Good practice in social care for refugees and asylum seekers
Pointers for good practice: Ensuring access
Providing accessible information
There are many opportunities through the asylum process to provide information to asylum seekers about their rights and responsibilities of local authorities in relation to social care.
Information needs to be made available in appropriate formats − for example, in a child-friendly format for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children and young people. Refugee and community organisations play an invaluable role in terms of providing information about rights and signposting and supporting asylum seekers and refugees to access appropriate services.
Ensuring effective communication
Key elements for good practice in working with interpreters with asylum seekers and refugees are:
- Developing a good relationship between the interpreting service and the service provider. This means building up working relationships with local interpreting agencies in order to gain a better knowledge and understanding of each other’s work.
- Ensuring that interpreters understand the situation of asylum seekers and refugees and the context for service delivery.
- Securing the help of the most appropriate bilingual co-worker in liaison with the interpreting agency.
- Negotiating and clarifying roles so that practitioners and interpreters work well together and build the confidence and trust of asylum seekers and refugees.
- Briefing and debriefing for the interpreter in order to clarify any issues and develop a better understanding of an individual’s needs.
- Maintaining continuity of bilingual co-workers, to enable asylum seekers and refugees to feel safe, build up trust and avoid replication of information-giving.
- Reflective practice for both practitioners and co-workers to enable them to reflect on the emotional impact of working with asylum seekers and refugees.
Communication with asylum seekers and refugees, who have additional needs, for example sensory impairments or learning disabilities, will also need consideration. Interpreters are likely to have training needs in terms of understanding the service context and specific issues that asylum seekers and refugees may be experiencing and which may have implications for communication (e.g. domestic violence, abuse, or mental health issues).
See Raval, H. (2006). Mental health training for bilingual co-workers in the context of working with people seeking asylum and refugees. Primary mental health care, 4, 1, 37–44.This paper outlines training for bilingual co-workers (i.e. interpreters) and practitioners working with children and, families, adults and older adults.
Refugee Council offers training on working with interpreters.
See practice example: Stockport Interpreting Unit
Advocacy is needed at both an individual level and a community level to:
- increase the understanding of the social care needs of asylum seekers and refugees
- increase choices and access to appropriate provision
- empower individuals and facilitate participation in the decision-making process.
The Children’s Commissioner has recommended that all children should be appointed a guardian who is independent and can act as an advocate and enable children to participate effectively in reviews.
The Mental Health Act 2007 introduced the provision of IMHA to ensure that detained patients understand their rights under the Act and are supported to participate in decisions about their care and treatment.
Mind has developed a training programme for refugee and community organisations (RCOs) in mental health advocacy.
Timely and streamlined assessment of needs for social care
- Screening assessment to identify social care, alongside healthcare needs as early as possible in the asylum process − ideally on arrival in the UK.
- Protocols to support referral for more thorough assessment and arrangements for the provision of social care services.
These can be:
- universal gateways to social care (e.g. one-stop shops, primary care)
- organisations specifically geared to meeting the needs of asylum seekers and refugees
- organisations that are geared to meet the needs of specific client groups (e.g. disabled people’s organisations, organisations for children and young people, people with mental health problems, women, older people or people experiencing specific health conditions such as HIV).
It is important that these services are:
- knowledgeable and sensitive to the needs of asylum seekers and refugees and the process of migration
- knowledgeable about social care and the local processes for accessing support
- able to signpost and refer people to appropriate social care services, providing them with the support to access services as necessary
- referral procedures and pathways, supported by protocols, in place to ensure access and that needs are appropriately assessed and met.
See practice example: Migrant and Refugee Communities Forum, Kensington and Chelsea
Clear and appropriate eligibility criteria for services
- All asylum seekers and refugees are able to have their needs for social care assessed, whatever their circumstances.
- Assessment of asylum seekers and refugees should be primarily focused on needs for social care services.
- Local thresholds for services should be ‘equality impact’ assessed to establish whether they are appropriate in the context of the complexity of needs that asylum seekers and refugees may have.
- There needs to be clear guidance about what services asylum seekers and refugees of all ages and different circumstances can expect and are entitled to from their local authority.
- If asylum seekers are not eligible for social care services they should be assessed under the Human Rights Act to establish whether not providing appropriate services would be a breach of their human rights.
- For refused asylum seekers, detailed practice guidance on assessing and supporting children, families and adults is available from the NRPF network.