Emotional health and wellbeing of undocumented children in London

Type Research

Sian Thomas, Andy Jolly, Lisa Goodson
Published on
1 July 2020

Using estimates of the number of undocumented children in London, and interviews with nine undocumented young people and parents, this research shows how being undocumented affects the emotional wellbeing of children and families due to trauma, separation, and loss.

Our findings:

It highlights children and families’ experiences of living with uncertainty, isolation, and barriers to accessing support, and, when thinking about the future, their resilience and strength, aspirations to work, study, and to build a life in the UK.

  • Undocumented children, young people and families face a range of issues that affect their emotional health and wellbeing, including past experiences of trauma, separation and loss, and the current impact of housing instability, lack of financial support and social exclusion
  • Living with uncertainty over immigration status, housing, meeting basic needs, education provision and access to services makes it difficult for children and young people to engage with emotional support and to make plans for their future.
  • Children and young people can face exclusion and isolation among their peers, which also impacts on their emotional wellbeing. The cost of school activities can limit the participation of undocumented children, and children and parents both have to make choices about whether to disclose their status to others.
  • Many young people and families have a limited understanding of the immigration system and have struggled to access good quality legal advice to regularise their status.
  • Children and families face barriers when seeking to access support, both in relation to their immigration status and due to practicalities such as service location and transport costs

Keywords: Undocumented; Mental Health and Wellbeing; Trauma 

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