We received funding from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government in summer 2017 to run our Integrated Communities programme. The one year programme was designed to provide additional support to recent migrants in Hackney and look at ways we could improve support in the long term, contributing to our vision of a supportive and cohesive community where everyone can enjoy a good quality of life.
Why did the programme run?
Our borough's diversity is one of its greatest strengths and most migrant residents do well for themselves in Hackney, living full lives here. However, we know that there can be challenges. Research carried out in spring 2017 showed that migrants, particularly vulnerable migrants, sometimes struggle to receive the right advice and support. Some people might find it hard to get sustainable work because of language barriers or lack of experience in the UK job market. The Council planned activities to help address some of these challenges. The programme was also an opportunity to understand more about migrant residents' needs and identify ways we could improve support.
What did the programme do?
The programme ran between September 2017 and July 2018 and involved partnership between different Council teams and voluntary and community sector organisations. There were three parts:
Advice and access to local services
Praxis Community Projects provided an information and advice service for Council staff on migrant rights and entitlements and services in the local community. Our staff could also refer individual residents and families to their specialist adviser for tailored information and advice on issues such as immigration, welfare, and health.
The adviser received 90 staff enquiries between January and July, and provided casework support to 35 individuals or families.
We also worked with voluntary and community sector organisations who support migrants in Hackney. Ten local organisations took part in a programme run by Hackney CVS to develop their organisational capacity and build skills within the organisation.
Language and employment support for migrants
This part of the programme focused on helping migrant residents improve their English (if they needed to) and take steps towards finding work or a better job. The Hackney ESOL Advice Service ran extra sessions in the evenings for residents wanting to improve their English to get advice about suitable local opportunities.
A total of 202 residents attended one of these sessions, with over 70% starting an ESOL course or getting one to one support about volunteering or work before the end of the project
We worked with Volunteer Centre Hackney and ELATT to provide new courses for migrant adults where they could learn English, start volunteering and also receive one to one support from an employment adviser. 109 residents took one of these courses.
Specialist training for our staff
Our staff had training from Praxis Community Projects on the different aspects of working with migrants. The courses helped our staff understand different types of immigration status, learn about the 'hostile environment' and its impact, and develop the skills and knowledge needed to support migrants with particular needs - such as young people and people experiencing domestic violence. 187 staff members attended the courses.
Listening to views and ideas
We also spoke to a range of people to hear their views and ideas about support for migrants in Hackney, including local voluntary and community sector organisations, Council teams, other statutory services, and academics who'd done relevant local research.
We ran seven focus groups for residents who have moved to Hackney from other countries to find out more about their experiences of settling here, living here and using local services.
What's happening now?
We've worked with our partners to make sure that the work we did during the programme carries on:
- Praxis's migrant support adviser service has been extended until March 2019
- Hackney CVS continue to support local organisations in areas such as fundraising, governance and safeguarding
- we'll carry on running training for Council staff who work with migrants, and we're looking to see whether this training can also be provided for voluntary and community sector groups
- the Hackney ESOL Advice Service continues to run weekly advice sessions, including a weekly evening session, where you can have your level of English checked and get advice on a range of free local classes
- we run a range of ESOL courses at different times of the day, including many with a crèche, with the chance to learn more about pathways to work during the course
- Hackney Works helps people who are ready to move into work or find a job
- Volunteer Centre Hackney can help you find a volunteer placement that is right for you
- we're carrying out a full evaluation of the programme, which will be completed in spring 2019
We gained lots of insights into migrants' needs in Hackney from Integrated Communities. For example, we know that finding good quality immigration advice for free can be difficult. We learned that some migrants struggle to find rented accommodation, and experience discrimination. We heard that language barriers mean some residents find it hard to take part in public meetings and consultations.
Over the next few months, we'll be putting plans in place to help address these issues.