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REFUGEE CHILDREN IN THE EARLY YEARS - ISSUES FOR POLICY MAKERS AND EARLY YEARS PROVIDERS

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The Refugee Council and Save the Children Executive Summary ...
The Refugee Council and Save the Children Executive Summary

Introduction

Refugees in Britain

Children and Families Experiences

An Early Years Framework for Supporting Refugee Children

The Response to Needs: Local Authority Policy for Refugee Children in Early Years Settings

The Response to Needs: The Voluntary Sector

Practice Issues: Language and Identity

Practice Issues: Meeting the Health care Needs of Refugee Children

Practice Issues: Challenging Racism in an Early Years Setting

Useful Resources

Executive Summary

1. Asylum-seeking and refugee families often have multiple and complex social needs, In particular poverty, benefit restrictions and poor quality and very temporary accommodation have a major impact on children and their carers.

2. Asylum-seeking and refugee children may also have specific health care needs, including psychological needs. Early years services can play an important role in meeting the mental health needs of refugee children, for example by utilising play therapy.

3. Racial harassment was very common, including the harassment of young children. Early years providers need to be aware of this and be proactive in challenging racism.

4. Refugee children have particular linguistic needs - to learn English and also maintain and develop the home language.

5. Refugees may have a greater need for early years provision than does the majority population. Their age profile is younger than the general population. Refugees are more likely to be in full-time education and many refugee women have lost their informal support networks.

6. Despite the above, asylum-seeking and refugee families do not have access to the range of early years services that others do. The reasons for this are complex, but include

6.1 a lack of information about existing early years services

6.2 high housing mobility

6.3 unwillingness to place very young children with carers who did not speak the home language

6.4 unwelcoming services.

7. Among local authorities there was often no clear interdepartmental planning and coordination of services to asylum-seekers and refugees , including refugee children in the early years.

8. In some local authorities, consultation between early years providers and community groups need improvement.

9. Very few community groups organise provision for young children.

10. There is a need for more vocational training schemes in child care to be targeted at refugee women.

11. More positively, national child care policies offer the opportunity to improve services to refugees. In particular, integrated nursery provision offers scope for supporting refugee families with multiple social needs.

Recommendations

- All local authority social services and education departments in areas where refugees have settled should ensure that there is someone in early years services who has specific responsibility for refugee families.

- Local authority housing and social service departments should ensure that health visitors and early years services are given information about the location of young asylum-seeking children in temporary accommodation so that home visits can be arranged to facilitate access to services.

- Local authority early years working groups and/or Early years Fora should carry out better monitoring in all types of early years provision. Statistics should include the home languages of children, ethnic groups and whether they live in temporary accommodation or not.

- Heads of early years services within local authorities should ensure that staff meet representatives of refugee community organisations to encourage consultation and to ensure that community groups are aware of the range of early years provision that is available within a local authority.

- Information about the range of early years provision should also be translated into key community languages.

- When local authorities are drafting or updating their Early Years Development Plans and their Children's Services Plans, they should ensure they meet with local refugee fora and refugee community organisations. In areas with large refugee populations, refugee representatives should be coopted on to Early Years Fora.

- Local authorities should recruit bilingual nursery workers and assistants, arranging their training if necessary.

- Where integrated nursery provision is planned, linked services should include toy libraries, home visits for all under fives, bilingual parent and toddler groups, English as an additional language classes for adults, health visitor clinics, educational psychology services and family therapy, advice sessions on issues such as housing, welfare rights and careers guidance and child care courses targeted at refugee women.

- Refugee community organisations should be helped to develop playgroups and nurseries.

- Refugee community organisations and local authority early years teams should be working together to recruit, train and register child minders from refugee communities, particularly among communities where there is high unemployment or a large proportion of single parents.

- Community nurseries, playgroups and toy libraries need to carry out better ethnic monitoring of the children who use their services.

- Social services registration and inspection reports can be used to audit the services for refugee children offered by voluntary sector groups.

- Colleges, Training and Enterprise Councils and other training providers need to develop more foundation and advanced level courses in child care and organise effective outreach strategies to attract women on to these courses.

- Training courses on refugee issues, language, working with interpreters, equal opportunities, health care needs and meeting refugee children's emotional needs should be provided for health care professionals early years workers in London and other areas of refugee settlement.

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