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The wellbeing of unaccompanied asylum seekers leaving care

This article presents the findings of a research study examining the numbers and wellbeing of, and services for, young unaccompanied asylum seekers leaving the care system. The paper arises from concerns about the extent to which the needs of unaccompanied asylum seekers are being met. The article will be of particular interest to health and social care professionals in paediatrics, mental health, counselling, education and social work. The authors present a literature review about adolescent asylum seekers, a review of the immigration and asylum policy context, leaving care legislation, health and wellbeing, and mental health and trauma issues. The paper presents findings about the high proportion of unaccompanied asylum seekers leaving care in five London boroughs and one shire county in the Midlands. Professionals and managers in leaving care services were asked to supply information about seven questions designed to elicit an overview of the natures of these services, which worked well and why, the major challenges facing services and the impact of the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000. A clear consensus emerged that a consistent protocol between the Home Office and the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) is needed to enable more reliable and effective assessment and direct work to be undertaken with these young people. Improvements in the processing of asylum claims are needed, as are more resources to meet the increased demand on over-stretched services. Clearer guidance on how leaving care services can work with unaccompanied asylum seekers leaving care is also required as a major priority. Evidence is provided to suggest that where social support is available, adolescent asylum seekers make greater achievements even if experiencing significant levels of distress in relation to traumatic experiences. They are then also more likely to access appropriate services. With needs properly addressed, members of this group of young people have the potential to make significant achievements in their lives.

Author(s): Ian Robbins, Bob Broad

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