Breaking Barriers: Young Refugee Thriving with the Support of Social Workers

20th March 2023
Breaking Barriers: Young Refugee Thriving with the Support of Social Workers

As we celebrate “World Social Work Day” on the 21 March 2023, the South Eastern Health & Social Care Trust is highlighting the crucial work of Children’s Social Work Services, who have supported 32 unaccompanied young people, some as young as 14 years old, seeking asylum in Northern Ireland within the past year. This is very much in keeping with this year’s theme ‘Respecting Diversity Through Social Action.’

The young people arriving here are vulnerable and have had a very difficult journey in their life prior to leaving their home country, coupled with immense trauma. Their drive to succeed in society is massive and Social Work staff play a vital role in providing support to ensure they integrate into community life.

Khaled Al-Hassan, who arrived in Northern Ireland unaccompanied from Syria when he was just 16 years old, has, with the support of a team of social workers, turned his life around and is now studying for a law degree at Ulster University.

Khaled Al-Hassan says, “If my 16 year old self could see where I am now I don’t think he would believe it! Having the support from the 16+ Team, their words and their presence meant a lot to me as without them, none of this would have been possible. I owe so much to them for helping me to become the person I am today and I am very proud of where I am now, but more importantly I am very grateful.”

“My foster parents have played a massive part encouraging me to study law. They have helped build my confidence and make me believe in myself as well as providing me with such invaluable advice and support.”

Breaking Barriers: Young Refugee Thriving with the Support of Social Workers

Social Worker, Ryan Abernethy, who has been supporting the young unaccompanied asylum seekers explains, “These young people are very inspirational. They arrive here to Northern Ireland, which is completely unknown to them. Watching their resilience and how they push themselves to achieve the best, is very touching to see.”

Executive Director of Social Services and Children’s Services in the Trust, Lyn Preece added, “On World Social Work Day, we celebrate the profession of Social Work and the vital role it plays in promoting social justice and empowering individuals and communities. This year’s theme “Respecting Diversity” highlights the importance of recognising and valuing the differences that exist among us.

“It is our responsibility to respect and honour those differences, to ensure everyone has access to the services they need and to advocate for the elimination of all forms of discrimination. These are the values that are woven into the fabric of our profession and I am proud to come together with my Social Work colleagues across the Trust to celebrate and to continue to work towards a more just and equitable world for all.”