Supporting Whadia, a young refugee, settle into the UK

Whadia* was first referred to our Love to Learn education team in October 2019 because of dental issues. She wore braces, but they were sticking out and she couldn’t smile. It was crushing her confidence and she was in a lot of pain. As a result, she was missing a lot of school. We managed to get her seen by a dentist, but they refused to remove the braces as they said that it had to be done by an orthodontist. Whadia was referred to an orthodontist, but there was a delay as initially the Local Authority would not agree to pay for her treatment. Eventually they agreed and Whadia finally had her old braces removed and new ones fitted.

Soon after Whadia got pregnant. She was not sure at first what she wanted to do and she was in a lot of turmoil. From our conversations it was clear to us that she was afraid, she was worried about being so young and about her education, but she also wanted a baby. She really wanted someone she could call her own flesh and blood and to be able to say ‘this is my family’. Mery (one of our caseworkers) provided advice and emotional support. Whadia was really struggling mentally. She didn’t know how to cope with everything that happened on her journey to this country, and all the difficulties she was experiencing now that she had arrived.

Whadia was also struggling with other issues. She was frustrated by how long the asylum process was taking and was very anxious about the outcome. It was a very difficult time for her. We supported her through this process. In mid-late March 20120 Whadia was finally granted refugee status.

In the same month (March 2020) a referral was made to the London Borough of Croydon due to concerns about the safety of Whadia’s unborn child. Whadia didn’t understand what the concerns of the Local Authority were at this stage. In the end they did not think the threshold for a child protection plan was not met, but they put the baby on a ‘child in need’ plan, because they felt that she would need a lot of support. Whadia did not have a good relationship with her social worker at the time – she did not feel supported and nor listened to. Mery was acting as a link to assist communication between Whadia and social services.

Later in 2020, Whadia finally managed to find her siblings, who were stuck in Tigray refugee camp. She sounded very excited and happy when she shared it with us. Mery referred her case to Migrant Law Project at Islington Law Centre, who specialised in complex family reunion cases. She often talked about being on her own and feeling lonely. She said she had no one she can share things with. Whadia has seen the worst in people, so it is not surprising that she has a lot of problems trusting people.

When we started working with her it took a long time to put Whadia at ease. Overtime she has  come out of her shell. Last month we provided a statement in support of her family reunion application. Her application hasn’t been straightforward and has required lots of information gathering, while being careful not to distress her. Whadia went through such horrific experiences and is clearly still so distressed and traumatised by them. Mery is guided by Whadia in the support she provides. We’re awaiting a decision from Home Office and hope her siblings will be allowed to join her here in the UK. Having his uncle’s around would be great for her little boy. He would have his uncle to play with, to learn from and look up to. Perhaps most importantly, having her family in the UK would be a huge boost to Whadia’s mental health. She’s still only 19 and very much alone in the UK.

Whadia has now enrolled at Croydon college and will start in April 2022.

We would say that she was definitely one of the young people who required the most intensive support.

*Note: Names have been changed to ensure anonymity. Photos are illustrative.


About Katherine Low Settlement

Katherine Low Settlement is a much-loved, busy charity that has been at the heart of the community in Battersea, south-west London, since 1924.

With a few staff and a lot of volunteers, Katherine Low Settlement runs a range of its own popular community projects including educational courses and wellbeing activities. The charity supports children, young people and their families, older people, refugees and newly arrived communities of all genders, nationalities and religions.

The Katherine Low Settlement building in Battersea High Street, opened in 1924, is used for community activities and events, usually – until the arrival of Covid-19 – by over 500 people a week. Its rooms are available for hire at affordable rates.

Katherine Low Settlement is grateful for the funding received from supporters, trusts and foundations to enable the charity to continue to reduce poverty and isolation and bring Battersea together.


Press contacts

Aaron Barbour
Katherine Low Settlement
Telephone: 020 7223 2845
Email: [email protected]

High resolution digital images available from Katherine Low Settlement press contacts.

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