Leonnie has just completed a three month placement with us, working with the youth project.  This is her reflection on her time with us.  We’d just like to thank Leonnie for all her hard work – she is a star and a real pleasure to work with.

I was apprehensive about starting my placement at the Refugee Forum as I was convinced that there was no social work involvement here. As I was unaware of the work that happens at the Refugee Forum, I did not know what to expect from the service or what was expected of me. Reflecting on my time on placement, I have realised how fortunate and thankful I am to have got this as a first placement.

It has allowed me to understand the processes and journeys of asylum seeking people and families and their ultimate goal of finding refuge in the UK. It has given me an opportunity to create my own informed perspective on asylum seekers and refugees and not what the media portrays of them to generate moral panic. I have also been able to identify many difficulties and issues that asylum seekers and refugees can come across and how this creates barriers for them in their day to day life, for example with housing and education. The use of interpreters is widely used at the Forum and is a service deeply reliant on. It allows the client to voice their thoughts and feelings and enable issues to be resolved and people to be helped effectively.

Working with the Youth Project gave me a chance to meet and work with teenagers, many who have travelled unaccompanied. They are mostly boys with a large majority of them coming from the camps in Calais. I have recognised that these young people are one of the most vulnerable clientele that the Refugee Forum has to support. For those who have come unaccompanied, they are likely to be placed with family that live in the UK who they may have never met or taken into care which is very positive but also has its negatives. I have noticed that many of the family placements break down as a result of unknown knowledge of the young person or their circumstance and the lack of support. Social workers can become inundated with caseloads and prioritise other cases over these teenagers in care which can affect the unaccompanied asylum seeking children (UASC) pursuing support. For children that are dependants for asylum seekers, they can easily go undetected as no services have the need to be involved. I have seen that without the help of Refugee Forum, these families in particular would have no one to advocate for them or have any knowledge of where to seek help.

The devotion and time of all staff and volunteers that work at the Refugee Forum is evident as they are all very willing to support everyone that presents every day. I have been privileged to work alongside such caring and enthusiastic people that have a true passion for their work and helping others. All the staff in the Youth Project has a well-informed understanding of all the young people they have worked with and their situations. They are forever accepting new referrals and never compromise with the level of support and attention they give each case. The relationship between the staff and young person is admirable as you can sense a clear bond of trust and loyalty. My on-site supervisor, Naomi Jemmett, has been amazing to observe and learn from. Her caring nature is embedded in her personality and her commitment to the project is demonstrated effortlessly in her practise. Also in the team is Jessica Wallis, who has a deep passion in facilitating activities of a wide range to ensure that the young people have enough things to do and access. Her creativity and active nature is apparent in all the work she does along with her down to earth relationship with the young people. They both demonstrate a clear knowledgeable understanding of general laws and policies especially around immigration and where children and young people are concerned. I have identified from their methods of work key guidelines which I can take on board and carry on to my next placement and eventually becoming a good social worker.

The key part I have taken away from this experience is my relationship with the young people. Going to the youth group allowed me to meet and interact with the young people. For young people who have experienced such mental and physical trauma and torture and in some cases left their entire family, it is wonderful to see them in a safe environment where they can express freely. The youth group acts as a sanctuary for all young people whether they are asylum seekers, refugees or dependants of asylum seekers to congregate together, having a mutual understanding of the journey they have to entail to reach the UK. I have been able to get to know the majority of the young people on a first name basis and always exchange a hand shake or shoulder hug when greeting them. I have felt a part of an already established social family and felt welcomed every week. It has been inspirational to see how resilient, driven and strong these young people have had to be and still remain to be having experienced so much in their short lives. I have identified that there is visible distrust on professionals especially social workers as they are seen to be dishonest and make empty promises. They have expressed their thoughts and feelings around professionals that have been involved with them and helped me understand what makes a good professional. I have also been able to take away key outcomes from their feedback that will assist me to be a good social worker in the future.

Overall, this experience has been amazing and I will always remember everyone I have met and everything I have learnt from my time at the Refugee Forum.


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