New Scots: integrating refugees in Scotland's communities 2014-2017 final report

Report on collaborative work which has taken place under the New Scots refugee integration strategy from 2014 to 2017.

Employability and Welfare Rights

Key Achievements:

  • Holistic Integration Service, a partnership which supported 1,885 refugees. Funded by Big Lottery Scotland and led by Scottish Refugee Council with Bridges Programme, British Red Cross, Glasgow Clyde College and Workers' Educational Association Scotland.
  • Refugee customer journey mapping for resettled Syrian refugees. Scottish Refugee Council and the Department for Work and Pensions ( DWP) also co-developed and co-delivered a training masterclass to Jobcentre staff on the how to apply the Claimant Commitment to refugees.
  • Revisiting the 2010 Scoping Study on recognition of refugees' and migrants' prior learning and qualifications.

Policy Context

There is strong evidence that employment is good for physical and mental health and well-being of individuals. [28] Employment can not only provide income to help support an individual and their family but also provide social links, a sense of purpose and inclusion within a community. Employment also benefits wider society through the harnessing of individual skills to provide services and products, as well as contributing to the economy. For refugees, employment can be a route out of poverty and an important part of integrating into their local community.

The Scottish Government, DWP and Scottish local authorities all aim to support employability of adults and young people. This includes a commitment to support refugees. The Scottish Government also supports a range of enterprise initiatives, including social enterprise.

Refugees and asylum seekers have the right to volunteer, though only refugees currently have the right to work. [29] Refugees also face particular challenges in accessing employment, including: recognition of existing skills and experience; evidence of qualifications; understanding of the local jobs market and industry or professional requirements; gaps in employment or education; and English language skills.

'Working for Growth' [30] (Scotland's employability framework) set out aims to improve skills development, learning and employability for people, while also supporting employers to find the skilled employees they need to grow their business. Employability is also a key priority in many Single Outcome Agreements in recognition of the important role of local government (and partners in Local Employability Partnerships) in employability strategy and implementation.

Employment and support to enter employment are reserved to the UK Government. During the timeframe of New Scots, and following the Scottish referendum on Independence in 2014, agreement was reached to devolve some contracted employment support powers to Scotland, although the role and function of Jobcentre Plus remains reserved. The implementation of UK policies, such as the Claimant Commitment, digitalisation and conditionality to learn English, impact on refugees' long term integration in Scotland, and these matters will not be impacted positively by devolution as they remain reserved matters. Devolved employment support will commence in April 2017 with a transitional year. From April 2018, refugees in receipt of benefits will have early access to devolved employment support. Participation in devolved employment programmes will be wholly voluntary.

During the timeframe of New Scots it was also agreed that certain social security powers would be devolved. The Scottish Government has been clear that new social security powers will be guided by principles of fairness, dignity and respect. In response to the independent analysis of the social security consultation, which ran for three months in 2016, [31] the Scottish Government also committed to a rights based approach as the cornerstone of the vision for a new system. The Scottish Government continues to work with key organisations in order to achieve this.

Climbing the Cobbler, Arrochar
Climbing the Cobbler, Arrochar
Photo: Scottish Refugee Council

Strategy Outcomes

In 2014 the New Scots strategy set out three outcomes for Employment and Welfare:

1. Refugees to be better supported to move on from asylum support within the 28-day move-on period by ensuring benefits are in place when asylum support ends.

2. Refugees to be supported to fully understand their rights to welfare support, the labour market and volunteering employability opportunities and as a result, are increasingly able to access these opportunities.

3. Refugees to access services designed to support entrepreneurialism and an increased proportion use their skills to contribute to Scotland's economy and society.

1. Refugee Move-On Period

People who have applied for recognition as a refugee in the UK may receive asylum support if they are eligible. People who have been recognised as refugees are entitled to access mainstream benefits, as appropriate for their circumstances on the same basis as UK nationals. A 28-day period is allowed for newly recognised refugees to move-on from their asylum accommodation and support. This means that by the end of the 28 days they are expected to have found their own accommodation and applied for mainstream benefits or gained employment.

Evidence was gathered by Scottish Refugee Council [32] to examine the scale of issues and the impact this had on other services. The DWP shared claimant journeys for key benefits including Employment Support Allowance, Income Support and Job Seekers Allowance ( JSA). The thematic group concluded that information about how to claim benefits and the processes involved needs to be available for asylum seekers to prepare for the move-on period.

The implementation of Universal Credit poses a further risk due to the increase in processing times for new claims but the roll out has not progressed as quickly as expected. DWP worked with the Scottish Refugee Council to improve processing times of JSA, Income Support and Employment Support Allowance for newly-recognised refugees. As part of this work, new guidance for DWP staff on processing new claims for refugees was developed. A workshop was facilitated by DWP and brought together the Home Office, DWP, and Scottish Refugee Council to review all steps in processing a benefit claim and to identify areas for improvement. As demonstrated by the evaluation of the Holistic Integration Service, one of the main barriers for processing benefit claims of new refugees has been the allocation of National Insurance numbers.

As part of the programme to resettle Syrian refugees, DWP and the Home Office agreed on an information sharing process which enabled DWP to develop an efficient and successful model for processing benefits, which will inform processes to be developed for all new refugees. DWP continues to work with the Home Office to resolve challenges with allocation of National Insurance numbers which are required to enable claims to be processed and prevent destitution of newly recognised refugees.

Case Study

DWP Resettlement Work

In September 2015, the UK Government committed to resettle 20,000 Syrian refugees to the UK by the year 2020. Refugees arriving under the Syrian Resettlement Programme are entitled to work and access benefits. To support this commitment in Scotland the DWP appointed a Scottish Refugee Coordinator to work across all Directorates.

The aim was to ensure that Syrian refugees were able to access benefits and Job Centre Plus services as quickly as possible. This would enable them to settle into their new communities and start to rebuild their lives.

The Scottish Refugee Coordinator designed and developed a refugee customer journey. This was shared with Work Coaches to help them support refugees towards employment. Employment support training and awareness of the particular challenges facing newly resettled refugees was also made available to coaches.

The creation of the DWP Scottish Refugee Coordinator role enabled Syrian refugees to receive a streamlined service from arrival. They were able to access benefit support and begin to work toward fulfilling their employment ambitions. The lessons learned through this dedicated work is now helping to inform the DWP approach to supporting newly recognised refugees and to further inform New Scots work.

In a single Scottish Jobcentre, where work coaches actively engaged with Syrian refugees, by the end of the first year of the resettlement programme:

  • One refugee was self-employed
  • Three were on a DWP training programme
  • One was undertaking work experience
  • Five were attending a Further Education college course one day per week in hairdressing
  • One had started full time at college
  • One was awaiting an application for full-time education

2. Refugees understand their rights and can access welfare and employment opportunities

New Scots development was informed by the existing expertise and work of partners. This included the Holistic Integration Service, led by Scottish Refugee Council in partnership with Bridges Programmes, British Red Cross, Glasgow Clyde College and Workers' Educational Association Scotland. The Service secured funding from BIG Lottery Scotland in October 2012 for a service to run over a three year period, starting in February 2013.

The Holistic Integration Service directly contributed to assisting refugees to integrate into Scotland's communities during the timeframe of New Scots. The Service took an empowerment and rights based approach to address the needs of new refugees in a person-centred approach, following the principles of: early intervention and prevention; recognising resilience and vulnerability; and pursuing sustainable outcomes for refugees.

The Holistic Integration Service final evaluation report [33] demonstrated that the service has impacted:

  • Navigating DWP processes. 87% of the 516 claims for benefit made in the first three quarters of year three of the service were made with the assistance of the Scottish Refugee Council. Once refugees are in receipt of benefit payments, there is evidence that many refugees will continue to require some level of assistance to resolve problems that arise.
  • Refugees learning about and understanding their rights
  • Building refugees' confidence
  • Guidance when navigating career and education options
  • Demonstrating the importance of support in between fortnightly jobseekers' appointments at the Jobcentre Plus.

The Holistic Integration Service ended in June 2016 and the final research and evaluation report was published online. [34] Based on learning from the Service, BIG Lottery Scotland awarded new funding for Scottish Refugee Council to deliver a new Integration Service for two years.

Case Study

Holistic Integration Service

Coordinated, long-term planning for service provision to support refugees has always been challenging. The Holistic Integration Service was designed to build successful partnerships which would integrate data collection and shared analysis to help address these challenges.

Led by Scottish Refugee Council, the Service combined advice and advocacy (Scottish Refugee Council) with additional referral programmes including: enhanced support (British Red Cross); ESOL courses (Glasgow Clyde College and Workers Educational Association Scotland); and employability support (Bridges Programmes). The Service offered up to 12 months support to people who have been granted Refugee Status, Humanitarian Protection or Discretionary Leave to Remain following an asylum claim in Scotland. The whole service provision was based on a Personal Integration Plan developed by refugees with their Integration Adviser (Scottish Refugee Council) where they would set their goals and identify actions to achieve them. The plan included key integration areas: housing, social security, health, employment, education and social connections.

The Service sought to stream-line provision for refugee support and deliver a person-centred service with a focus on beneficiary rather than organisational needs. The diverse partners involved each brought their experience, individual ethos and different patterns of service provision. The Service approach enabled organisations to go beyond recording only advisor activity data to promote a social policy driven analysis of frontline work. This effectively operationalised the Indicators of Integration and utilised the lived experience of both refugees and the practitioners who assist them to improve support for refugees.

Over three years, 1,885 refugees engaged with the Holistic Integration Service:

  • 73% were aged between 25 and 39
  • 78% of households presented as single
  • 74% of households were headed by men
  • Country of origin included: Eritrea (30%), Sudan (21%), Iran (15%) and Syria (10%)

Scottish Refugee Council and DWP also worked together to deliver a masterclass for Jobcentre Plus staff on the Claimant Commitment for refugees in Jobcentres in Glasgow, North Lanarkshire and South Lanarkshire Offices. Twelve sessions were delivered in total to increase the understanding of refugees' experience and particularly the conflicting priorities which people who have recently had their refugee status recognised need to manage as they move-on from asylum support and accommodation. It is intended that the learning from these classes will continue to be included in ongoing quality and performance exercises for staff around the Claimant Commitment and be offered to new DWP Work Coaches. [35]

A key issue identified by refugees when seeking employment in Scotland is the recognition of their skills and prior qualifications. In 2010, a scoping study on Support Mechanisms for the Recognition of the Skills, Learning and Qualifications of Migrant Workers and Refugees was published. [36] The Scottish Government commissioned the Training and Employment Research Unit ( TERU) at Glasgow University to revisit the scoping study. The recommendations are being considered by the Scottish Government.

English language skills are important to enable employment, and equally employment can help to develop language skills, particularly for professional language specific to certain roles or sectors. Access to English Language Requirement ( ELR) provided to jobseekers led to improvement in English language proficiency for some, but DWP also identified a need for additional support for absolute beginners and those with low levels of literacy. ELR provision ended in June 2016. Since then DWP, Education Scotland and the Scottish Government have been continuing to discuss ways to improve on the previous process with an aim to meet the English language skill needs for refugees seeking employment. English language skills are also a focus of work for the Education thematic group.

3. Refugees can access entrepreneurial support

Refugees living in Scotland who have right to remain are entitled to access entrepreneurial support initiatives on the same basis as anyone legally residing in Scotland.

Scotland CAN DO affirms the Scottish Government's ambition to help Scotland become a world-leading entrepreneurial and innovative nation: a CAN DO place for business. Partners in the initiative come from across the public, private and third sectors and offer a wide range of support for both new and existing entrepreneurs. It is recognised that to achieve sustainable economic growth and create opportunities for everyone in Scotland to flourish, there is a need for collaborative work to accelerate entrepreneurship and innovation across Scotland. [37]

Business Gateway offices across Scotland provide business support services and impartial advice to people starting or growing their business. Experienced business advisers and a range of free workshops and events across Scotland offer opportunities to develop skills and link in to networks. [38]

New Scots recognised that refugees may face additional challenges or barriers which limit their opportunities to pursue their entrepreneurial ambition. For example, English language skills, recognition of previous skills or experience and knowledge of any required certification or standards for the type of business they are interested in running. Awareness of UK business practices, levels of demand for their product or service, local logistics and securing resources to enable start-up will also impact on the potential for success.

Specific work through New Scots to help tackle these additional challenges has not as yet been progressed. There are refugees who have successfully pursued their entrepreneurial goals, some of whom have engaged with mainstream support such as Business Gateway. However, enabling more refugees to access entrepreneurial support remains a challenge.

Broader Impact of New Scots on Employment and Welfare

Partnership working and discussions as part of the New Scots approach have led to improved understanding of employability and welfare issues for wider Scottish interests through increased communication particularly with DWP and the Home Office.

The New Scots Employability and Welfare thematic group is now represented on the National Delivery Group ( NDG) and on the Third Sector Employability Forum ( TSEF) for Scotland's employability framework 'Workforce Plus'. [39] This framework supports the development of local multi-agency employability partnerships within broader Community Planning Partnerships. Involvement in these groups enables challenges facing asylum seekers and refugees to be considered as part of wider approaches to employability.

Refugees' needs have been assessed for the development of the new Employment Support Programme that will be delivered by the Scottish Government from April 2018.

Refugees, including some who were employed in construction in Syria
Refugees, including some who were employed in construction in Syria, visit the site of a new care home in West Dunbartonshire. Some are now studying for their Certificate of Site Safety as a first step to returning to construction work here in Scotland. West Dunbartonshire employability team organised the visit with building contractors Morgan Sindall.
Photo by Trish McCluskey

Continuing Challenges

Challenges continue to exist for people who are newly recognised as refugees in accessing their benefit entitlements. This is often associated with allocation of National Insurance numbers and accessibility of digital claims. DWP is continuing its efforts to improve processes and build links with the Home Office to increase coordination with other services and processes. The work of DWP as part of the Syrian Resettlement Programme has been recognised as highly beneficial to enabling refugees to settle and integrate quickly - it is hoped that this can be developed or extended to benefit all refugees.

Refugees have identified that recognition of skills gained from employment in their home country and lack of opportunities to gain work experience in Scotland limit their chances of securing employment. Work to increase DWP staff awareness of these challenges may help them to support job seekers' but it is recognised that refugees also need support to: articulate their skills and competencies within the UK labour market; build connections and networks; and gain work experience.

Volunteering can have similar benefits to employment by enabling people to build social connections within their community, provide a sense of purpose and an opportunity to contribute. Volunteering can also be a useful step towards employment as a means of developing networks as well as gaining skills and experience. Job Centre staff supporting claimants have fed back a clear need for the identification of volunteering opportunities; this would enable effective referrals. Strategic work to address this has been undertaken with Project Scotland, a charity which helps young people aged 16 to 30 to volunteer. [40] Further work will be necessary to identify pathways for all refugees who wish to access volunteering opportunities.


Email: Scotland's Refugee Strategy

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