Volunteering with the Age Dispute Project
Current Volunteering Positions with the Children's Section Age Dispute & Detention Project.
Read the experiences of past and present Volunteer Advisers below:
Sophie Howlett: Volunteer Children's Adviser ( Age Disputes)
2012 - 2013
"As a Volunteer Adviser for the Refugee Council in age disputes I
have met numerous children in detention centres. In my experience the children I have met are invariably frightened, separated and isolated from the family and friends in a foreign land. These children often speak little or no English and are held with adults far older than themselves adding to their isolation.
The boredom the children feel at the repetitiveness of the days and weeks spent in detention is clear. The prison-like environment is not one which is conducive for learning. A lot of time seems to be spent worrying about their situation. The first child I went to see had been living in foster care in the UK and had no idea why he had been detained, or what was going to happen next.
What stayed with me after I left my first visit to a detention centre was the uncertainty of this child’s situation. I was shocked to discover that, unlike a set prison sentence, there is no limit on how long someone can be detained. I have since discovered that one man was held for over five years. "
Georgia Booth: Volunteer Children's Adviser
( Age Disputes)
2012 - 2013
"When I began volunteering for the Refugee Council I had a vague
idea of what it would be like to visit young people in detention. I
pictured clinical rooms and prison walls and I wasn't far off.
The training I was given when I started my role as Volunteer
Children's Adviser helped me to understand what the young people have experienced up to that point. Where they came from, why they came to the UK and why they were in detention. It is not until you visit detention that the people inside really become people to you. They are scared, angry and weary and this can be emotionally draining as their Adviser.
I work on the age dispute team which is part of the Children's
Section. We support children who have been detained as adults but we believe to be children. Some don't have the correct documentation (as so few refugees do), some have been told to lie, others simply use a different calendar or look older than their teenage years.
Our statistics from 2012 show that the longest stay in detention
for an age disputed young person was 161 days. While I could never imagine the effects of this length of time on one's spirits, I find it important to bear this in mind when visiting clients so that I am better able to understand what they're feeling.
The situation is not always bleak, though. Getting a phone call to say that a client has been released or they have been accepted as a child has such an uplifting effect and reinforces why I volunteer with the Refugee Council. These positive aspects of the job are as frequent as the downfalls but you need to be prepared for both. "