Please find the Good Practice Guidance, supporting unaccompanied children who arrive in the UK and are at risk of going missing, which was published in February 2024.
In this video young people from migrant and refugee backgrounds share their experiences to help young people new to the UK who may be struggling with their mental health.
The film was made with Coram’s Young Citizens, a group of young people from migrant and refugee backgrounds who design and run workshops for other young people from similar backgrounds. Workshop topics include skills for wellbeing and building support networks.
An interactive conference looking at improving the journey and outcomes for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, where we will explore safeguarding, mental health and the legal dynamics, and hear the child’s voice throughout.
Download the agenda here:
- Introduction from Lord Dubs
- Nancy Sayer & Georgie Siggers, Looked After Children [Kent]
- Stewart MacLachlan, Coram Legal Centre
- Rupinder Parhar, The Children’s Society in London
- Mark Pearson & James Hensman, Excelsior Safeguarding
- Charlotte Levine, Young Minds
- Ana Draper, Kent UASC Mental Health Action Research Project
Dates and venues
- Tuesday 15th May
- 9am – 4.30pm
- The Park Inn by Radisson, Northampton
- Book your place: uasc_northants.eventbrite.co.uk
- Thursday 14th June
- 9am – 4.30pm
- The Principle Met Hotel, Leeds
- Book your place: uasc_leeds.eventbrite.co.uk
A Kent nurse’s work on behalf of very vulnerable children was recognised when she was invited to a VIP reception at Buckingham Palace, hosted by the Prince of Wales.
Nancy Sayer, the designated nurse for looked after children in Kent, was nominated to attend because of her leadership in caring for unaccompanied asylum seeking children.
Nancy, a mother of two who has worked in nursing for the past 29 years, said: “While it is always rewarding to know that you have made a difference to a child’s life, it is lovely to be recognised for your work. I really enjoyed the reception at Buckingham Palace. I knew I had been nominated but it was still a surprise when the invitation came in the post. It was a lovely event. HRH Prince Charles spoke to the gathering and said how valued nursing was.”
As an expert in the clinical needs of looked after children, Nancy had to act quickly when a spike in the numbers of unaccompanied asylum seeking youngsters entering the county in 2015 and 2016 meant health and care services to meet their needs were required urgently.
“We needed to carry out a health assessment on each child and set up a health plan for them. This was a lot of work,” she said.
“I was able to secure backing from NHS England and I put out a call for GPs, clinicians and paediatricians to support us.
“These children had sleeping issues as they tended to travel at night and many didn’t feel safe at night, they needed help to learn English, there were digestion problems when the type of food they were eating changed, there were injuries they had sustained on their journeys and injuries which had not healed properly and foster carers needed extra support.
“We had to manage community anxiety, we gave reassurance and we found that communities were very understanding once they realised what difficulties these children had to get here.”
Her work and the work of her colleagues is to become a model for others across the UK to follow with Nancy and her team leading a national conference in Northampton in May and another in Leeds in June to share their learning.
As well as organising the two conferences Nancy and her team have also put all of their learning onto a website – so that others can benefit from their experience. The website is UASC Health – https://www.uaschealth.org/
Following a national teleconference this morning we would like to raise awareness regarding the importance of ensuring that the migrant and traveller populations are protected against measles by receiving the MMR vaccination.
There have been several outbreaks of measles in the UK recently which have included traveller and Romanian communities. Therefore we would like ask your colleagues to encourage individuals who have not been vaccinated within these communities to register and attend the GP practice for MMR vaccination.
It is particularly important that those who are travelling to countries such as Romania, where there are a high number of measles cases, are vaccinated with MMR prior to travelling.
Individuals should also be aware that if they are unwell and concerned that they may have symptoms of measles such as high fever, runny nose, cough, red and watery eyes and spots inside the mouth (small red spots with bluish-white centres), that they should first call the GP practice prior to attending to avoid contact with other individuals in waiting rooms etc.
Please see link below with posters and leaflets to support these discussions:
For more information. please contact: Lisa Pledger, Screening and Immunisation Coordinator, NHS England (South East).
The health assessment process for Unaccompanied Asylum Seekers (UASC LAC) looks at the general health of this group. Young people in this group can have complex health needs, resulting from the experiences in their home country and their ‘journey’ to the UK.
We looked at the pathway for supporting the needs of UASC in terms of sexual health. Screening for blood-borne infections and sexually transmitted infections would ideally be offered as part of the LAC process for USAC arriving in Kent. Sexual health questions would also be asked as part of the IHA. Local pathways should be followed for referrals into appropriate local Sexual Health Services.
As Sexual Health Outreach Nurses, we had been asked to support the UASC with Sexual Health provision in West Kent. During the process, we realised that the young people had specific learning needs which had to be addressed before any basic sexual health discussion could take place. We identified a lack of knowledge and understanding of the UK social and cultural norms by the young men. This was supported by further research into asylum seekers’ experiences in other parts of the country. There have also been reported incidences of inappropriate behaviour in the UK and other parts of Europe involving young asylum seeker males. The FPA document ‘Supporting Asylum Seekers’ identifies that the young people need ‘an opportunity to learn about the law and common cultural practices including behaviour towards women’. Our sessions are to help raise awareness and to give insight into how behaviours, such as whistling at women or following women could have a negative impact on relationships. These behaviours may be acceptable in their home country, but are not in the UK and can even result in a criminal offence.
Our aim was to provide information about cultural norms around relationships, behaviour towards girls and women and to look at the issue of consent and the law (on a basic level).
We provided a group-based discussion, with support from our Reception Centre colleagues, including up to five different interpreters. We gave the interpreters an introductory letter to explain our goals for the session (template available on UASC website), as they would play an integral part in the discussion.
A series of drawn and photographic scenarios were shown to the groups, which we used to facilitate a discussion with the young people. We initially made this in the format of a Powerpoint presentation, however the use of individual packs of scenarios was found to be more effective in the smaller group discussions. Each small group was supported by an appropriate interpreter.
The images that we used included:
- Picture of a lone woman walking at night
- Picture of young people drinking alcohol having fun with friends
- Young people in a public swimming pool (wearing bathing suits)
We were very keen to explore the young mens’ views and thoughts on the images and reassured them that there were no right or wrong answers. We believe that this approach facilitated a more productive learning experience. It helped to challenge their preconceptions in an informal way and it also enabled us to gain a better understanding of their perspective. A good example of this was when a group was shown a photo of a solitary young woman walking along a dimly-lit street. A discussion ensued and concerns were raised for the young woman by the young men as they felt the woman should have been with a male family member to ‘look after her’. However, we told them that the young woman could just be going home from college or work and that her family would more than likely be aware of where she was. This we feel, gave the young men a different perspective. The group discussion enabled us to see that the young men’s experience of ‘chaperoning’ women, in their view is a loving and protective thing to do for a member of the family. Showing concern for a lone woman by trying to befriend her or escort her safely could be intimidating to the woman.
Demonstration of mutual respect in these discussions is, we believe, paramount to the work being of value.
Our session only lasts for an hour; the content is not exhaustive and is only meant to provide a starting point, to open the conversation and to provide a foundation to further learning opportunities.
Our vision would be that further sessions would include:
- Consent and the Law
- Healthy Relationships
- Sexually Transmitted Infections
- Internet safety
- FGM-attitudes and myths
Unaccompanied asylum seeker children have a right to access information about sexual health and the services that are available in the UK and this will provide the building blocks for them to be able to have positive and healthy relationships in the future.
RESOURCES AVAILABLE to download below, and from our Public Health page:
We had many problems relating to not speaking the same language. It was difficult to get access to appropriate interpreters, especially when there was an urgent medical need. Translation is sometimes difficult. There isn’t always a literal translation from English to the child’s native tongue, needing to re-work what we said, and simplify explanations.
We also encountered Religious issues, there was a need for appropriate places for worship. We always had to have respect for their needs related to food and religious festivals.
A lot of the children/young people were frightened, hyper-vigilant and suspicious. Many had been failed or let down by supposed people in authority or ‘professionals’. It took time to build up a rapport and get a complete story. Their trust had to be earned. Sometimes it took more than one or two consultations to be given all of the facts.
The legal aspects of what to share, when, to whom and why. We were often asked by various agencies for information with no signed consent by YP to release it. It’s not an aspect they are familiar with, being asked for their consent – we needed to explain the pros and cons, not to make them feel pressured no matter who is asking.
Many of the children / young people have very similar names and the same or very similar dates of birth, such as Mohammed, Mohamed, Muhammed, Muhamed.
Documentation must be 100% accurate between staff and agencies, using a 3rd identifier at least if possible. Name to be full, in the correct order, such as Mohammed Ali or Ali Mohammed a DOB and NHS number as a minimum. We also got photographic ID for every child. It is important to double check everything to reduce the risk of errors.
We needed to be ensure the health and safety of the children, staff, us, and other residents. There were unknown communicable diseases such as Hepatitis B.
Any challenging behaviours would be dealt with effectively and preventative actions taken.
Protection must be taken including wearing gloves with body fluid spillages. Risk assessments were also completed
What the child or young person expects, has been told or led to believe the experience in the UK will be. The reality can be very different leading to frustration and anger.
When moving from our unit the continuity of care is important, communication between agencies to ensure hospital follow ups, medications and investigations, linking all the correspondence form different departments and agencies to the child’s new place of residence.
Attitudes were a big consideration both from the UASC’s and from the staff working with them. The Young people needed to be taught about British Culture, respecting women, and appropriate behaviour towards women and other people.
The staff attitudes were sometimes that of Indifference, lack of understanding, and a lack of sensitivity. Which also needed to be changed just as much as the young people.
by Jacqueline Nudd
My name is Jacqueline Nudd. I am a State registered, Sick Children’s and District Nurse. I have worked in Neo-natal intensive Care, Accident and Emergency, School Nursing, Sexual medicine, acute surgical wards and for the past 26 years the only Practice Nurse in a rural 3,500 patient practice also covering two private schools. I specialise in Asthma along with dealing with Travel Health/medicine, child immunisations, chronic disease management, wound care and all other practice nurse tasks. I can safely say I don’t think there is any part of the skills and knowledge I have obtained over my nursing career that hasn’t been tested in this role. It is truly unique.
MY EXPERTISE INVOLVING UASC
Firstly we needed to ensure all of the children in the unit are registered with the GP to get an NHS number and access health care to which they are all fully entitled.
I set up and ran clinics with a GP at the centre, co-ordinating with support workers and appropriate interpreters for each child. We would deal with common conditions seen in the children/young people such as; scabies, athlete’s foot but also needed to have a heightened sense of awareness of signs and symptoms of conditions not normally seen in UK children, such as Malaria.
I was involved in advising on Issues regarding; control of infection, clinical waste and the use of agencies such as PHE.
Important discussions were had with all staff, both at the unit and within the practice, regarding information sharing, confidentiality, consent & the law, dealing with communication difficulties when no interpreters were available.
Immunisation was a big part of my role, and a big question was “how do we obtain ‘informed consent’?” A consent form was devised to be used specifically for these children. This was created using ‘The Green Book’ and The ‘Guidelines for those of unknown immunisation status’
Another issue we had to deal with was age disputes – there are a lot of documents and papers on age assessment, this is particularly relevant with UASC’s, and a great deal of caution is needed. This area caused us a lot of problems especially with care when the appearance of a child seemed much older than their documented date of birth.
I was responsible for the Education of staff, children and interpreters about the importance of attending appointments, there was a high DNA rate, the implications and impact on the health of the child and the cost to the NHS in wasted appointments and sorting out further follow up appointments.
When completing new patient health checks it was important to be aware of additional screening where appropriate. Questions such as;
- Do they look well, thin, pale, anxious, agitated?
- Look at body language, do they make eye contact,
- Are there appropriate interactions between us and staff?
- Ask if they want help with anything?
Be aware of ‘hidden’ conditions, because of cultural beliefs or shame, they may be afraid and give an atypical history or ‘hide’ symptoms and be not sure who to tell what to.
It was like doing a jigsaw to get a complete picture.
My work also involved dealing with their day to day health needs of the young person. We had to explain to UASC’s what is ‘normal’ in this country, advising that ‘everyone here has these injections’, ‘it is normal to do these tests with these symptoms’, and we had to help them to understand ‘why’’
In primary care with dispersal there may be only a scattering of UASC’s in many practices. Some of the facilities and support we had will not be available, but each one of these children will potentially have a number of unique needs and risk factors not common in primary care normally that may need addressing. They may feel isolated within the community, different language and culture, not have contact with familiar friends or family. The media and some people’s attitudes may make them feel frightened, threatened and intimidated.
In primary care we can make a difference a smile may open a door to communication to help them share a health concern or need. Take time – I know it’s difficult, and the pressure we are under in primary care – make their appointments at a time when the surgery is quieter. Use all the resources now available to help you and them do the best you can.
The role is constantly evolving around what has been learnt, about the children’s ‘journey’ and the experience gained in caring for UASC’s. Models of appropriate care and support are being made, not only for them but also for anyone involved in their care. Only in the long term will we see how successful we have been in managing the health and well-being of these children as they integrate into society, grow up and nurture their own children in the future.
This is a human being just like us, who deserves a chance to be healthy, and fulfil their dreams and aspirations, despite a start in life neither you, or I could imagine.