‘Let children be children’: Supporting young refugees’ mental health in Wales

Author: Marta Viganò

This article is part of Changing the Narrative. Articles in this series are written by student or early-career journalists who took part in The Local’s training course on solutions-focused migration reporting. Find out more about the project here.

According to UNHCR statistics for the UK, at the end of 2018 there were 126,720 refugees and 45,244​ people with pending asylum cases in the country, mainly coming from Iran, Albania, Iraq, and Pakistan.

Although many of the challenges the refugee community faces depend on the UK government – which is responsible for asylum policy – the Welsh government has several times renewed its commitment to become a Nation of Sanctuary, meaning ensuring individuals the best chance to integrate and rebuild their lives in a new community.

Asylum seekers don’t have the right to work in the UK and therefore rely on public assistance (which includes housing – which is provided but cannot be chosen – and cash support – currently set at £37.75 per person, per week, making it £5.39 a day for food, sanitation, and clothing). The consequences in terms of mental health are substantial.

In the case of children and young people, “for those left behind, separation anxiety from not being with parents can be an issue. For those who travel, as well as the dangers of the journey itself, there is evidence that some suffer from lower levels of psychological development, often through not being able to access provisions in a host country that require a legal entitlement, such as for school places”, explains Paul Hutchings, Assistant Director of the Academic Discipline of Psychology and Counselling at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David.

Learn more