Co-financed by the European Fund for the Integration of Third Country Nationals
7. Creating accessible services
7.2 Building staff skills
Frontline staff are often the first point of contact within public organisations. Migrants may approach staff seeking advice or assistance. The response they receive can make a huge difference in terms of trust in public services, and feeling part of the community. If local authorities wish to encourage migrants to settle and integrate into their communities, they must ensure that migrants are welcomed when they come to access the services to which they are entitled.
The level of communication, interest and engagement with migrants on an individual level can greatly impact on personal experiences. Eman came to England four years ago. Two years ago she moved to Scotland, having found the experience in England unsettling and unwelcoming.
The first local authority area she lived in was very welcoming. Eman is always out and about, asking questions, contacting people and making connections locally. In this local authority area, the council staff welcomed this and engaged well. This council supported a strong local group for migrant communities, which opened up lots of opportunities for Eman, both locally and nationally.
Eman has now moved to a new local authority area. She approached the council to find out about opportunities for migrants and new citizens in the area. She has tried a number of times to find out about the opportunities, but staff do not seem interested. Eman believes that staff training is a big issue. This reception means that Eman would consider moving out of this local authority area, if she was able.
“If we don’t feel supported or encouraged we will lose hope. This really detracts from this area and puts you off. You need to have a plan to recognise and appreciate migrants.”
Hear about Eman’s experience of liaising with local authorities in Scotland:
Staff need to be getting positive messages from leaders within the organisation about migration. Chapter Three of this toolkit has more information. Staff also need to understand:
- The population profile in terms of migration – An understanding of the background, experiences, needs and profile of the population can help staff to better respond to people’s needs.
- The benefits migration can bring to the area - There can be a perception that migration only puts pressure on public services. However, research shows that migration can bring real benefits too – in terms of generating new ideas for service provision, encouraging innovation and bringing new skills and strengths to the area.
- The rights and entitlements of migrants – Staff don’t need to fully understand all of the rights and entitlements, as this is a very complex field. However, staff do need to understand the rights and entitlements specific to their area of work – for example in housing and benefits.
- How to communicate – Some staff may benefit from training on how to communicate effectively with people with limited English, and how to access interpretation services. In addition, training in intercultural communication may also be useful. Staff should also be aware that newly arrived migrants may benefit from signposting because they may not be aware of the range of services that are available to them.
Translation and interpretation services are an important resource for migrants. However, some concepts and experiences are not always easily translatable and may require skills in intercultural communication. GRAMNet was involved in a 2-year collaborative project exploring the experiences of practitioners, interpreters and service users in clinical and non-clinical health care settings. The project has produced a series of training videos, which provide an opportunity to engage with the complex realities of intercultural communication in practice.