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Refugee Women's Peer Researcher Project: Accessing rights and services in the UK

Refugee Women's Peer Researcher Project: Accessing rights and services in the UK

In the Spring of 2021 Shotwork worked with a group of eight women, with lived experience as refugees in the UK, to deliver a co-produced research project to explore the barriers that refugee women face in accessing information, rights and services in the UK. This group were trained in participatory appraisal - a set of techniques for carrying out community-led research, learning and collective action.

They then undertook their fieldwork based on conversations with family, friends and colleagues in their own communities and networks online and in local community venues including local beauty salons, with colleagues at work, in the local park and over the kitchen table with family members and flatmates.

Having engaged with 48 diverse research participants across 27 research sessions, the team came together to draw out the key findings based on what they had found.

They identified the barriers to accessing information and support for refugee women:

* System of services and support is complex, entitlements vary, services provided by a range of organisations at the national and local level
* Complexity made worse by fragmented nature, lack of clarity and accessibility in information provided online and face-to-face
* Language barriers make accessing the right information harder
* Reliance on online sources of help have put up further barriers
* Word of mouth information is crucial but patchy meaning women are unlikely to access the same services and opportunities
* Those with caring responsibilities, or are dependent on their partners and immediate family, may be cut off from rights and services, and more vulnerable to loneliness, isolation and domestic violence.

They found differences in experience depending on route to refugee status:

* Women who come via a resettlement scheme, including family reunion, may be more dependent and cut off.
* Those who enter as asylum seekers are often affected by the difficulties they faced while waiting for settled status.
* The transition from asylum seeker to refugee can be difficult and confusing particularly for the most vulnerable groups.
* Those deemed less vulnerable feel they do not get the same level of support when they need it.
* Women suffer from discrimination and racism as refugees when accessing services including rudeness, being ignored and poor quality services.
* Many feel the information and help they receive is generic rather than tailored.

They also highlighted the changes they would like to see to make the system better and more responsive to women including:

* Provide more free and high quality training so that refugee women can learn English - 
this is a key to accessing services and support.
* Enable refugee women to access education and work opportunities so they can 
support themselves.
* Build upon existing programmes to convert qualifications from different countries into 
UK equivalents.
* Provide training in IT, alongside access to equipment and data.
* Provide training for staff so they are always professional, helpful and aware of specific issues that impact on refugee women.
* Employ women with lived experience as a refugee to provide front line help and 
* Learn and build on good service, including proactive advice and signposting services 
that seek to empower rather than patronise.
* Be proactive and responsible in sharing information - do not assume that new arrivals know their entitlements. This could be an information session once status has been granted, an integration program or course.
* Fund and celebrate the local grain of community based voluntary sector organisations 
who help refugees to navigate their entitlement.
* Strengthen multilingual service provision.
* Identify specific cultural taboos and barriers to accessing services.
* Make connections with community leaders at the local authority and national level,
* Treat refugee women as individuals - with different stories, problems, needs, skills and 
ambitions. Tailor advice, information and support to individuals needs and situations.
* Share and promote work done by refugees and migrants, and the contribution they 
make to their communities and UK society as a whole. 

To share the research findings in an engaging and accessible format to participants in the research and key stakeholders, we worked with the illustrator Ada Jusic who produced a postcard visualising the research findings.

The postcard and final report is available to download for free at the link below.

If you would like to find out more about this approach, and what is happening next, feel free to get in touch with

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