Lorraine Grant works as an Early Years practitioner working in a local authority nursery situated in a small town in rural Aberdeenshire in the northeast of Scotland. This case study was researched as part of the ED2507 course -Supporting the Health and Well-being of Young Children which is part BA Childhood Practice degree at the University of Aberdeen.
People who are forced to flee their homes due to persecution, whether on an individual basis or as part of a mass exodus due to political, religious, military or other problems are known as refugees. The United Kingdom is a signatory of The United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (1951) Article 1 (A), which defines a refugee as a person who:owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country or return there because there is a fear of persecution.
Article 14 of the UN Declaration on Human Rights states that everybody is entitled to seek and enjoy asylum. In September 2015 the UK government announced that 20,000 Syrian refugees would be granted safe passage. The Scottish Government supported this by welcoming 200 refugees. Aberdeenshire Council responded by committing to resettle 50 families as part of the UK’s Syrian Vulnerable Person’s Relocation Scheme (2014). This scheme dictates the criteria for refugee resettlement. Based on need, it prioritises women and children at risk, people in severe need of medical care and survivors of torture and violence.
Due to the civil war in Syria Child B’s life thus far was spent in refugee camps in Lebanon. In April 2016, Child B, her Mother, Father and older sister, arrived into an Aberdeenshire village. Due to ill health Child B did not start at Nursery until December 2016. Child B has Glycogen Storage Disease, this is a rare condition that changes the way the body uses and stores glycogen, a form of sugar or glucose. Glycogen is the bodies main source of energy, when someone has GSD they are missing one of the enzymes that breaks down glycogen. This can result in incorrect glycogen formation or build up in the liver resulting in problems in the liver, muscles or other parts of the body. Child A displayed several symptoms including low blood sugar (Hypoglycaemia), fatigue, a very swollen belly, weak muscles and low muscle tone, pain and cramping during exercise. She was also small for her age.
Building the Ambition (2014) highlights the importance of transition periods in a child’s life being handled sensitively, inclusively and positively. The way transitions are handled could potentially have a significant impact on the child’s capacity to cope with change in the short and long term (Dunlop & Fabian 2007). Initially child B visited the setting with her parents, followed by short sessions accompanied by Mum. This progressed to being left for short periods of time which Mum spent in our nearby parent room. Child B had never been left before and this was very difficult for her emotionally. Child B’s Key Worker became significant in supporting her emotional and social development (Nutkins et al 2013). Child B and her family had no English at this stage. Support and resources were provided by the Aberdeenshire English as an Additional Language service, these included staff training and Arabic talking books. Smart phones using Google translate were also used to overcome this barrier to communication as well as upholding her right to learn and use her first language (Article 30 UNCRC 1990).
Led by Child B’s physical and emotional health Child B gradually built up her time in the early learning and childcare setting and now utilises her free 600 hours annual entitlement. She has developed a close attachment (Bowlby 1969) to her key worker, other members of staff and peers. Her physical health is monitored closely and has improved greatly, and she is now able to undertake and enjoy some of the benefits of physical activity. Perhaps the most dramatic and heartening development is in her social and emotional wellbeing. Although she can be sensitive at times and remove herself from a situation, Child B often interacts positively with her peers and uses her increasing English language skills with good humour. Close relationships with staff encourage this and child B and her family embrace the opportunities open to them. Child B particularly enjoys music and dancing and attends local dance classes as an extra-curricular activity.
The multi-disciplinary approach (GIRFEC 2007) and Syrian New Scots strategy (2014) have positively influenced child B’s health and wellbeing. From a situation where her basic needs were not met (Maslow 1954) she is now safe and secure, has formed friendships and shows increasing self-esteem.
Aberdeen, July 2018
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