Agenda item

The role and work of Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children Champions

Minutes:

Nick Crick, UASC Strategic Lead and Operational Manager, Karen Yusuf, Community Engagement Worker (North), and a party of young male UASC champions, Behnam, Eglis, Mohammed, Murad, Reza and Taman, were present for this item at the invitation of the Panel.

 

1.            The Chairman welcomed the UASC Champions to the meeting and thanked them for attending.

 

2.            Mr Crick advised the Panel that the UASC Champions programme had been set up using Government funding which had been made available as a result of a bid made in 2017.  The aim of the programme was to provide better support for newly-arrived UASC as they settled into their new life in Kent. An engagement worker, Karen Yusuf, had been appointed.  The aim was that every town in Kent would have a minimum of two champions, who would give feedback on behalf of UASC about their experiences. The programme included a number of projects, which were set out in the report. 

 

3.            The UASC Peer Champions, Behnam, Eglis, Mohammed, Murad, Reza and Taman introduced themselves and said where they had come from to Kent, how long they had been in Kent and why they had become Champions. All had arrived in Kent relatively recently, most being in their late teens. They told the Panel about the training they were undertaking, which included English, safeguarding, health and safety and household management, and that, with these skills, they would train other UASC to settle into the community, live safely and develop their English skills. They also enjoyed a number of sports and amateur drama, including football, basketball, swimming, table tennis, volleyball, running and chess and used these as a way of bonding with other UASC and forming friendships.

 

4.            Mr Crick and the Champions responded to comments and questions from the Panel, including the following:-

 

a)    UASC had no choice of location when they were being allocated independent accommodation and had to move to wherever suitable accommodation was available.  This meant they might find themselves in an unfamiliar town where they would have to find new connections and settle themselves in;

 

b)    it was suggested that sports could be used as a way of joining in to the local community, either by forming a new team or joining an existing one, and playing against other teams locally and across the county. Mr Crick said he aimed to establish under-16s and over-18s football teams, which would include other children in care;

 

c)    asked if there were any female UASC Champions, Mr Crick explained that there were indeed young women, two in East Kent and one in West Kent. He said he aimed to produce a map of the county featuring the Champions shown in the towns in which they worked, so UASC and professionals could get to know who they were.  It was acknowledged that elected County Councillors should know who the UASC Champions were in their local area. The Chairman advised that the Champions would also be helped to find out the name of their local elected County Councillor so they could seek help and support from them if they needed to. The Democratic Services Officer subsequently sent Mr Crick a link to the webpage on which local Members could be identified using a postcode search facility;

 

d)    Mr Crick said he hoped that the planned exhibition of artwork by UASC could be hosted by the Turner Contemporary gallery in Margate;

 

e)    asked how soon after arriving in Kent they had become Champions, some said they had taken on this role almost immediately, while they were at the Millbank Centre. They had been attracted to the role by the opportunity to take on leadership and develop a role for themselves in their new community;

 

f)     it was suggested that the police cadet scheme championed by the Kent Police and Crime Commissioner, Matthew Scott, might be an interesting project for some UASC, and Mr Crick undertook to look into this. Any help that the Panel could give in suggesting ways of supporting the UASC Champions or establishing new projects would be gratefully received. Ms Smith undertook to contact all local authority-owned leisure facilities to ask about free or discounted membership for children in care and care leavers; and

 

g)    the use of sports and drama groups as a way of integrating UASC with their communities was welcomed as both were good ‘levellers’ which transcended racial and cultural differences. 

 

5.            The Chairman thanked Mr Crick, Ms Yusuf, Behnam, Eglis, Mohammed, Murad, Reza and Taman for taking the time to attend the meeting to talk to the Panel about their work and asked that they visit the Panel again in the future.

 

6.            It was RESOLVED that the information set out in the report and given in response to comments and questions about the new programme and its commitment to support migration and peer support positively, helping new arrivals to get established and settle in communities across Kent, be noted, with thanks. 

 

 

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