Rigorous evaluation of a therapeutic program for young asylum seekers

Adult holding young person's hand

Unaccompanied asylum-seeking children arrive in a new country without an adult to look after them. These young people have often experienced multiple or prolonged traumatic events, as well as dangerous journeys, and they live daily with the uncertainty of refugee status.

Despite research showing young refugees are at higher risk of mental health problems, these young people generally do not receive supportive interventions – either falling through service gaps or finding services lack sensitivity to their specific needs. In response, the Refugee Council developed the My View initiative, a specialist therapeutic service for 12- to 17-year-old unaccompanied asylum seekers in England.

CEI and our partners Ipsos UK were commissioned by Foundations – the national What Works Centre for Children and Families – to undertake a two-year evaluation of My View, assessing its impact through a randomised controlled trial, its implementation through a process evaluation and costs per child through a cost analysis. The complete evaluation report has recently been released.

“There is no question that unaccompanied children and young people experience poor mental health outcomes,” says Dr Ellie Ott, CEI Associate Director, one of the research leaders. “This comprehensive evaluation shows that My View is making a positive difference in a field of great need.”

The trial results showed My View significantly reduced psychological distress, and young people who received the intervention had significantly better wellbeing compared with those who did not. A high level of need was also identified: most young people in the evaluation group had not accessed support elsewhere due to lack of options and/or waiting lists.

“This data leads us to recommend that My View should be continued, and that stable funding should be provided for mental health support for unaccompanied children and young people,” says Ellie.

“We also found that stable leadership and staffing is important for implementation – as well as a case worker in the therapy team, who can offer practical support and improve therapists’ capacity.”

“This comprehensive evaluation fills an important evidence gap on therapeutic interventions for unaccompanied refugee children,” Ellie explains. “Despite clear evidence of mental health need and well-documented issues that current services do not sufficiently meet these children’s and young people’s specific needs, there has been a notable gap in evidence for the best path forward.”

“Now that we’ve established the impact and value of the My View service, the next step is further evaluation to test the best means to make this available to more children and young people in distress.”

The full report can be downloaded HERE

CEI’s Dr Ellie Ott and Amy Hall collaborated with Raynette Bierman, Karl Ashworth, Ilya Cereso, Akshay Choudhary at Ipsos on Evaluation of My View: A randomised controlled trial of a therapeutic intervention for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, supported by Foundations, the national What Works Centre for Children & Families.