The system needs to change | See the Child

Dost has been following the current See the Child campaign, which was recently launched by Kids Company in response to a recent Centre for Social Justice report that revealed a failing system in desperate need of review.

The report reveals a growing group of children who are “struggling to receive the necessary care and support of statutory services” and “highlights concerns about the effectiveness of some social work services.” This comes as no surprise to Dost.

One of the many issues that our children and young people face includes the gaps in service received by social services. These gaps have only widened with the loss of specialist asylum support teams in recent years. As a result of budget cuts, many local authorities merged their asylum teams with looked after children and leaving care teams thus creating a shift in client focus and staff expertise. It has been our experience that asylum and immigration issues can fall under the radar especially when social workers are managing a number of volatile cases that require urgent and immediate attention. Unfortunately, this scenario has proven to be detrimental to some of the young people we work with. Recently, we worked to urgently source a solicitor for a child who had was quickly approaching 18 years of age. Although being looked after for over three years, his previous social workers overlooked the basic requirements of submitting an asylum/immigration application for a minor, so his right to remain in the UK had been potentially jeopardized.

Additionally, failing the provision of a specialist team within a local authority, teams as a whole require training specific to the client groups they support.  We understand that this is a systemic failing rather than an individual one. Again, when one is managing an unstable caseload, making time for training can present as impossibility which only further highlights the need for change.

The See the child campaign has been launched to enable the creation of an Independent Task Force that can re-design social care and mental health services for children, bringing together people from a range of backgrounds to bring about change for vulnerable children. 

Dost wholeheartedly backs this campaign and looks forward to seeing the changes that this new, inclusive approach to restructuring children’s social services can bring to the lives of vulnerable young people from all backgrounds.




If you would like to lend your voice to the campaign, all you need to do is sign the petition, which you can do online or by text (Text I SEE to 63000).

Some of the Dost team as children in support of See the Child:



By Lizette Villaverde, Specialist Care Leaver Caseworker




Time for Tea… with Lizette

It’s time for tea again! Earlier this month you met Youth Worker Danny Smallwood and today we’re sitting down with another one of our newer team members, Specialist Care Leaver Caseworker Lizette Villaverde. Lizette works with our young people who are leaving care, ensuring that they are kept informed of their rights and entitlements and that they are being appropriately supported under the Leaving Care Act.

Lizette v2First things first… Tea or Coffee?
Ooh I’d love a chai!

I think I’ve met my sugar quota with the tea…

Great, now down to the serious stuff…

How did you end up here and what was your first day like?
I had been working as a social worker for almost nine years and have been very drawn to working with young people as well as the international community.  Dost’s holistic attitude really attracted me to the organisation and I was very impressed by the work ethos of the team and how they approached working with individuals and communities.

My first days at Dost were lovely and miles away from what I was used to in terms of the pace and pressure of the work environment.  The best part was seeing the youth club in action and being able to meet a diverse group of individuals who seemed to get along well and enjoy their environment.

What countries have you worked in and how does your experience of working in other countries compare to the UK? 
I’ve done voluntary work in India and Nepal as well as social work in the USA.  Although working under different legislation, the practice models between the USA and UK are similar and face similar pressures in my experience.

India and Nepal provided a landscape where the need was incredibly high and the young people were eager to receive any support services.  What stands out in contrast is the lack of resources and organisation.  I really had to make an adjustment about how to approach systems as my previous experience was with “first world” matters.

A balance needed to be struck in regards to what was needed and what could be put in place over a longer period of time, such as an educational curriculum.  Coming from a different background, one can really develop appreciation for what tends to be taken for granted.

What attracted you to the role of working specifically with care leavers?
A few years ago several local authorities started to merge Leaving Care Teams with the Asylum Teams, so my work with care leavers really began at this point.  As I loved working within the Asylum Team I was initially resistant to this change; however I came to appreciate the overlap of support services between the needs of care leavers and asylum seekers especially working with the period of transition approaching adulthood.   This is a crucial period for people who have previously been looked after children with an abundance of support services who then have a great deal of this support cut off once they reach 18 years of age.

What do you like best about working with Dost youth?
Every individual comes with their own strengths, needs and story.  I’ve enjoyed getting to know them on a one to one basis as well as witnessing how they work together as a diverse community group.  They have a general open and caring attitude which creates a family environment and in fact, some young people do view Dost groups as part of their extended family networks.  They are a joy to work with!

And finally…

What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?
I’ve been working the odd job since I was at least 14 years old from working in retail and waitressing to door to door fundraising, fast food, nursery assistant… the list goes on!  However the worst work environment (that, being fair, I never really gave a chance to) was telemarketing.  I believe I made it through two days induction before I bid my farewells.   I really prefer face to face interaction!

What’s the best/most exciting/most interesting thing that’s ever happened to you?
Exciting and interesting things are taking place all the time, but if I had to choose I would have to say that taking a year off to travel and volunteer is highly ranked on that list!  It really helped to shape how I viewed the world and myself as a part of it.

Tell us something surprising about yourself.
I was dead set on going to art school but had a Sociology teacher who changed my life in my last year of high school.  Now I just enjoy creative ventures on the side!

Read more about our work with Children and Young People and find out how you can help to support us so that we can continue to deliver these essential services.

Legal aid vote leaves young people in the lurch

Last week, 274 MPs voted for the Government’s proposed legal aid residence test. That’s 71 more than voted against.

We outlined our views on the residence test last June, when we explained the negative impact this test will have on the human rights of the children and young people we work with.

Dost says:

“We stand by our original response, submitted to the MoJ last June:

Children who are unaccompanied migrants newly arrived to the UK or abandoned in the UK, children who are failed asylum seekers and refugee children who have not resided in the UK for twelve months will be denied access to all forms of legal representation funded by legal aid as they do not meet the residency test criteria

As a result of the changes, many of the children we work closely with will be unable to access legal aid to support them in challenging decisions that effectively obstruct their human rights. We recommend that the government puts children’s rights at the top of the agenda and abandons its plans to introduce this residence test, which we deem to be unethical.”

Time for tea… Or grab a coffee with Danny!

It’s been a while since our last tea break and we’re parched now! You met our Service Manager Helena, who joined the team in April, last August and we took a tea break with our Youth Programme Manager Marian in September. This year we’ve had a few new team members join us! You can find out more about the whole team here. Next up for a tea break is Youth Worker Danny Smallwood, who has been with us since about July 2010, when he met some of Dost youth through his work with a charity in Hackney and liked them so much he volunteered at Dost and has been with us ever since! So pop the kettle on, make your preferred hot drink and get to know him a little better.

Danny Smallwood, Youth WorkerFirst things first… Tea or Coffee?
Coffee, please

Chocolate Caramel Digestive, please

Yum! Ok, now down to the serious stuff…

How did you end up here and what was your first day like?
I was previously working for a charity in Hackney delivering bike maintenance sessions to young people and approached Marian to enquire if Dost young people would be interested in taking part.  They were, and were very refreshingly enthusiastic about the programme, which involved them learning how to fix up bikes that had been donated to us by the local police force.  All the young people managed to restore a bike to its former glory and were rewarded by being allowed to take the bike away.

I really enjoyed working with the young people from Dost and so volunteered to help out at Dost youth club sessions and this gradually progressed to me beginning work as a youth worker at Dost. My first day was so long ago I can’t really remember but it probably involved me winning a lot on the pool table and showing the young people up at table tennis, as I’m terribly good at both.

You’ve worked with children in Mexico. How does working in the UK compare?
They don’t speak Spanish so much.  But other than that the children at Dost are pretty similar. The children I worked with in Mexico were extremely friendly and resourceful (playing football bare foot and with a ball that was at least 200 years old) and always enthusiastic about taking part in activities.  And this is very much how the young people at Dost approach activities and also with a very positive attitude.

Tell us a bit about the work you do at Coram Children’s Legal Centre on the Migrant Children’s Project
The Migrant Children’s Project promotes the rights of migrant, asylum-seeking and refugee children and young people and works to ensure that they receive the protection and support they need. It provides one-to-one advice through an advice line and outreach advice work, a range of free resources and online information, and training to practitioners working with young refugees and migrants.My role is to support solicitors, provide this advice and conduct research for policy and advocacy work.

It’s an interesting environment to work in as I’ve learnt much about the law that affects the young people at Dost, which gives me a bit of insight into how complicated and daunting it must be for these young people.

My role at CCLC can often overlap with my role at Dost, as I’ve referred young people to solicitors who have since provided them with legal representation.

You’re studying for an MSc in Migration, Mobility and Development at SOAS. Tell us a bit about that.
I’ve been studying part-time for the last two years and been looking at the political economy of migration and its impact on host countries and countries where migrants originate from,  the history of humanitarian and development aid and security issues in developing countries.

I’m currently writing my dissertation on a subject very close to the work Dost undertakes and looking at how and why young, unaccompanied children migrate to the UK and the economical, social and psychological impact this has on them.
And studying at SOAS is very special. It’s the (self proclaimed) “world’s leading institution for the study of Asia, Africa and the Middle East” but also often parades camels around campus to raise awareness of aspects of camel cultures worldwide.

What do you like best about working with Dost youth?
Positive attitude and gratitude. I’ve worked in youth centres that have had fantastic facilities and equipment and the young people have still been unimpressed and unenthusiastic about activities. Yet whilst Dost lacks such fancy facilities and equipment the young people still find ways to enjoy themselves.

Copy of P1180521

And finally…

What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?
Cutting the grass at a sewage farm.

What’s the best/most exciting/most interesting thing that’s ever happened to you?
Well, other than working at Dost of course… It would have to be scoring the winning goal with a 30 yard free kick to seal the Northamptonshire Football League Cup… 19 years ago.  I also met Jet, Lightning and Wolf from Gladiators.

Tell us something surprising about yourself.
My left leg is actually made of yoghurt.*

Read more about our work with Children and Young People and find out how you can help to support us so that we can continue to deliver these essential services.


*Not really

Dost: A home away from home

Recent research published by the University of East London (UeL) describes Dost as having a ‘transformative positive impact’ on the lives of the young people we work with.

The research was based on a series of interviews that took place with Dost young people in 2013 and aimed to report on benefits and drawbacks of the services we provide. The questions centred around four key areas: The nature of the lived experience of the young people using our services, our response to this experience and the positive nature of our culture, evidence of the transformative impact of our work and gaps or deficits in our services.

Typical responses from our young people, when asked to sum up our services, included:

“I have no family. They are my family.”

“This is a home away from home. They embrace anybody.”

“If it wasn’t for X, I wouldn’t be sitting here right now. I think of her as a mum – like a second mum.”     

The vast majority referred to Dost as being ‘like family’ and the importance of friendship was a theme throughout all of the interviews. This is a result of the Dost approach, which is the very foundation of who we are and how we came to be (‘Dost’ means friend in several languages).

The report references our holistic, relationship –based model, as ‘a 360° wrap-around, child centered approach and in its conclusion, recommends that we further define this model and seek to disseminate it.

UeL research reportDownload the full report to find out more.

Dost continues to be flexible in responding to young people’s needs through providing drop-in sessions and taking a holistic approach when assessing and addressing issues that are presented during casework, and supporting long lasting friendships through the active youth programme.

We are pushing the 360° model forward with the development of new assessment and evaluation tools in collaboration with our young people. This will help us to add more structure to our work, putting each young person at the centre when identifying issues and finding individual solutions for them. It will also help us to better understand the varying needs of different migrant populations and to evaluate the services we provide. We continue to seek volunteers to help us provide English language support.

Dost Service Manager Helena Kaliniecka says, “We are working hard to refine and strengthen the Dost 360° approach through exploring evaluation tools, structuring and developing casework procedures, and working towards the Silver Quality Mark for the youth programme. The funding climate continues to be harsh and we are grateful to all of our supporters for helping us to continue providing and developing the culture and provisions that this research has identified as so important to the young people.”

Seen ‘Leave to Remain’? Want the facts behind the fiction?

The film ‘Leave to Remain,’ which is released next month, follows three young people seeking asylum in the UK as result of their experiences in their own countries. The film is based on real life stories. However, these characters are completely fictional.

Dost and The Refugee Council were able to view the film before its release. The Refugee Council says, “The characters are believable and the story compelling. The vulnerabilities of the young people, as well as their individual strengths, resonate with those of us who have some insight into the world of young asylum seekers in the UK.”  We agree. However, we (and no doubt other organisations supporting young refugees in the UK) anticipate being asked the question “…but how real is it?”

Facts behind Fiction

The short answer is that it is not real at all. We do not recognise the picture it gives of the experiences of these young people. For those whom Dost supports, life is a struggle merely to survive. Many others in similar circumstances lack even the basic support Dost can offer. In our experience, these vulnerable young people spend a great deal of time studying hard, while facing exceptional challenges at every level – practical, emotional, and psychological.

‘Leave to Remain’ gives a misleading impression of how much support is available. It also misrepresents that support. Most concerning is the portrayal of professionals such as Nigel in the film, who does the wrong thing in an attempt to help one of his young pupils. The Refugee Council says, “It is sad to see adults represented in this way when there is so much excellent work done by adults helping young people in the asylum system.”

While certain details in the film are familiar, and raise some harsh truths (e.g. treatment at the Home Office), we find the stories as told not true to the complexity and seriousness of the issues raised.

The Refugee Council have prepared a Q&A document that answers some of the key issues raised in the film. Head over to their website now to download it and find out the facts behind the fiction.

Immigration Bill puts young people at risk

Last week, the Government published its Immigration Bill, the aim of which is to make life harder for those living in the UK illegally.

The Bill covers a wide range of issues, some of which will affect those asylum seekers and refugees who have a legal right to be here. The proposed measures around housing, as outlined in the Home Office consultation ‘Tackling immigration in privately rented accommodation’ could lead to denial of housing for those most in need.

The proposal that most concerns us is that which introduces a requirement for private landlords to check the immigration status of potential tenants. It is already difficult for newly-granted refugees to access the private rented sector and this requirement will only serve to make the problem worse by leading to potential discrimination against tenants whose immigration status landlords do not fully understand and therefore may feel will pose a ‘risk.’

In our experience, young people are already subject to extended delays in receiving their official documents confirming their legal status and there are many different documents depending on their specific immigration status and what stage they are at. This documentation is too complex for landlords to understand. The time it takes to follow up on them may put landlords off and, at worst, could encourage harsh treatment due to confusion around whether a young person’s immigration status is legal.

Dost does not support these proposals as we feel that the issues that will potentially be caused by delays and discrimination will not only leave young people homeless, but also add to the risk that they will begin to go underground to find accommodation, placing this vulnerable group even more at risk.

Time for Tea… with Marian

Now that you’ve met our new Service Manager, Helena, we thought it was about time we introduced the rest of the team so you could get to know us all a little better.
First up is Youth Programme Manager Marian Spiers, who manages the youth programme at Dost, running the youth club, organising residential trips for our young people and supervising all the sessional staff and volunteers who work with them. Marian is responsible for co-ordinating our Garden project for Newham CFCS (Child and Family Consultation Service), which was recently featured in the Newham mag!


So, grab a cup of your preferred hot (or cold!) beverage, put your feet up and meet Marian…

First things first… Tea or Coffee?
Strong, sweet tea or some juice please!

Always! Maybe a cake too!

Ooh me too! Now, down to the serious stuff…

How long have you been working at Dost?
I’ve been at Dost for over four years now….

How did you end up here/What was your first day like?
I ended up at Dost when I came back from an extended trip to India. I had been working in a school and orphanage there for about 10 months and came back to the UK to look for work. I couldn’t decide whether to stay in the UK or return to India so made a decision that if I found a job here that I really liked I would stay and the only job I applied for was at Dost… and here I am!

My first day was pretty full on… I started at lunch time and by 5pm I was running the Youth Club, meeting the staff, volunteers and young people… I was really surprised by the friendliness of the young people… By the second day I was running a four week, full time, summer programme for 30 kids so I was pretty much thrown in at the deep end!

What do you like best about working with Dost youth?
The thing I like best about working with the young people from Dost is the fact that they are so multi-cultural. They are also fun, open and willing to try new things and make the most of opportunities, accepting of others, kind and caring to each other and to the staff and volunteers and they are very diverse – from their ethnicity, to their ages, religions, gender,  abilities and the languages they speak.  I feel like working at Dost is like travelling without going anywhere! They are honestly the best group of young people I have ever worked with in over 25 years of doing Youth Work. I think the group is really unique and they are a joy to work with! I also love the fact that I am able to take part in so many fun activities with them and to share these experiences with them… To date, we have been on residentials to Scotland, Wales, Butlins, CentreParcs, Devon, Outdoor Education Centres, camping, sailing, on a barge and on so many trips and projects that include sports, art, cooking and the environment.

Tell us a bit about the community garden project you’ve been working on recently
Since January, we have working on the garden at Newham Child and Family Consultation Service (CFCS). We worked with Groundworks and one of their gardeners and Olivia (the Dost Youth Worker)to develop the garden and turn it from a derelict piece of land into a tranquil and peaceful space for the children and families that use CFCS to use for sessions with their therapists. The Dost young people who worked on the garden learned many new skills around gardening including carpentry, willow weaving and graffiti. They worked in all weathers to transform the garden into somewhere with strawberries, raspberries, fruit trees, vegetables and places to sit and relax. In July we held our Garden Project Launch to officially open the garden and many professionals from the NHS and staff from London Youth and other organisations came along to congratulate the young people on their hard work. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank to Groundwork and Athan 31 for the funding which made the garden project possible!

And finally…

What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?
I’ve had plenty of pretty awful jobs! I travelled round the world for 10 years so did a lot of random jobs for no apparent reason! I worked as a window cleaner in North Cyprus, I worked as a meat pie packer in a factory (even although I’ve been a vegetarian since I was five!), I’ve been a runner for the worst hostel in Jerusalem – trying to convince travellers to stay in a hostel with no doors! I’ve worked as an English teacher in the Czech Republic with no books in the days before the internet… I’ve been a film extra in Egypt and there are various others!

What’s the best/most exciting/most interesting thing that’s ever happened to you?
There are a lot of exciting things that have happened to me over the years… Not sure about the best… but some of the highlights would be: hitchhiking around the world on the back of trucks, in cars, boats, and even in a coffin once! Seeing so many amazing places around the world… Mountains, temples, deserts, beaches; meeting people from everywhere and getting to know them, learn about their way of life and live with them; having my own photography exhibitions and lots of other things that I can’t remember at the moment!

Tell us something surprising about yourself.
Mmmm…I’ve been diving with sharks in a ship wreck… I’ve looked after Harrison Ford and Steven Spielberg on a film shoot… and I’ve lived with a family with 10 children in a double decker bus!

Read more about our work with Children and Young People to find out what support we provide. To keep in touch with Marian and find out what Dost’s young people have been up to, follow Youth_@_Dost on twitter.


Time for Tea… with Helena

Dost’s new Service Manager, Dr. Helena Kaliniecka, joined the team at the end of April, taking over from outgoing Director and Founder Yesim Deveci. Now that she has been with us for a few months, we thought it was about time she took ten minutes out for a hot drink and a chat so that you could get to know her a little better. So, put the kettle on, make a cup of your favourite hot drink (and grab a biscuit if you fancy it!) and come and have a chat with Helena.


First things first… Tea or Coffee?
Mmm, cup of builder’s tea please.

Jaffa cake please if you have them, though I know that’s straying into the “is it a biscuit or a cake?” territory!

Here you go! Now down to the serious stuff…

What was it that initially attracted you to Dost..?
I was really inspired by the holistic approach Dost adopts in supporting young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds in a community context. My own grandparents experienced forced migration to the UK from Poland when they were children during WW2, and I have been brought up with a deep respect and wish to help young people with similar experiences.  I enjoy working in NHS mental health services, however, I believe preventative and person-centred work needs to begin in the community, and that sometimes it is only here that we can fully explore and support the full range of people’s experiences.

I am a great believer in how Dost seeks to support young people in the areas that the young people themselves identify as important, such as accessing their rights and entitlements through casework, offering support around mental health in a community context and opportunities to develop friendships and skills through the youth programme.  I was excited about the opportunity to help Dost to continue shaping and building on this great work.

 …and how are you finding it so far?
Busy but exciting! I have very much enjoyed getting to know the dedicated and talented team and the young people who use our services, although attending the youth club has cemented my acknowledgement of the fact that I am completely useless at pool! I’m enjoying supporting the team in developing their practice and generally strengthening the procedures behind Dost’s very effective approach so we can provide the best support possible.

What’s your vision for the future of Dost?
I am very much hoping that we can secure further funding to develop Dost continue to carry out the full range of work we do with the young people and their families –  the advice and advocacy work  as well as  our youth and education programme. We have a very skilled team and  I am hoping to develop their psychosocial skills further so that at some point in the future we will be able to offer more specialist mental health support if necessary. I guess I would like Dost to become even bigger and better, with young people always at the heart of everything we do.

And finally…

What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?
Ah, that might have been sweeping up hair in a hairdresser’s when I was a teenager. If I was very lucky I would be allowed to make a customer a cup of tea and get them a biscuit but that was about it!

What’s the best/most exciting/most interesting thing that’s ever happened to you?
I am incredibly lucky to have been able to live in Kenya for nine months in 2008 when I was working with a street children charity. I had the chance to go on a safari in Amboseli during my time there and one morning our car was surrounded by a heard of about 40 elephants. All you could hear was the rumbling of the elephants communicating to each other and the snap of the roots they were kicking up. It was very magical.

Tell us something surprising about yourself
I’m a bit of an expert in foraging wild woodland mushrooms, thanks to my Polish roots! Bit of an odd skill to have I grant you. Poles are very secretive about this activity, and my father may well kill me if I divulge any more information!

Read more about Dost’s approach and find out how you can support us.

Diana Donation keeps Dost delivering


Last month, Dost received an unsolicited donation from Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund for £28,600.

The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund was established in 1997 in response to the donations that poured into Kensington Palace in her memory. This fund was set up with the aim was to create a lasting legacy to the Princess’ humanitarian work.

‘From the outset, the Fund was determined to remain a resolute and influential supporter of the people on the margins of society and of the charities that work alongside them.’
The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund

Thanks to this donation, alongside recent grants from City Bridge Trust, Tudor Trust and the support from the Trinity Centre, Dost will now be able to continue delivering its valuable services for another three years.

If you too would like to support our work, you can do so by donating  securely online. If you’re thinking of joining in any of the 5 or 10k runs this summer, or even signing up for the 2014 marathon, you could consider fundraising for Dost. There are lots of ways to lend your support, even if it’s just offering your product or services – any support is most welcome! If you have any questions, do get in touch.