Collaboration with Aberlour Child Care Trust.
The Scottish Guardianship Service aims to improve the separated child’s experience and understanding of the immigration and welfare processes and to ensure they receive services appropriate to their needs and entitlements. Guardians assist unaccompanied children in navigating complex asylum, social work, and trafficking victim identifications systems (Crawley and Kholi 2013), but unaccompanied children often have multiple needs: from food, shelter and safety, poverty and social exclusion, to legal and financial advice, health, education, opportunities to develop language skills, and quick, on-going access to services. This impacts on mental and emotional health and wellbeing (Knight et al. 2008). Professional support alone does not necessarily address this issue, and culturally, many may find it challenging to talk about mental health concerns.
Kohli (2007) has commented that unaccompanied children have expressed the importance of social relations as a key contributor to their emotional wellbeing. Funded through the Social Innovation Fund, phase 1 of the Befriender Scheme aimed to develop a durable, tailored befriending service model, with the primary aim of reducing social isolation amongst unaccompanied children in Scotland and supporting their fuller integration into Scottish society. Building on existing models of mainstream befriending services, this model would be developed through co-production with unaccompanied children and professionals, reflecting their views and tailored to their needs.
In Stage 2, an independent evaluation of implementation and effectiveness will be provided through the Centre for Child Wellbeing and Protection a the University of Stirling. The research team will deploy an action research model, working alongside Aberlour to establish clear methods of data collection and data analysis to address identified outcomes. This will include 3 focus groups or individual interviews with young people using the befriender services (one per quarter) and 3 focus groups with befrienders, guardians and stakeholders within the community. In addition, the team will track wellbeing outcomes, enabling some standardised data on the impact of the befriending scheme on young people’s engagement with the community and use of resources.