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We can all be allies

Since 2019, The Allies Project has supported unaccompanied asylum-seeking and trafficked young people to build individual and community resilience by creating a psychosocial group offering a much-needed shared space for accessing mental health support.

Ahead of presenting a workshop at our Annual Conference next month, Aberlour’s Wellbeing Coordinators, Alexis Wright and Lorna New, share how the programme is building resilience and supporting recovery.

The Allies Project is a psychosocial group for unaccompanied asylum-seeking young people run jointly by Guardianship Scotland, a partnership project of Aberlour and the Scottish Refugee Council, which works with young unaccompanied asylum-seeking and trafficked young people across Scotland and the Glasgow Psychological Trauma Service (The Anchor), a specialist NHS trauma service that has a remit to work with unaccompanied young people in Glasgow, who have experienced mental health difficulties linked to trauma experiences.

The Allies Project partnership was developed to offer unaccompanied asylum-seeking and trafficked young people an alternative and/or addition to mainstream psychological service and to provide a much-needed shared space for young people to find mental health support.

The Allies group programme was developed to respond to the trauma experiences and effects on unaccompanied young people. It prevents re-traumatisation by building on the trauma-informed practice of Guardianship Scotland, which embeds the principles of safety, trust, choice, collaboration, empowerment, peer support, and cultural humility in all its work. It builds resilience and supports recovery by being a strengths-based programme, acknowledging the survival skills of young people, increasing their social support and opportunities for community integration, and sharing psychosocial skills and expertise through a partnership with a specialist trauma service. It is also a relationships-based programme - building quality relationships between young people, their guardians, community organisations and the trauma service.

Young people who attend the group have experienced significant trauma without access to protective factors or support from loved ones to buffer the effects of trauma. They are unaccompanied without caregivers, family or friends and have to face multiple challenges alone with no certainty of what the future holds or who if anyone will come by their side in years to come.

The group is psychosocial, building and resourcing both individual and community resilience in the face of the multiple traumas and losses these young people have faced. The Allies group programme teaches young people coping strategies to help them manage symptoms of trauma, anxiety, stress, and tension. It helps them understand how their experiences as an unaccompanied asylum-seeking child and trafficked child impacts their feelings of safety, relationships, identity, and access to justice. We support young people to acknowledge their strength in what they have already faced, which we believe is critical for their future growth and development. We help them reflect on their past, while identifying their strengths and aspirations for the future.

We have learned that quite often services and professionals who are not experienced in supporting unaccompanied young people can feel overwhelmed with the complexity of their needs and circumstances. We welcome you all to our workshop on the 30th of May where we will explain our Allies group programme, share our learning on the complex needs of this group of young people and how we respond. There will be time for attendees to reflect on what they do and can do to support this client group. We can all be allies.

Interested in learning more? Guardianship Scotland will be presenting a workshop about The Allies Project at our Annual Conference on 30 May.
Click here to find out more about the conference 

About the Author

Alexis Wright (top) and Lorna New (bottom) are Wellbeing Coordinators with the Guardianship Scotland

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