Young refugees in the UK are shaping their care and support at youth-led ‘hubs’ in London.

Grant Type
UK
Focus
Social Inclusion
Date
2023
Partner

In 2004, three British women returned from working on an education project at the Al Bass refugee camp in Lebanon. They were determined to raise money to continue helping young refugees. Fast forward 20 years and that seed of determination has grown into a thriving charity that supports young refugees in Greater London.

“From the beginning, Young Roots has focused on understanding from young people themselves what interventions are most useful and needed,” says Chief Executive Paola Uccellari.

“Every year, many young refugees arrive in the UK without the support, care and guidance of their families, leaving them vulnerable and isolated. Many have fled war and abuse and have usually had long, traumatic journeys to reach the country.

“By sticking to our principles of youth participation, research-based action and ensuring a human rights-based approach, we can help these young people where they need it most.”

One of the express wishes of the young people involved with Young Roots was to have a ‘hub’ where they could access sporting activities alongside education services, legal advice, therapeutic support and housing and welfare support.

This led to the creation of Advice & Support Hubs in Croydon and Brent, supporting an average of 650 young people each year through a holistic support model. The Bennelong Foundation has been funding education and community health support at these Hubs since 2023.

Paola says that the problems faced by young refugees are intensifying in the UK as extensive delays to legal decisions regarding their status and rights leave them “living in limbo”.

“Often, they are housed in inappropriate accommodation, leading to significant isolation, destitution and fragile mental health,” she says. “Far too many are missing out on access to the care and support needed to rebuild their lives.”

The Advice & Support Hubs help fill this care gap by integrating social connection programs with expert Casework service, in one place. Young people can develop trusted relationships with staff through the youth development program, which then links them through to accessing more in-depth support at times when they need it most.

One young person referred to Young Roots shared her story with the Bennelong Foundation:

"My support worker first referred me to Young Roots in March 2021 as I had just moved to London and needed support with my case. After meeting my caseworker for the first time, I was invited to the weekly youth group in Croydon, and I have since then been attending most weeks.

I started accessing casework support as I needed help with my immigration case and age dispute and I wanted to enroll in college. I also began accessing mental health services as I wanted someone to listen to me as I was feeling very low and overwhelmed at the time...

It is difficult to adjust to a new country, new city, and area – especially when you can’t speak the language! If my support worker did not refer me to Young Roots, I would have not known where to go or who to seek support from...

I’m not sure what I would like to do in the future, but having conversations about the possibilities I can pursue with my teacher and caseworker excites me. Meeting other young people from a similar background and who are going through similar experiences at the Hub in Croydon has helped me feel at ease.

When I first started attending, I used to socialise mainly with other young people from Afghanistan, but now my English has improved, I have friends from all over the world – who I also see at college. I enjoy all the activities and trips, but mostly, the chance to play games with my friends. One of my favourite memories of the Hub is sitting outside in the summer and teaching other young people and staff how to play a popular Afghan card game called ‘Baazar’.

My caseworker provides me with both practical and emotional support. They have helped me to access long term counselling, but most importantly, I find their presence reassuring – especially during stressful times such as appointments with my solicitors and court hearings. Before accessing counselling, I found it difficult to sleep and was constantly thinking about my past. Although those feelings are still there, I can deal with them better now and know I have someone who will listen to me. I feel calmer...Thank you, Young Roots!"

Impactful results

The Benefit

Young Roots has helped young refugees in Kent learn, work and connect with others, and to have a voice.

Outcome

More opportunities for young refugees in Kent to participate in society, both social and economic.

Outcome

More opportunities for young refugees in Kent to learn, work and connect with others, and to have a voice.

“From the beginning, Young Roots has focused on understanding from young people themselves what interventions are most useful and needed.”

Paola Uccellari

Chief Executive

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