SCIE Race equality discussion paper 02: The social care needs of refugees and asylum seekers
By Bharti Patel and Nancy Kelley
Published: August 2006
People with social care needs are some of the most vulnerable people within refugee communities and their needs are frequently overlooked. This discussion paper attempts to describe the specific experiences of refugees and asylum seekers with social care needs. It also makes a series of recommendations for services to meet their needs more effectively.
Experiences of refugees and asylum seekers
- Subsistence levels for asylum seekers are set below normal income support rates and refugees and asylum seekers do not get the premiums normally paid to families with children, disabled people or older people.
- Unmet personal care needs, such as difficulties with washing and dressing, were common among disabled refugees. There was a general lack of awareness that agencies such as social services departments could be approached for assistance.
- One in six of the general population is said to have mental health needsand in the case of refugees and asylum seekers this is likely to be much greater.
- With about a third of refugees and asylum seekers arriving in the UK without any English language skills (the proportion is even higher for women), language and communication are major barriers to accessing social care services.
- The disapproving tone of public discourse about asylum contributes to an environment in which negative public attitudes to it exist, even among service providers.
- Agencies’ lack of information about the numbers, characteristics and needs of local refugees and asylum seekers is a significant barrier to appropriate social care provision.
- Social care agencies should carry out local mapping and consultation exercises to collect data and information about refugees and asylum seekers. As those with social care needs are likely to be among the most seldom heard, organisations should consider using flexible and innovative methods to secure their engagement.
- The social care needs of refugees and asylum seekers cannot and should not be met by local authority ‘asylum teams’. Instead, specialist teams and services should plan and deliver services that meet the needs of service users who are refugees or asylum seekers.
- The refugee community and voluntary sectors should play a far bigger role in the planning, design and delivery of social care services.
People with social care needs are the most vulnerable members within refugee communities, yet their voices are not heard and their needs are frequently misunderstood and overlooked. The barriers faced by this group in terms of access to social care support can be significant and the response from policy makers and service providers is often inadequate.
This paper was one of the race equality discussion papers which aimed to start to explore some of the future challenges for social care around provision for black and ethnic minority people. SCIE commissioned three discussion papers looking at take up of direct payments among black and ethnic minority communities, refugees and asylum seekers, and the characteristics of social care organisations that successfully promote diversity. Originally published in June 2005 to form the basis of a race equality seminar, the papers have been re-published having first been revised following discussions at the seminar.
This discussion paper attempts to describe the specific experiences of refugees and asylum seekers with social care needs. It also makes recommendations for services to meet refugees and asylum seekers’ needs more effectively. The paper also highlights the difference between refugees and asylum seekers.
This discussion paper will be of interest to policy makers, social care organisations and practitioners, and service user groups.