Plymouth City Council is supporting the need to help look after and provide a home for children and young people who cannot live in their home country and who no longer are in the care of their parents or relatives. Most of us will recognise the language Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children, UASC. Plymouth has a number of UASC children and young people in our care, and as the need increases, we will be assessing more foster carers to specifically take on this caring role. The government is promoting that as children and young people arrive anywhere in the country, all Local Authorities will provide quality accommodation and care. Plymouth City Council is reaching out to their residents to consider how you can help and support care for children and young people who have taken incredible steps to leave their home countries.
We have all witnessed the plight of refugees as they cross seas on small boats or arrive, having travelled in the back of a lorry. We ask that you consider if your home could be a home to a vulnerable child or young person who will have experienced or witnessed terrible harm. Are you caring, considerate, and aware of different faiths, ethnicities and cultures? Would you like to learn about different faiths and cultures?
Many of the young people arriving this way are usually 15-17 years old, and the majority of our young people have always been Afghani or Kurdish. However, we have also had UASC from Syria, China, Eritrea, and other parts of sub-Saharan Africa. Sometimes families will have paid enormous sums of money to traffickers in the hopes of getting their children to a country where they will be safe or have the chance of a better life. Other young people may have started the journey with family members as refugees or fleeing violence but have got separated on the way. Most young people arrive in the UK with just the clothes they stand up in, little or no English, very little sense of where they are, and often a significant history of trauma from witnessing violence or loss of family members. The journeys they have been on may have taken many months, and they may have experienced hardship, fear and brutality on the way.
The Local Authority has a duty to assess and support any unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC) in its area, under 20s of the 1989/2004 Children act. Historically, Plymouth has often been a port of entry for UASC, with many young people arriving via the ferry port or leaving lorries or cars when they stop for petrol, e.g. at the Sainsbury’s near the A38.
Once accepted as children in care, these young people have the right to remain until 18 and access health care and education. At 18, they become care leavers, and as young adults, there is then the legal process to determine whether they have the right to settle in the UK permanently or whether they will be repatriated.
Plymouth continues to care for and support Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children who become young adults when they become care leavers. The foster carer’s role often continues with the young people as a staying put arrangement or as an extension of continuing to offer support as any parent would. This really is a valuable and rewarding role.
Shared experience of two young people
Two young people originally from a country in sub-Saharan Africa accessed education and lived with their families. Both young people wanted to continue to have an education and not be forced to join the Military Service.
One of the young people left his family, went to Sudan but struggled to support himself. He could not go back as he would have been forced to serve many years in the military service against his will.
The second young person was with his mother but again, as they did not wish to be part of the military service, went to Sudan whilst there his mother went missing, but she arranged for her son to be taken to France where he was taken by boat to the UK. He does not know what happened to his mother or family.
These young people immediately wanted to learn English to make friends, communicate with the people caring for and supporting them, and help them build their independence. Both young people needed support learning to cook and needed access to a church and a bible in their own language. They needed access to other individuals who might understand their experiences and trauma, as well as other young people, so they could be children and have fun, which neither had done in a considerable amount of time. They needed to know they were safe and that people cared about their views and wishes.
The social worker found that it took a few visits before the young people no longer focused on their immediate needs or on being grateful for the support and could explore their interests and what they might want to do in the future. One young person plans to take his GCSEs and A-levels and wants to go to university. The other is currently enjoying learning, plans to get a job when allowed, and enjoys making friends and doing several sports.