Refugee Week and Healing

Fardawza Ahmed
Senior Programmes Manager

22 June 2022

Refugee Week and Healing

To celebrate Refugee Week 2022, I wanted to shed some light on the work we’re doing to help and support the resilience of refugees and people seeking sanctuary in England.

The theme of this year’s Refugee Week is Healing – recovering from a painful experience or situation, so that we can continue to live. Sadly, studies have shown that unaccompanied asylum seeking children – who often have a crucial need for support – tend to fall through the gaps of existing mental health provision. Evidence has found that this is at least due in-part to a lack of cultural awareness from the professionals offering the provision, as well as possible mistrust and stigma from the children and young people when it comes to mental health services. That’s why we’re currently funding a study that highlights the importance of mental health services being available in spaces commonly used by unaccompanied asylum seeking children.

The British Refugee Council’s My View project is a specialised intervention service for unaccompanied asylum seeking children, designed to fill the current gap in mental health provision. It is a short-term intervention which aims to stabilise psychological and emotional wellbeing and reduce loneliness, whilst helping young people access longer-term interventions where needed, through facilitated referrals to mainstream or more continuous specialist services. 

The My View care model has been tailored to meet the unique needs of the young people using the service, including ensuring professionals are trained in managing trauma and that access to a therapeutically trained interpreter is readily available. The model also uses talking therapy alongside creative and play sessions, and offers both individual and group therapy and workshops.

While it is too early to confidently state whether the project is effective in improving emotional well-being and loneliness, we have received a few positive testimonies from participating therapists to suggest that the tailored and flexible approach offered by My View is helping young people reach positive mental health outcomes. They have also shown that young people value the safe space and consistency of the service.

At What Works for Children’s Social Care, we recognise the importance of safeguarding and protecting the wellbeing of unaccompanied asylum seeking children. This is just the start of our work in this area; there is so much more to understand, listen to and learn from, especially from those with lived experience. Our ongoing work will, we hope, help children and young people who are displaced to heal in a sustainable and inclusive way, free from stigma and harm.

The project is being evaluated by Ipsos UK and the Centre for Evidence and Implementation. The final report will be published in 2023 and will provide the completed findings, alongside recommendations. For context on the project, please see our trial protocol.