Aim To examine any unmet needs of unaccompanied refugee and asylum-seeking adolescents ≤18 years in the UK.
Methods This study was done in collaboration with Community Action for Refugees and Asylum Seeker (CARAS). Ethics approval was obtained from Guy’s, King’s and St Thomas’s EC. We studied a self-selecting group of 10 participants known to CARAS. All were unaccompanied asylum seekers ≤18 years and had resided in the UK for >1 month. The interview’s main themes were the asylum system, social services, health, lifestyle, housing, education, and emotional well-being. Interviews were held at CARAS with 2 interviewers present, one of whom the child was familiar with. A consent form was signed once the child’s understanding was confirmed. All interviews were transcribed and anonymised. Qualitative analysis of the data was completed using thematic coding.
Results Legal: Most reported little knowledge of the asylum process. Home office interviews, mostly attended alone, were often depicted as frightening, finding the questions challenging to answer. Information about support organisations was minimal.
Social Services: Most reported problems with social workers. Many felt they neglected to address their expressed needs.
Health and Lifestyle: Health needs were generally met. Most were not aware of sexual health and its services. Several expressed difficulty with budgeting.
Education: Many are highly invested in their education and have a strong support system at school. Several were enrolled in inappropriate classes for their current level of education. Language barrier was cited as one of the main hindrances in their education.
Housing: Several voiced a strong aversion for independent hostels. Nobody wanted to live alone.
Emotional well-being: Feelings of complete isolation on arrival were revealed. All emphasised the importance of faith. Many had experienced emotional distress ranging from inability to eat to attempted suicide.
Conclusions In spite of various frameworks, the interviews revealed several unmet needs illustrating the complexity of this group’s needs. Further interviews will be carried out until a saturation point is reached. This research will be used to design a new needs assessment for CARAS to pilot to improve support for this group.
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