Research shapes guide to help children navigate asylum system

Focus groups of young refugees used to develop and design the resource.

Children who had been through the asylum process were consulted on the guide. Picture: Ingrid Turner
Children who had been through the asylum process were consulted on the guide. Picture: Ingrid Turner
  • Colour coding helps easy identification of different professionals involved
  • Resource shared with foster carers to help them support young refugees


Drawing on research with 3,200 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, the Refugee Council has recently launched its Separated Child Guide, an A5 colour-coded leaflet designed specifically to support separated children navigating the asylum process in England and Wales.

The visual resource has been developed after consultation with young refugees, who helped the Refugee Council’s staff understand the challenges children face when navigating the complex and confusing asylum support process.

Claire Murphy, one of the Refugee Council’s senior children’s advisers, says there was a clear gap in the project’s work for such a resource which would support all unaccompanied children and care leavers.

She says although some children may be supported by the council on a longer term basis, for many they may only be met with after they arrive in the UK.

“With the numbers of children that arrive on a yearly basis and the very limited numbers of children’s advisers nationally within England and Wales, we don’t see children regularly and may just see them once.

“We were expected to give children a wealth of information about the asylum process and their rights without giving them anything concrete to take away.

“You cannot expect a child to retain such information and be left with no reference tool that they could use later,” she explains.

Murphy says a number of focus groups were set up to help design the new guide which received funding from Kent-based charities, including Kent Refugee Action Network and Kent Kindness.

She explains the groups, made up of young men and women aged 16 to 20, were held over a period of two to three months and included different nationalities.

The participants were not just recent arrivals into the country but also young people who had arrived as children and had gone through the asylum process.

In an informal setting, supported by interpreters, young people were asked what information the guide should contain and in what format it should be produced.

“We had an idea but we wanted to ask the children,” says Murphy. “Some of them said when they arrived they didn’t understand, for example, the difference between us and the Home Office or the Home Office and social services.

“They felt they weren’t provided with the information to help them understand the asylum process.”

She says designs were drawn up and taken back to the focus groups for further refinement.

“The children decided on a poster format but we ended up with a concertina style leaflet that opens up into a poster map,” explains Murphy.

The double-sided leaflet uses colour coding for different professionals involved in the asylum process to help young people differentiate between different professionals and independent bodies and services.

“That was one of the main things that kept coming up in the focus groups,” says Murphy. “The young people said they were unable to tell the difference between the different people and they thought everybody worked together.”

Under the leaflet’s ‘The first people you will meet’ box, Home Office officials are identified using red, while blue is used for the police and purple for social services.

Murphy says input for which colours to be used was influenced by the young people in the focus groups.

“We were going to use purple for the Home Office because they had recently changed their uniform and it was that colour but the children were very specific the Home Office should be red.

“They really liked the idea of different colours to separate the different professional services,” she adds.


Although this was a project designed to meet the needs of young asylum seekers, the guide has since been endorsed by Kent County Council and subsequently shared among other local authorities.

“Foster carers find the guide really useful as well as those social workers that might not have worked with asylum-seeking children before,” says Murphy.

“They can work with the children and if they have any questions they can use the map to help them understand the asylum process.

“The feedback so far has all been positive from professionals and other organisations not involved such as the British Red Cross which works with a lot of young people around the country.”

Further focus groups are planned to take in the views of young people using the guide while going through the asylum process in 2019. This, says Murphy, could lead to the guide being adapted to keep up with “inevitable” policy changes around the asylum process.

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