The Refugee Council yesterday published a report which finds refugee-led community organisations (RCOs) play a vital role in helping refugees integrate and participate in life in the UK.
You can read the 54-page report here.
In publishing the report, the Refugee Council said it wanted to highlight the diverse and vital work of RCOs and to reframe them as unique social integration agencies, with the reach, the insight and the ability to develop practical solutions to the specific problems that refugees face.
According to the report, it has been estimated that around 900 such organisations were active in England in 2016.
Maurice Wren, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council, said: “Put simply, RCOs are able to engage and support their members in ways that other organisations and agencies cannot. Language, cultural affinity, their cross-generational membership and the trust born of the shared experience of forced exile, enable RCOs to operate holistically and intuitively, and, in doing so, overcome impediments to independence that confound most mainstream organisations, whether in the statutory or the voluntary sectors.”
The report explores three main issues addressed by research into RCOs commissioned by the Refugee Council: the activities and outcomes of RCOs and their role in integration; the challenges faced by RCOs; and support to help RCOs sustain and develop their role in integration.
The report’s key findings are as follows:
- RCOs see integration as a key role and encourage refugees to engage with the wider community and UK society
- RCOs are often cost-effective, professional organisations and deliver outcomes that are directly relevant to objectives in many policy areas including health and well-being, English proficiency, employment, education, cohesion, civic participation, community safety and stronger families
- RCOs display a holistic, systems-based approach by addressing multiple factors in overcoming disadvantage and involving partner organisations to achieve results
- RCOs use key enablers such as English proficiency and volunteering to foster independence, self-reliance and engagement with wider society
- RCOs reach people that others do not
The report found that providing information, advice and advocacy was the most common activity of the sample of RCOs looked at in the research. This included advice on a range of issues, including benefits, housing, health, employment and education.
On the subject of immigration advice, the report states: “Some RCOs provided immigration advice with OISC accreditation; others facilitated access to immigration advice from other sources. Most RCOs providing immigration advice were OISC accredited to Level 1 or 2, meaning that for many issues they signposted or referred to providers with Level 3 accreditation. This appeared to be a key function, enabling them to function as a first port of call and helping users to find reputable immigration advisors. One RCO reported unscrupulous advisors to the OISC, thus helping to ensure quality advice. Several others had well-established relationships with trusted advisors to whom they could make referrals.”
The Refugee Council says that despite the remarkably effective work done by RCOs, they are chronically unrecognised and under-resourced. The report makes a number of recommendations on how RCOs can be better supported to enable them to continue to support their communities.
Maurice Wren said: “Refugee-led community organisations (RCOs) and their networks have a long and impressive track record of supporting the inclusion and participation of their members and are active in almost every locality across the UK where refugees have settled. Despite this RCOs are routinely overlooked, taken for granted and excluded from integration policy discussions, when they obviously need to be are part of the solution. This must change and we urge policy and decision makers to take heed of the recommendations based on this research.”