In Part 1 of a two-part blog, and following World Refugee Week, Lyndsay McDade, Crimestoppers Senior Youth Projects Officer in Scotland talks about her innovative ‘Empowering New Young Scots to be Fearless’ project.
With the support of funding from the Percy Hoskins Legacy Award (Percy was the chief crime reporter for the Daily Express – after he passed away, a fund in his memory was set up that was to be used for ‘fighting crime’), I began a project specifically working with young people going through the asylum process or recently granted refugee status to ensure that they were better equipped to establish a safe life in Scotland.
With a number of years’ experience of working with young people claiming asylum both here and abroad, I have seen first-hand the level of exploitation encountered and listened to many hundreds of harrowing stories over the years.
My husband and I are hugely privileged to look after a young person recently granted refugee status. Coping with the realities of trauma and mental health issues have been challenging, but we love him just as we love our two little girls and some days, genuinely, my heart could burst with pride for him.
As a mum, I’m fiercely protective of all my children, and last year I noticed that from the time my young person arrived in the UK, he hadn’t been given any information with regards to the law or keeping himself safe from crime.
I discovered that his experience was representative across the country.
Delivering Crimestoppers’ youth programme across Scotland, I see daily the importance with which health and wellbeing outcomes are held within our Scottish ‘Curriculum for Excellence’. From nursery, topics such as road safety, people who help us, what to do in an emergency, all begin to be introduced. The children then find out about the importance of equality and inclusion, bullying and drugs, healthy relationships, sexual consent, the list goes on and on. Additionally, they receive input from the likes of No Knives Better Lives and Mentors in Violence Prevention.
For thousands of young people who arrive in the UK, they’ve missed all of those important lessons. However, it doesn’t make it any less important. And that realisation was the beginning of our Fearless New Young Scots project.
Often when young adults arrive, they are placed in accommodation within areas of high deprivation and crime. In school, children and young people can find themselves confronted for the first time with new challenges and difficult behaviour.
This project seeks to address some of these complex issues by giving young people the tools to feel safer and less vulnerable within their communities, and to give them a tangible solution to speak up without fear.
Through our comprehensive translation capacity, young people can be fearless in speaking up with information about crime using their mother language. They can type in what they know or suspect at fearless.org in over 147 languages, confident that nobody will ever know the information came from them.
The first Fearless workshop I delivered in Glasgow was to a group of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children and young adult asylum seekers under the age of 21. I found that rather than taking the various Fearless goodies that young people in Scotland normally reach for, these young people were asking for more calling cards with our contact details on them.
One young person told me:
“I have every bad thing in my head all around me and now you tell me what to do – no person has told me before.”
Young people told me that they are frightened to report information about crime as a result of traumatic experiences of police in their home country, from where they fled persecution, and because they worry that it will complicate or negatively affect their asylum application.
Furthermore, I was faced with around half the young people I was working with not knowing the phone number 999. Those working in community safety know how frequently we talk about ‘bystander approaches’ – positive things people can do to rectify crime as a bystander – yet these young people were missing key knowledge to do so.
For me, it was completely essential that the project should be informed by young people; therefore, I established a steering group of young people who informed all of the artwork and overall campaign approach.
It was them that came up with the strapline –
‘Together, we can make Scotland safer.’
Which, along with their willingness to volunteer their time, best illustrates their desire to contribute to their new communities.
Our young steering group co-designed our new range of resources, told us what mattered to them and how best to reach their peers.
Following our initial two-week digital and outreach campaign, fearless.org saw a 500% rise in web users accessing the site from Glasgow, the city which hosts the highest number of refugees and asylum seekers per head of population of all local authorities in the UK.
A young person recently told me:
“In my country they don’t tell you the law, they beat you and you do not know your rights. And here now you tell me the law and what I can do and this makes me feel stronger.”
I feel strongly that that is precisely what we should be achieving for all our New Young Scots – and, indeed, those living in other parts of the UK.
Ultimately, as a nation, we will only succeed in our ambition for Scotland to be the best place in the world for children and young people to grow up, when that is true for our most vulnerable young person, irrespective of their asylum status.
To learn more about the project and download our guide for professionals, visit:
This blog was originally published on the Crimestoppers website which can be accessed at: https://crimestoppers-uk.org/campaigns-media/blog/2019/jul/empowering-new-young-scots-to-be-fearless-part-1