Social work with unaccompanied asylum seeking children and young people
This study concerns social work practice with unaccompanied asylum seeking and
refugee young people looked after by local authority Social Services Departments
under s20 of the Children Act 1989. It examines the types of assistance offered
by social workers that aids resettlement. Twenty nine social workers in four
authorities were interviewed in relation to thirty four young people in their care.
Each was asked to tell the story of one young person they were working with. The
main aim of the study was to develop a detailed understanding of resettlement
practice by social workers that addressed the young people's needs for practical
assistance, emotional support, and companionship over a period of time, given their
solitary circumstances after arrival in the United Kingdom.
The interviews revealed that the social workers were guided by the young people's
needs and capabilities towards three types of helping. The first, described in this
study as 'humanitarian' practice, focused on practical 'outer world' assistance. The
second, described as 'witnessing', focused on 'inner world' turbulence, helping the
young people to manage uncertainty and distress, related primarily to past events.
The third, described as 'confederacy' focused on the development of a protective
friendship with the young people that was durable, long lasting and open ended.
Each of these three types of helping appeared to be carried out in a particular
'domain' of practice, referred to in this study as the domains of cohesion,
connection, and coherence. Each domain and each type of practice was considered
by the respondents to be valuable. In addition to their practice being guided by the
young people's needs and capabilities, many of them navigated across domains and
between the different types of helping using their personal and professional
experiences and their local cultures of working and learning.