Professional Zone

How we support young refugees through our Always Heard service

Posted date: 
21 Jun 18


This Refugee Week, read about how we supported two young refugees through our Always Heard Service.

Mohammed's story*

Mohammed is a 16 year old boy who has claimed asylum in the UK. He contacted our Always Heard service in crisis saying that no one was helping him. Mohammed told our advocate that he had been looked after by a local authority in the Midlands but after two months he had been told by social workers that they did not believe he was 16 and they were ending his support. Mohammed was told he had to go to the Home Office in Croydon because he was an adult.

Mohammed said he had a lot of problems before coming to the UK and now he was here he had new problems. He felt that everyone was denying him his rights and no one was looking after him. He said he had health problems, was anxious and could not eat because of this anxiety. Mohammed said that his life had been “very sour” in his home country and now when he had come here for help he was being turned away.

Mohammed said that he wanted support to be taken into care again as now he was living in a hostel with lots of older people and there was no one to look after him. He said he did not feel safe amongst all the older men. He said that he had been going to school and this had been good but that had all ended when the social workers told him they thought he was an adult. Mohammed said that no one had told him how he could challenge his age assessment or whether he understood why they thought he was 18.

The Always Heard team advised Mohammed that he had the right to understand why Children’s Services had decided that he was 18 and that he had the right to challenge this decision if he did not agree with it. The Always Heard advocate ensured that Mohammed was supported to access the specialist legal support he needed to challenge his age assessment. We also supported Mohammed to access local community support for refugees in Croydon as he had no access to the networks of support he had established in in the Midlands.

Mohammed, following our support and with the assistance of his solicitor, successfully challenged his age assessment and he went back into care. He was placed back in age appropriate accommodation and back into education. Without support from Always Heard things would have looked a lot bleaker for Mohammed.

Bao's story*

Bao, 17, was supported to contact Always Heard by a residential worker at the hostel where he was being accommodated by a London borough. Through an interpreter Bao told us that he had arrived in the UK over three months ago and claimed asylum.

Bao said he was extremely stressed as had just been told that he needed to move out of London in four days’ time go to another local authority over 100 miles away. He told us that his social worker said that there was nothing he could do because the move was a part of the Home Office’s National Transfer Scheme. His social worker had told his hostel that the police would be called if Bao refused to move which also made Bao very worried.

Bao told us that he had had a bad time before becoming looked-after. He had been forced to leave his home country and had been sexually abused by the people who brought him here. However once he came into care he had been feeling safer. He said he was settled in London as he was in college learning English, had made friends, was getting good support from staff at the hostel, and had been referred for support for his mental health problems. After all that had happened to him Bao did not want to start again in a new place.

Our helpline advocate explained to Bao that his views were important and needed to be listened to. We made clear that he had the right to make an urgent complaint asking that the decision to transfer him was paused until his concerns had been properly looked at.

Because Bao’s local advocacy service could not help as they do not take urgent referrals and needed permission from his social worker to support Bao, we offered Bao the urgent advocacy support he needed under the Always Heard ‘safety net’.

Our advocate worked with Bao to make an emergency complaint, working hard to make sure that his complaint was acknowledged and acted on by Children’s Services. Bao was extremely distressed and anxious during this period so his advocate made sure to reassure him that she would stick by him no matter what and make sure that his voice was heard and his rights respected.

Bao’s advocate also supported him to get a solicitor who could ensure that the decision to pause his transfer was made final. Our advocate also supported Bao to ask for help from a project that works with trafficked boys and young men.

Without Always Heard Bao views and wished would have been ignored. When no one else was able to help him his Coram Voice advocate stepped in. Without this support he would have been moved away from the only friends and support he had managed to find after his traumatic experience of being trafficked.

Young refugees (and those working with them) can contact us free on:

We have access to interpretation in over 240 languages from the LanguageLine service.

* names have been changed