Practical approaches to integration and independence
Feeling integrated is a deeply personal process, and there’s not a certain amount of time it will take to achieve this, but there’s ways in which you and your group can play a role in helping refugees to integrate and help them to develop their independence.
Person-Centred Support Planning
The King’s Arms Project is a charity based in Bedford where they run a range of services for refugees and migrants as well as for those who are homeless. King’s Arms Project day to day work is guided by the principles of person centred approach and goalsetting. In this resource, which they produced for Reset, they share what their approach is, how they create a pathway towards independence with the people they support through goalsetting activities and how Community Sponsorship groups can benefit from that approach.
Person-Centred & Empowering
When your group provides support to a refugee family, it is important that everything you do is genuinely helpful and empowering; i.e. person-centred. A person-centred approach places the family at the centre of conversations and decisions relating to their integration and resettlement. The focus is on what the family wants, rather than them fitting into a prescribed model or process of what we think is best. In order for support planning to be effective, the family needs a sense of ownership. You can promote this by involving them in the support planning process.
Your goal in support planning is to remain focussed on what the family want and what their goals are. You will need to focus on the family’s aspirations, goals and priorities which will enable them to live life as fully as possible. You can help them to articulate these and then help the family to think through and implement the appropriate next step for them.
In resettlement and integration support we are empowering of the families we work with and so you should not do things for people that they can do for themselves. You should not work harder on someone’s problem than they are willing to themselves.
Your support needs to be focused on empowerment to prepare the newly resettled family for independent living. When the family first arrive, your provision of support is likely to be intensive and frequent, with a focus on practical help. As things start to stabilise for the family, the focus of your support should become more about helping them to identify and pursue their aspirations and goals. As the family start to progress towards their goals, the focus of your support needs to be more about coaching them to manage life in the UK independently.
For the family to manage life independently, there needs to be a change in the type of support you offer, from ‘doing things for the family’ early on, to ‘teaching the family how to do things for themselves’. Examples of coaching the family towards this could be; supporting them to book a GP appointment over the phone for themselves rather than doing it for them, or assisting them to report maintenance issues directly to their landlord rather than passing the message through you.
At King’s Arms Project, we believe that there is hope for everyone, always; that everyone has skills, experience, knowledge, interests, friendships and relationships that can help them integrate and re-start their lives. An asset-based approach recognises this and avoids starting with and focusing on problems and needs. You need to consider; what the family’s interests may be, what they are good at, what strengths and resources they have which will help them to integrate and resettle successfully.
It is really important to do your ‘homework’ about the family you will be supporting; read all available information and do some research to understand more about their background, skills, experience, places they’ve lived, the work they’ve done, education, family make-up, etc. Note that not everyone in your group will have access to this information; it will usually be project lead and your Lead Sponsor who will then decide how and how much information is shared with others. It is important to remember that the information we have on paper may not tell the full story and so we mustn’t make assumptions about what people will want when they arrive. When the family do arrive you can speak to them about the information which has been shared with you about them to learn more about them, understand their perspective and correct any discrepancies.
Using the Support Plan Template
The purpose of support planning and the use of a support plan template is to outline
the actions necessary to bring about the things that the family want to happen. Though it may seem overly formal, using a support plan template helps to structure the conversation around what you and the family are working on together and clarifies who is responsible for each action.
After the first few days and once the family has had some chance to rest, recover from their journey and have started to settle into their new home, it is a good time to start creating a support plan together. You should create the support plan in conversation with the family, it is vitally important that each adult member of the family is meaningfully involved in the support planning process and that all children are considered as part of it. Make sure you use a high quality interpreter so that everyone is included, understands and is happy with what is decided.
In order to be comprehensive, considering all aspects of life, the support plan covers 9 different areas:
- Benefits & Money
- Education & Training
- Employment & Volunteering
- Physical & Mental Health
- Social & Leisure
- Feeling Safe
- Family, Friends & Contacts
- Self-Care & Life Skills
For each area, you need to consider and ask the family:
- What are your hopes, dreams and ambitions for this area of your life?
- What do you already have in this area which is a strength to build upon (skills, experience, relationships, resources)?
- What obstacles might prevent you from reaching your goals in this area?
- How can you use what you already have to overcome these obstacles? What can you do?
- What might you need some help with? Who is best placed to help?
- What would a realistic timeframe be for achieving each goal?
Sometimes it can be hard to articulate what you want from a certain area of life when you are not sure what the possibilities are. Because of this, we need to do all we can to make opportunities known and genuinely accessible for the family. A key part of our support to families is sharing accurate, up-to-date information about their rights, entitlements and responsibilities. Aim for 1-2 goals for each area but remember that these may overlap, so don’t worry if there isn’t a goal set for every single area. It is more important that the goals you do set are appropriate and realistic, not overwhelming either the family you support or your group.
In the Support Plan template which you can download from this page, there is a column with actions you will do and a column with actions that the family will do. This helps to reinforce empowerment and an asset-based approach emphasising what people can do to help themselves rather than the group doing all (or the majority) of the work.
It is also very important to recognise and acknowledge (for everyone’s benefit) that we don’t have all the answers; often, the expertise and innovative solutions will come from other organisations, the local community, people and places we know, etc. You don’t need to know everything but you can always go and find out the answer. If it’s not appropriate or possible for your group to provide a particular form of support then you can still facilitate this by working closely with voluntary, statutory, and other agencies.
Accountability, Transparency & Review
Accountability and transparency are important principles of person-centred support.
One way of ensuring this is that the Support Plan template has columns for the intended date by which each action will be completed. This helps to focus minds and resources upon the required activities and gently adds some accountability for you and the family.
Reviewing support plans is another way to ensure clear, helpful communication so remember to put the date the document is created on the support plan. You should also include a 3-month review date to update it together with the family to ensure it’s still representative of what you are all working on together.
Once the support plan is completed, give the family a copy (retaining one for you) and talk through it to check they understand and are happy with the contents. For transparency and accountability, it would be good for another member of the Community Sponsorship group to review the support plan to verify its appropriateness and help support the process. Once everyone is happy, the support plan can be signed by you and also by the adults in the family to confirm agreement on the listed actions.
Support Planning template [876.8KB] Download .DOCX