The Home Office funded project addresses 3 of the high level aims the Scottish Government has set for the integration of New Scots from Syria. They are:
- Create opportunities for connection
- Independent self-advocacy and empowerment
- Communication and language as a crucial enable of integration.
Responding to Need – health and wellbeing focus and integrating wider achievement awards
Working with the Syrian New Scot young people, whilst responding to the challenges faced over the past 18 months, was only possible due to the trust the CLD team gained with the New Scot families in the previous years of support. Community Learning and Development (CLD) and specifically Youth Work is not something the families are familiar with. The Aberdeen City CLD Team held information sessions for parents on the personal and social skills their child would gain from, taking part in CLD Youth Work, which was vital in the development of the project.
Culturally, the team recognised that there was a barrier to using schools that were for education or community and online spaces that were for recreation. The CLD team were able to change this perception through the initial information sessions. CLD provision links formal qualifications (where appropriate) to activities, and this also gave added weight to the learning. The CLD team were able to show parents the qualification levels, in detail, highlighting the SQA awards the children were doing in school compared to the youth work qualifications, with some being completed at a higher level. These information sessions were held online due to Covid, allowing for higher attendance with both parents being present. Previously, face to face sessions were predominately attended by the fathers, which gave the mothers less of an understanding of the youth work service their child was engaging in. So the virtual environment broke down these barriers and was inclusive of both parents.
Statistics within the past month:
Of the 28 New Scot families within Aberdeen, we work regularly with 25 young people 12-25 years, and support the P6 and P7 transitions from ages 10+.
The young people are all offered 1-2-1 and group work sessions with around 30 hours of contact time per month.
Saltire Awards- 4 young people
Youth Achievement Awards started: 3
What was done
When the pandemic first impacted life in Scotland, the CLD team had to adapt their Easter holiday programme online. The CLD team managed to do this by sending ‘how to’ documents and personalised tutorials through to young people so that they could use various online platforms such as google meet, hangout and zoom. The programme was then replicated online by having the partnership with Aberdeen Football Club adapted to include a virtual tour, cooking sessions were offered through google meet and pamper sessions where face masks were dropped off on doorsteps so that all young people were able to participate.
Dynamic Youth, Youth Achievement and Saltire Awards continued seamlessly due to the CLD Youth Work service continuing throughout the pandemic both online and outdoors. The CLD Youth Work sessions adapted to meet the needs of the ongoing restrictions to delivering learning outdoors with young people engaging in this environment. Having online options and ‘walk and talks’ has opened up more community dialogue. The young people created their own community walks with points of interest noted along the route, shared with other learners and this was developed to fit in to the awards framework for accreditation.
The impact of the pandemic has been significant for the New Scot young people feeling even more isolated than before, poor mental health and living in increased poverty with little personal space due to family size and lack of routine. There have been significant positives and work that will continue online due to the flexibility and outcomes an online option can offer. An example is completing college applications online rather than side by side on one computer has made things significantly easier. The young person feels confident to type on their own keyboard and the responsibility is kept with the young people to share their screen, supporting the young person to be independent, control their own learning and take responsibility for applications.
Some of the key lessons that the CLD team have learned within the CLD youth work team are that activities need to be explained with clear accreditation links, because it is extremely important to get the buy in from the parents who, regardless of the young persons age, have the ultimate say in their participation.
Integration levels vary massively from person to person within families. Young People that have been in Aberdeen for up to five years and going through the indefinite leave to remain process may feel hugely different to their siblings and parents. What it means to feel part of a place and communities is a personal matter and one that does not follow a linear process.
Long Term Impact – employability links and broadening opportunities
When planning any sort of intervention, it is important that the activity is a meaningful tool for intervention that is not only fun and engaging, but offers a longer term impact. When the CLD team asked young people what they would like to do this summer, they stated activities such as football, jewellery making and quizzes that they are familiar with and had always been available to them, even when living in the refugee camps. This is similar to discussing career paths with young people often stating roles that they have come across, often traditional gendered roles such as nursing and childcare for the girls and mechanics or engineering for the boys. It was important for us to not only use the summer to give new experiences, but allow those experiences to lead into employment conversations to break down barriers around gender stereotyping in traditional roles.
Art is an area in which many of the young people are extremely talented in, but have had little opportunities in and unaware of the career opportunities it can bring. Aberdeen City CLD gained funding from the Creative Scotland Arts fund to have 3 young entrepreneurial people, who all teach at either university, college or their own studios, deliver jewellery making, textile and outdoor art sessions over the summer. The groups make their own jewellery and keyrings, created their own textiles and foraged for materials to make prints and weaving. The CLD team have already seen that the initial conversations and experiences have made a huge impact on the participants career perspectives widening their understanding of employability and further learning opportunities. This has led to young people having a greater awareness of the opportunities available to them regardless of their gender with career opportunities accessible by both males and females.
Learner quotes through the summer’s activity programme:
“I like taking part in new activities. I liked the jewellery making, I made a ring. I have also volunteered in the summer with families and in the art gallery.”
“I would like to thank you for the activities, the children enjoyed it and it was good to go out with their friends and meet a new people, they loved the arts that they have done with trees. I hope this activity will continue.”
“Liaison between EAL teachers and youth development workers has been crucial throughout this whole period, supporting both primary and secondary age Syrian New Scots with appropriate English language learning materials and following this up when there have been cases of non-activity or pupils requiring additional support.”
(EAL Education Support)
- How do I identify the needs of young people in the current circumstances?
- How am I helping young people to continue to engage in learning and wider opportunities?
- What support and information can I signpost young people to?
- How might the support and provision for young people need to be adapted or done differently during Covid-19?
- How can I raise awareness of the needs of young people during this time and ensure that their needs and voices are heard in recovery planning?
- How am I measuring the impact of new approaches and services and evolving these to suit the needs of young people?
- How am I measuring the impact of new approaches and services and evolving these to suit the needs of adults, young people and families?