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Leading Through Complexity: A Social Work Manager's Reflection on Supporting Unaccompanied Minors


In my role as a social work manager within a local authority, I oversee a team dedicated to supporting unaccompanied minors. This work places us at the intersection of global inequalities and local realities, challenging us not just as professionals but as individuals navigating a landscape marked by political and ideological diversity. Reflecting on our collective journey, it's clear that the challenges we face extend far beyond the practicalities of service provision.

Navigating the Political Landscape

One of the most significant challenges we encounter is the inherently political environment in which we operate. Policies and public opinion on immigration and asylum are deeply polarised, influencing not just the broader societal context but also the day-to-day dynamics within the team. I've observed how differing views among staff can mirror the wider political debate, impacting team cohesion and the approach to supporting unaccompanied minors. Leading in this environment requires a delicate balance: fostering a space where diverse perspectives can be expressed respectfully while ensuring our focus remains on the well-being of the young people we serve.

Addressing Global Inequalities from a Local Standpoint

The global inequalities that drive migration and affect unaccompanied minors are a constant undercurrent in our work. These inequalities manifest in the challenges these young people face, from language barriers and documentation issues to accessing education and health services. As a manager, I see the direct impact of these global issues on local service provision. It's a daily reminder of the need for policies and practices that are not only responsive but also proactive, anticipating the unique needs of unaccompanied minors and addressing them within the constraints of local resources and national policies.

The Complexity of Day-to-Day Operations

Within the local authority, the day-to-day support for unaccompanied minors is multifaceted. Our team work tirelessly to navigate the complexities of health and education systems, advocate for appropriate accommodations, and ensure that each minor's age and background are considered with sensitivity and accuracy. These efforts are often hampered by the practical realities of limited resources and bureaucratic hurdles. As a manager, my role involves not just overseeing these operations but also advocating for my team and the minors we support, within an often constrained political and financial environment.

Creating Resilience and Empathy

Amid these challenges, the resilience of both the unaccompanied minors and our staff stands out. It's a testament to the capacity to adapt and support others, even in the face of significant adversity. Leading a team in this context requires fostering an environment of empathy and resilience, encouraging staff to share their experiences, learn from each other, and remain committed to our roles. It's about building a culture that values diverse perspectives and harnesses them towards a common goal: the well-being and successful integration of unaccompanied minors into our communities.

Looking Forward

The role of local authorities in supporting unaccompanied minors continues to evolve. The challenges are significant, but so too are the opportunities for positive impact. By embracing a leadership approach that values dialogue, diversity, and dedication, we can navigate the complexities of our political environment and make a meaningful difference in the lives of unaccompanied minors. It's a journey that requires not just skill and perseverance but a deep commitment to the principles of social work in the face of global inequalities and local challenges.


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