Engaging with migrants

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Co-financed by the European Fund for the Integration of Third Country Nationals

5. Engaging with migrants

5.4 Hearing migrant views

5.4.1 Hearing views

It is important to be able to understand and also respond to the needs of migrants to ensure that local services are tailored to meet the particular needs of different migrant communities or groups.

It can however be very challenging to access this kind of information or feedback, as networks can be quite fragile, and may not even exist in some areas.  In particular, language can sometimes act as a real barrier, both in terms of communicating information, and also understanding information.  Access to translation and interpretation services will be important for some migrants.  

Case study

Research in many areas has shown that being able to access language learning, and finding good, clear information about services, events and opportunities for local engagement can all present challenges for migrants.  For example, current research by Glasgow University and Swansea University involving migrants living and working in the rural areas of Angus and Aberdeenshire, has found that even after several years, many have struggled to improve their English.  This is due to a combination of a number of factors including: constraints of time and resources for language learning, and also working and living arrangements that provide few opportunities for close contact with Scottish co-workers, neighbours etc.

On the other hand, the research has found that where flexible provision is possible - through ESOL classes, and more informal approaches to language learning (including buddy schemes and language cafes) - this can provide opportunities for:

  • increased social interaction;
  • better information about local services;
  • access to support networks; and  
  • opportunities for others to learn about migrants’ lives and experiences etc.

You can find out more about this research here.

Case study

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. 

You can find out more about the project here.

Find out more...

NHS Health Scotland is now working with a wide range of partners to implement an NHS Scotland translation, interpreting and communications support (TICS) Strategy to support NHS Boards to achieve effective communication between services and service users who have language and communication support needs. These needs are answered by translation, interpreting and communication support services provided by Boards to relevant individuals and communities.  You can find out more about this here.

5.4.2 Role of third sector organisations

Many third sector or voluntary organisations already play a key role by acting as an intermediary for migrant communities in some areas, providing them with information, social opportunities and support.  These types of organisations can also be a very effective way of reaching migrant communities to get their views on particular issues.

Case study

Since 2008, NHS Grampian has been working closely with Grampian Regional Equality Council (GREC) to undertake annual consultation events with local minority ethnic communities, as a way of gathering feedback on their experiences of using local NHS services.  GREC provides facilitation support for individual involvement and consultation events, usually held in Peterhead, Fraserburgh and Aberdeen (areas that have largest concentrations of migrant workers).  NHS Grampian has found that over the years, the consultation events have provided a wealth of useful healthcare related information, as well identifying areas where further service improvements are required.

5.4.3 Techniques and methods

There are a number of other methods and techniques that you can use to gather views from local migrant communities.  Here are some suggestions:

  • Discussion groups – this might involve focus groups on specific issues.   This tends to be a less formal type of consultation and can sometimes work better, especially where there are a variety of languages being used.  Smaller events, that are relaxed and more sociable, can sometimes be popular and more effective.    
  • Public events – this might involve local community conferences, seminars or workshops where people from the local community are encouraged to come along and express their views on particular issues.  The choice of venue is important - somewhere that is familiar and local is more likely to be successful.      
  • Surveys - opinion surveys are another way of identifying the views of migrants.  However, the size of ethnic minority communities outside major cities can be very small and therefore not statistically significant.

You should remember that whichever technique or method you use, at the outset it will be important to consider language needs, as well as other practicalities.  For example, ensuring that venues are local, familiar and accessible, that the timing of events is suitable, and that childcare is available, if required.

Case study

We used a method called ‘Ketso’ to structure our engagement with migrants in our Migration Matters Scotland project. 

‘Ketso’ is an engagement tool widely used in action research.  It encourages participants to think about different research questions and contribute ideas and comments.  Participants write their ideas on colour coded ‘leaves’ and by the end of the session, the ‘tree’ acts as a visual representation of the discussion. 

We asked participants in the migrant workshops to consider their local area when writing comments on their leaves under the following headings:

What works well?

What doesn’t work?

What are the barriers or obstacles to accessing services?

What are the solutions to making the area better?

This method worked well, and made sure that as many people as possible could contribute to the discussion. Here is some of the feedback that we received: 

“For a lot of people it was really engaging – more so than just asking people to write things down.” 

“It helps everyone to contribute and makes it harder for one or two people to dominate the discussions.” 

If you are using Ketso, it is worth making sure that plenty of time is allowed for discussion – as people need to fully understand the method, and what they are being asked to do.  The method also involves an element of writing, and it is important to think through literacy and language issues before designing your engagement method.   

You can find out more about using Ketso here.

Case study

Renfrewshire Community Planning Partnership used Ketso to gather views from over 400 local residents and representatives from community groups who attended their annual community planning conference in 2011.  Ketso was seen to be an effective and simple way to engage with a wide range of people, enabling them to express their views and have their say on future priorities for Renfrewshire.  You can read more about Renfrewshire Community Planning Partnership’s approach on Ketso’s website.

Video clips

Hear about people’s experiences of building social networks in Scotland:

Burcu’s experiences of groups in Scotland:


Burcu and Petra’s views on how important groups are for meeting people: