New Scots: refugee integration strategy 2018 to 2022

The New Scots refugee integration strategy sets out an approach to support the vision of a welcoming Scotland.

Employability and Welfare Rights

" Everyone has a right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment."

Article 23 (1) Universal Declaration of Human Rights

" Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realisation, through national effort and international cooperation and in accordance with the organisation and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality."

Article 22 Universal Declaration of Human Rights

People who are recognised as refugees, or have been granted other forms of humanitarian protection status, have the right to work in the UK.

Asylum seekers do not have an automatic right to work, while their asylum case is being considered. If an application has not received an initial decision after twelve months, the applicant can request permission to work from the Home Office. If permission to work is granted, any job taken up must be included on the list of shortage occupations published by UK Visas and Immigration. [50] Some asylum seekers may be granted discretionary leave status, which gives them the right to work.

Access to work is a key marker of integration for refugees. [51] However, there can be significant barriers, which prevent refugees gaining employment or which lead to them being underemployed. For instance, refugees can face a particular barrier in accessing meaningful employment and careers, which match their skills, due to lack of recognition of overseas qualifications, skills and learning. This is particularly challenging for refugees, who may not have the necessary documentary evidence of their previous learning and qualifications or whose education has been interrupted. [52] Additional barriers can include issues relating to: understanding of the UK job market, including how to look for work and job application skills; accreditation or technical requirements for particular professions; English language skills; and confidence to return to work following forced absence. The perception of employers in relation to these issues can also create a barrier, which limits opportunities for refugees to enter the workforce and start to rebuild their skills and confidence.

Refugees often bring a range of skills and experience, which can be a real asset to employers, some of which may be scarce in Scotland. For example, the British Council's Languages for the Future report, [53] identified the languages, which will be most vital to the UK over the next few decades, based on economic and educational factors, including the needs of UK businesses and overseas trade targets. Of the top ten languages, four were languages commonly spoken by refugee communities in Scotland (Arabic, French, Mandarin Chinese and Turkish).

The final report [54] of the Holistic Integration Service identified that refugees were strongly motivated to develop their independence as quickly as possible. A key component of this was to gain paid employment, which gives them freedom from financial dependence. Many of the integration service beneficiaries showed strong ambition and drive to achieve in their careers. Many people were willing to start in unskilled work, but retained focus on improving their position, often with well-developed plans to achieve their aspirations, including a number of people who were interested in owning their own business.

The Scottish Government and local government have a long-term focus on supporting people, who need help to access the labour market. Employability is a key priority, which recognises the role of other services, such as education, community learning and development, social care, planning and economic development functions. A range of interventions to support efforts to reduce unemployment and grow the economy are funded by the Scottish Government and local government. The Scottish Government is also responsible for skills development and the alignment of skills and employability. Post-16 educational reforms place strong weight on meeting employers' needs and improving employability of individual learners. Partners, such as Skills Development Scotland ( SDS), deliver a wide range of guidance and employability support to people of all ages entering the workforce, including access to Modern Apprenticeships. People with refugee or humanitarian protection status can participate in Modern Apprenticeships. [55] SDS have developed an Equalities Action Plan for Modern Apprenticeships in Scotland [56] to address issues of access and broaden participation and also have a legal responsibility to offer enhanced Career Management Skills support to all young people who are care experienced up to the age of 26.

Refugees living in Scotland are entitled to access entrepreneurial support initiatives. Realising entrepreneurial ambition can be more complicated than some newly recognised refugees expect, not least because of the need for initial capital and to understand business regulations in Scotland. However, with the right levels of support, refugees have demonstrated that business ownership can be a viable option. Business Gateway offices across Scotland provide business support services and impartial advice to people starting or running a business, and can help find funding, explain regulations, and signpost access to other local authority and Enterprise Agency services. [57] Scotland CAN DO [58] sets out an ambition for Scotland to become a world-leading entrepreneurial and innovative nation: a CAN DO place for business. The Social Enterprise Action Plan [59] is committed to providing support to budding social entrepreneurs. The Scottish Government's Social Entrepreneurs Fund has provided seed funding to help social enterprises get started since 2009. [60]

Refugees and asylum seekers have the right to volunteer. Volunteering can offer some of the same benefits that working provides including: opportunities to use and develop skills; a sense of purpose; and links to other people in the community. Volunteering can also be beneficial as a way of increasing employability, by gaining experience which could ultimately support a job application. The Volunteer Support Fund, distributed by the Voluntary Action Fund, helps local community grassroots organisations to support and promote volunteering among a variety of groups, with a focus on engaging volunteers from disadvantaged groups.

Refugees have the right to access welfare benefits. Support for people seeking employment, in terms of support into work and access to benefits, remains reserved to the UK Government. This includes welfare benefits, including Jobseeker's Allowance ( JSA), Employment Support Allowance ( ESA) and Universal Credit, which will replace JSA and ESA as well as other benefits. While some social security powers are being devolved to the Scottish Government, all employment related and income replacement benefits remain reserved to the UK Government.

Some contracted employment support powers were devolved to the Scottish Government in April 2017. The service will offer person-centred, tailored support to those participating, based on an in-depth assessment of their skills and support needs. Participation in devolved employment support programmes is wholly voluntary and does not use conditionality or benefit sanctions. From April 2018, Fair Start Scotland ( FSS), the Scottish Government's devolved employment service, will commence across Scotland. FSS providers are required to recognise the specific support needs of people from minority ethnic communities and be sensitive to cultural issues which affect them, particularly women and refugees. As good practice emerges from the delivery of the service, this will be shared across contract areas.

It can be challenging for refugees to navigate the complexities of the benefits system, and it will be critical to ensure that their needs are taken into account within systems and processes. The Scottish Government is committed to a rights based approach as the cornerstone of the new social security system, guided by principles of fairness, dignity and respect.

Key issues identified through New Scots engagement

A great deal of feedback was received during the New Scots engagement that took place during Summer 2017, and a more detailed analysis of this will be published in 2018. However, some of the broad themes raised, which are relevant to employability and welfare rights, include:

1. Recognition and accreditation of overseas qualifications, skills and learning. Refugees, who have achieved qualifications in their country of origin, or have experience and skills from work in a particular profession, have indicated that these are not always recognised by employers here.

2. Concerns were raised that employers' perceptions of refugees can limit opportunities and success for refugees in gaining employment. There is a lack of opportunities to gain experience in the UK, particularly through work placements and work shadowing, which could lead to paid employment or provide references for job applications.

3. Refugees' lack of understanding of the labour market, pathways to employment and their options, including vocational training and apprenticeships, can limit their opportunities to gain meaningful employment, which makes best use of their skills.

Objectives and Actions

Objectives and actions for each theme contribute to the overarching New Scots outcomes. New Scots is designed to be a dynamic strategy, which is able to adapt to new and emerging issues. New actions will be developed during implementation. The following initial actions set out the work related to employability and welfare rights, which will be progressed in the first instance:

New Scots Outcome

Objective: what we want to achieve

Action: what we will do

2. Refugees and asylum seekers understand their rights, responsibilities and entitlements, and are able to exercise them to pursue full and independent lives.

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

Support the Home Office and Department for Work and Pensions ( DWP) in the evaluation and development of the '28 Day Move On' pilot to facilitate speedier access to welfare benefits.

Work with appropriate agencies to review the processes in place to access welfare benefits for all those granted 'leave to remain', aged 16 and over, and to help refugees obtain the support they are entitled to.

Provide information on post decision processes to successful asylum applicants in their own language.

Refugees are better able to understand and articulate their skills and competencies to support them to secure employment.

Offer all new refugees access to information and advice on their rights, choices and options available, in relation to employability, welfare and benefits.

Develop opportunities for refugees to build and develop their skills, through volunteering, work placements or work shadowing.

Develop guidance and good practice on the development of Personal Integration Plans for refugees, to outline goals and aspirations.

3. Refugees and asylum seekers are able to access well-coordinated services, which recognise and meet their rights and needs.

Refugees can build their skills, secure employment and gain financial independence.

Support development of a model for a recognition and accreditation process to identify prior qualifications, skills and learning, and develop sector specific employment pathways.

Improve availability and access to appropriate ESOL provision. Support ESOL providers to improve links with vocational training providers.

Work with employability and welfare service providers to improve understanding of refugees' skills, and support better use of the claimant commitment. [61]

Refugees can access services designed to support entrepreneurialism and establish businesses.

Develop pathways for refugees to realise entrepreneurial skills and talents, and make best use of business development services.

4. Policy, strategic planning and legislation, which have an impact on refugees and asylum seekers, are informed by their rights, needs and aspirations.

Policy, strategic planning and legislation in relation to welfare are informed by the needs and aspirations of refugees and asylum seekers.

Influence future devolved welfare powers to address the needs of refugees and asylum seekers.


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