionals

A young unaccompanied asylum seeker is:

  • a child who is or appears to be under 18
  • is applying for asylum in their own right
  • has no adult relative or guardian in this country.

The commonly used abbreviation UASC stands for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children and young people.

As a local authority, we have a duty to protect and support these highly vulnerable children while they are in our care.

The journey to Oxfordshire

Young asylum seekers come to the UK to escape war and persecution, hunger and poverty – or simply to find a better life. Some face unimaginable dangers to get here. Some have been orphaned at a very young age.

They may have arrived alone after losing or being separated from their family and have braved terrifying journeys on sea and land whilst facing threats such as kidnapping, abuse and trafficking.

When they arrive traumatised and exhausted, some face hostility, disbelief and prejudice from the community. While a few are reunited with their families, many grow up in the UK care system finding their own network of friends.

They face a long, anxious wait to hear whether they have been granted asylum and most are directed back to their countries after they are 18.

Search for local and national services

Helplines

Refugee Council telephone advice line for professionals - telephone 020 7346 1134 or email children@refugeecouncil.org.uk

Local organisations which can support refugees and asylum seekers in Oxfordshire.

Resources

Mentoring and befriending

Refugee Resource, Refugee Support Network and EMBS Community College provide volunteer mentors and befrienders to young unaccompanied asylum seekers and refugees in Oxford.

The project aims to increase the overall confidence of young people and increase their confidence in speaking English. 

Young people are matched with a trained educational mentor, who will support them to meet their education related goals - this could be practising spoken or written English, helping them feel more confident whatever their level, for example from day to day basic conversations to applying for jobs, or helping with homework and practising subject specific learning. 

Make a referral (doc format)

Building Bridges - support from a transition worker

Funded by Oxfordshire County Council, the new project Building Bridges aims to support newly arrived UASCs to integrate.

It aims to:

  • support young people’s smooth transition into educational provision.  
  • support USAC to participate in social and recreational activities of their choice.  
  • support young people to address their cultural, religious and social needs as required.  
  • work in partnership with other service providers to facilitate and advance UASC to community integration.  

If you would like to refer someone who you think might benefit from this service, please complete the referral form (doc format) and email to Abraham Woldegiorgis, the UASC transition at abraham.woldegiorgismehari@key2.org.uk.

About the programme

Controlling Migration Fund - Oxfordshire’s Programme of work to enhance our support to UASC

In December 2017, Oxfordshire County Council was successful in gaining central government funding from the Controlling Migration Fund for a two-year programme to enhance the support provided to UASCs and young people entering Oxfordshire. 

Oxfordshire’s programme aims to support UASCs to thrive, integrate within their local community as well as manage the impact upon service pressures for the resident community and prevent community tension. 

This programme of work includes:

  • training opportunities
  • counselling Service for UASC
  • mentoring and befriending service for UASC
  • transition worker to support UASC into school, college, play and leisure opportunities
  • a clinical psychologist who will work with UASC and professionals working with UASC.

From attending training and being supported by other professionals to support UASC, staff across the county will be more confident and better equipped to support the children and young people arriving unaccompanied into Oxfordshire, to thrive and achieve positive outcomes.

Controlling Migration Fund - Oxford City Council

Oxford City Council also received funding and has a series of projects underway to support refugee and migrating families and adults entering Oxfordshire.

These projects include:

  • funding additional pre-entry English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) courses for refugees, asylum seekers and vulnerable migrants;
  • funding mentoring and volunteering opportunities for refugees, asylum seekers and vulnerable migrants;
  • developing updated and new information packs to inform vulnerable migrants of access to availability of support services;
  • tackling rogue landlords who let properties in poor and/or overcrowded conditions to vulnerable migrants;
  • supporting migrant rough sleepers to access accommodation and support services;
  • improving the community’s capacity to tackle anti-social behaviour, exploitation of migrants and human trafficking by gathering evidence.

Funded by Oxford City Council, Elmore Community Services is undertaking research into the nature and extent of modern slavery and human trafficking in Oxford city. Modern-day slavery encompasses sexual exploitation, forced labour, forced criminality and domestic servitude.

The research aims to generate a stronger evidence base on which city and county-wide bodies responsible for community safety can better:

  • assess the threat, harm and risks posed by modern slavery to adults and children in Oxford: what kinds of exploitation are taking place, where, and who is vulnerable
  • develop more effective responses to identify, protect, refer and support victims.

The evidence generated should also inform work on prevention, from reducing vulnerability to disrupting criminal activities, and thus make it harder for exploiters and traffickers to operate in Oxford.

Elmore Community Services would like to hear, in confidence, from anyone who is concerned about these issues and has knowledge to share which will support their research. 

How you can get more involved

A forum for professionals working with UASC meets quarterly to share their experiences and support for young people in Oxfordshire. If you would like to be added to the group and receive details of upcoming meetings, email helena@asylum-welcome.org

Opportunities are also available to train as a volunteer within the befriending and mentoring scheme. Write to liane.low@oxfordshire.gov.uk for more information about the organisations delivering this service.  

Training opportunities

We have funded training to support professionals to increase their understanding of trauma and UASC.  We are currently planning some additional training from September 2019 and details will be advertised and sessions can be booked by professionals via the Oxfordshire Safeguarding Children’s Board (OSCB) website. There is no charge for the training as it is being funded by additional funding from central government.

UASC Conference

We held a conference in Oxford on 16 October for professionals to raise awareness of UASC needs and the support services available.

The conference was attended by more than 220 professionals and featured presentations from a variety of speakers to demonstrate the challenges faced by UASC on their journey to Oxfordshire and the support in place once they reach here.

Delegates were given ‘sleep packs’ which are given to new arrivals by the UASC team to help the young people with sleep disturbance. The packs included a lavender bag, worry dolls, an eye mask, ear plugs and a battery- operated night light.