New Scots refugee integration strategy 2018 to 2022: engagement analysis

Analysis of engagement which informed the development of Scotland’s second New Scots refugee integration strategy.

Chapter 4 Employability and Welfare Rights

A large majority of responses raised points in relation to the New Scots 2 theme of "Employability and Welfare Rights". The following points were raised:

  • Barriers to employment
  • Limited employment opportunities
  • Benefits
  • Access to further education and training opportunities
  • More support on the pathway to employment.

Each of these points will be explored in further detail below.

4.1 Barriers to employment

Asylum seekers are restricted from working while their application is being considered (except in limited specific circumstances.) Many responses outlined a number of potential barriers to work that refugees face:

  • Responses highlighted the need for better mechanisms to be put in place to help employers recognise the prior experience and qualifications of refugees.
  • As a result of a lack of conversion courses through which refugees could get their previous qualifications recognised, they face the risk of being employed in lower skilled employment.
  • It was highlighted that refugees' level of English often acts as a barrier to employment. Considering this, responses highlighted the possibility of combining language learning with skills development – an issue further explored in Chapter 6.
  • Considering the points above, it was felt that recruitment procedures should adapt to the specific circumstances refugees find themselves in, including their broken employment histories and language skills. For example, it was felt that the English language requirements for jobs involving manual labour are too high, and that skills should be assessed through practical exams instead of using interviews in English. In addition, asking for evidence of prior qualifications or past academic achievements was regarded as insensitive, considering the circumstances in which many asylum seekers and refugees had fled from conflict.

4.2 Limited employment opportunities

Many responses raised the point that refugees are curently faced with limited employment opportunities and that they should be able to access more and better employment:

  • Responses raised the importance of skilled employment being accessible for refugees. They highlighted that refugees often end up doing unskilled labour due to a lack of available opportunities. Refugees want to apply their skill-set and work in the fields in which they are trained.
  • Responses suggested that employers could have a quota to employ a certain number of refugees and/or people with a minority ethnic background.
  • It was felt that the regulations of how working affects benefits should be applied more flexibly for refugees taking into account their specific circumstances.
  • It was furthermore highlighted that the destitution situation in which some asylum seekers and refugees find themselves meant that they were more vulnerable to illegal practices or exploitative employment to cover their basic needs.

4.3 Benefits

Many responses raised issues about welfare benefits:

  • Responses felt that the value of Jobseekers Allowance that unemployed refugees receive is not enough to meet their basic needs. In a similar vein, it was highlighted that refugees require further financial support to pay their bills.
  • It was felt that current benefit processes take too long and that they should be more streamlined, ensuring that refugees get quicker access to benefits.
  • Responses suggested that the welfare and benefit system is difficult to understand for refugees, and that they should receive further advice and information about how to navigate the benefits system. This is an issue further explored in Chapter 8. In addition, responses highlighted that many refugees were not clear about how their benefits are affected if they start working.
  • It was felt that the current processes at the Jobcentre are too stringent considering refugees' life circumstances and their level of English. It was suggested that there should be separate processes for refugees at the Jobcentre.

4.4 Access to further education and training opportunities

Most responses highlighted that refugees and asylum seekers would like to be able to have access to more further education and training opportunities, including:

  • Vocational training and/or apprenticeships in different careers. It was emphasised that the number of apprenticeships should be expanded, especially for people who are older.
  • Internships, work experience, work shadowing and employee-led mentoring schemes so that asylum seekers and refugees can develop their skills and learn about the local labour market.
  • Volunteering was seen as an opportunity to facilitate language learning and integration, and for asylum seekers to use their skills. More generally, volunteering was considered to be leading refugees and asylum seekers onto the pathway to employment. It was emphasised that refugees and asylum seekers should be given early access to such opportunities.

4.5 More support on the pathway to employment

Many responses raised the point that refugees would like to have more support on their pathway to employment:

  • It was suggested that refugees don't necessarily know where to look for jobs and that they would like to have more guidance on how and where to find work.
  • It was highlighted that refugees should receive more employability advice such as CV writing workshops and interview training. In addition, responses emphasised the need for refugees to be provided with a better understanding of current labour market demand and the skills needed to apply for these jobs. It was also suggested that university career services could be extended to refugees.
  • Responses suggested that refugees should receive more support about how to set up their own business.


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