It would be impossible to avoid the coverage of the invasion of Ukraine at the moment. We watch and read in horror about atrocities done to innocent people and see desperate people attempting to safely flee from their homes, jobs, families and lives.
It can be easy to feel helpless and at the scenes we see in the news, and yet there is that wonderful quote by the American TV host Fred Rogers:
‘When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me: ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’
The sheer numbers of British people who have signed up to host Ukrainian refugees in their homes are staggering, to the point that the registration website for hosts struggled to cope, on it’s launch day. We can surely take some hope from that.
Therefore, looking forward over the next few months as Ukrainian families start to arrive and get settled; as safeguarding and/or education professionals, we can start to prepare for the safeguards we need to have in place for the children who may join our settings.
In the news just this week, we have seen that the UN has wisely urged the UK to restrict single men from being able to host single Ukrainian women. It is vital that amidst the wave of warmth and hope the hosting scheme has brought about, we do not forget basic safeguarding.
We know that the majority of refugees are likely to be women and children and therefore in schools and organisations that are likely to be supporting them, it is vital that we remain vigilant to their needs.
For example, many of the new arrivals may need language support and of course will require support to access basic health services in the short-term. Children we work with may have very different experiences in their host families just as evacuees did in the second world war. We must not assume that their hosts have the time and ability to put support in place and so our orgnaisations may need to be prepared to signpost and handhold to get the right services in place.
Other things to think about when preparing are:
– Is your organisation or setting trauma-informed? Children may feel unable to engage in education or other services for some time as they process what they have experienced. Young Minds is a great place to start and they have a fantastic resource on this subject (link below)
– Is everyone aware of the processes for reporting concerns or do you need to refresh your training?
– Do you need to do some research about local support services and organisations that could support these families, so you have the resources available for when families start to arrive?
The Refugee Council has an Infoline that connects people seeking asylum, recently recognised refugees and people who have recently fled conflict, with relevant information and services in order to avoid or reduce crisis and destitution. The Infoline is open Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays between 9.30am and 12.30pm. 0808 196 7272
– Are you aware of the UK government guidance about hosting? This way, it might help you to spot when an informal arrangement is in place that could mean a family is vulnerable. For example: The UK government guidance states that two people should not share one room unless they are:
· Adult cohabitating partners (individuals who didn’t previously know each other should not share a room)
· A parent and child
· Two siblings of the same gender aged over 10 years old
· Two siblings regardless of gender aged under 10 years old