Moving on: Multiple Transitions of Unaccompanied Child Migrants Leaving Care in England and Sweden

Abstract

This paper explores the priorities of young people who arrived in England or Sweden as unaccompanied minors and are leaving the care of the state to transition to adult life. Policy and practice for these young people are themselves in transition in Europe, and we aim to contribute to the slender first person qualitative evidence base for those delivering services. Our methods comprised a scoping review of scholarly and grey literature, and group and individual interviews. Despite a commitment in both countries to listening to the voices of young people, we identified few studies representing the voices of unaccompanied care leavers. In both the literature and our interviews, health in a clinical sense was rarely among their priorities. Their accounts focused on the determinants of health, and in particular housing, education, food and employment. In Sweden, where services are universal rather than targeted, the Health and Social Care Board (Socialstyrelsen) notes the paradox of unaccompanied children being surrounded by adult supporters, none of whom takes overall responsibility for the young person and his/her everyday life. Those we spoke to describe the vital role played by foster carers, health and social care professionals and friends that they could rely on. The young people whose narratives appear in the research literature and those in our own sample are working hard to cope with multiple transitions and to manage health in its widest sense, whether by finding the right place to live or attending to their education or training.