Improving the Accessibility and Appropriateness of Services for Migrant and Ethnic Communities

Submitting Institution

Middlesex University

Unit of Assessment

Social Work and Social Policy

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Medical and Health Sciences: Public Health and Health Services
Studies In Human Society: Policy and Administration

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Summary of the impact

The increasing diversity of migrant and minority ethnic communities and the growing awareness of multiple experiences of inequalities (age, gender, race and religion) require appropriate interventions and policy measures. Since the 1990s, research by the Social Policy Research Centre (SPRC) has enabled minority ethnic organisations and other local service providers to gather evidence and develop initiatives and practices better adapted to a challenging socio- economic and funding context, responding to the changing needs of their users and challenging the barriers they face in accessing services. Areas of focus include welfare advice, health services and the needs of migrant children and their families in relation to schooling and education. Key beneficiaries have been community organisations whose skills have been enhanced to use research evidence in identifying user requirements, successfully securing funding and meeting user needs.

Underpinning research

Using primary research, participatory methods and innovative analysis of official data-sources, our research has explored the increasing heterogeneity of migrant and ethnic minority populations in Europe and the UK in relation to differential immigration statuses, stratified rights and entitlements (Kofman, et al. 2009) (1). This led to an investigation of how different groups face specific barriers in accessing public services, such as lack of English language skills, knowledge of the UK system and a general lack of trust in statutory services and the public sector, together with culturally specific needs and perspectives. We also gathered evidence on inadequate provision, lack of targeted and culturally aware interventions and of `institutional' discrimination (Fundamental Rights Agency 2013) (2) which hit differently and disproportionally specific sub-groups, including women, children, older and disabled people. Overall, our findings highlighted the importance of differentiating subgroups within broader black and minority ethnic (BME) populations and of actively involving local communities in service planning, delivery and evaluation. As members of the ESRC Social Enterprise Capacity Building Cluster, we evidenced how BME community providers have been struggling to survive in an increasingly hostile funding environment, dominated by the professionalization of the third sector and the privatisation of public services. Hence, we explored the opportunities and challenges of alternative practices, particularly the `social enterprise' model (Sepulveda et. al 2013) (3).

Over the past few years, we have developed a broad programme of activities working with third sector and BME organisations. These were mainly London-based, but the implications of our work are UK-wide. Building on our links with specific, often neglected community groups eg. Chinese, Polish, Irish, Afghani and Turkish and Kurdish, we have developed more general models of mapping and analysis, combining academic rigour with the active involvement of community members in all stages of research. This has included the training of community and peer researchers (Ryan et. al 2011) (4), networking and consultation events and a wide range of participatory methods.

Our theoretical and methodological approaches have been applied to a number of contexts, such as health services (through a major comparative European project (2) followed by local interventions) and, particularly, education services. The latter started with a focus on the Polish community, which has recently become the second largest single nationality group in the country (about 580,000 residents in the 2011 Census), with a rapidly growing number of children in schools (over 47,000 Polish-speakers in primary and secondary schools). Our pioneering study of Polish migration (Ryan L et al. 2009) (5) helped to debunk stereotypes of them as short-term migrant workers, identified patterns of family migration, networking and settlement, and highlighted the importance of children and schooling amongst this group. It also showed the diverging expectations of parents, children and teachers, and thus the need to generate effective approaches to supporting migrant children in schools and developing tools for families and training for teachers (D'Angelo and Ryan L 2011) (6). These lessons were later applied to other communities (Afghani, Turkish and the Kurdish) and more broadly to BME populations, especially recently arrived migrants, exploring the needs of minority ethnic pupils and parents and investigating good practice to promote engagement and enhance achievement. Our research on migrant families and children in schools discussed the importance of a `holistic' approach to education and the fundamental role of community-based education services in delivering language and culture-specific support to children and parents.
Key staff involved have been D'Angelo, Kofman, Ryan L, Sepulveda, Vacchelli, Sales (until 2009, now Emeritus Professor).

References to the research

All references are published in high quality journals and/or are the result of projects based on competitive funding.

1. Kofman, E., Lukes, S., D'Angelo, A. and N. Montagna (2009) The Equality Implications of Being a Migrant in Britain, Research Report 19, Equality and Human Rights Commission (obtained under competitive funding and reviewed by the Commission).

2. Fundamental Rights Agency (2013) Inequalities and multiple discrimination in access to and quality of healthcare, Vienna (Middlesex coordinated the research and the analysis in 2010-11). The report was reviewed by 12 external experts across Europe

3. Sepulveda, L., Syrett, S. and Calvo, S. (2013) `Social Enterprise and Ethnic Minorities: exploring the consequences of the British agenda' Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy 31: 633-48


4. Ryan, L. Kofman, E. and Aaron, P. (2011) `Insiders and outsiders: working with peer researchers in researching Muslim communities' International Journal of Social Research Methodology 14 (1): 49-60.


5. Ryan, L., R. Sales, M. Tilki and B. Siara (2009) `Family strategies and transnational migration: recent Polish migrants in London', Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 35 (1): 61-77.


6. D'Angelo and Ryan (2011) `Sites of Socialisation — Polish Parents and children in London Schools' Studia Migracyjne — Przegląd Polonijny" 2011, nr 1, (based on Polish Pupils in London Schools: A Dissemination and Knowledge Exchange Project, funded by ESRC September 2009 - May 2010).

Details of the impact

Our work in the area of minorities' welfare needs and access to services comprised a broad range of projects, collaborating with stakeholders operating at different levels and in different sectors and made possible by the diversity of funding models utilised. Some of our studies have been directly commissioned by public bodies, third sector organisations and other stakeholders, others were funded by research councils and through competitive tenders (e.g. from the EU Fundamental Rights Agency). We made considerable use of impact-focused and innovative funding models, such as the ESRC `follow-on' programme and the `voucher scheme' within the ESRC-funded Social Enterprise Research Capacity Building Cluster (2008-2013). The latter involved partnerships with Third Sector organisations which were given a `virtual' amount of money to spend with the University in order to carry out capacity building or organisational development activities (including external evaluations of services, user needs (5.1)). This model has proved so successful that we have funded additional vouchers via the Higher Education Innovation Fund.

Our work with BME organisations and community service providers has enabled them to better identify the needs of their clients, set priorities for future service provision, and develop sustainability strategies, including funding, service commissioning, partnerships and networking. In several cases, our interventions enabled them to secure additional funding or to establish better and more direct links with local authorities and other decision makers. For example, our original work with the Haringey Chinese Centre on the needs of older people created the opportunity to establish stronger links with the local authority which subsequently led to commissioning of services, including luncheon clubs and advice services, and their receipt of funding from Haringey Voluntary Sector Investment Fund 2012-2015. (5.2)

The dissemination of projects has been used as an opportunity to organise broader thematic Knowledge Exchange events. An ESRC Third Sector Research Centre funded event on the sustainability of BME organisations (2010) saw the participation of over 60 academics, local authorities, grant making bodies and community organisations and led to various partnership activities both between organisations and with the SPRC. Participants from a number of organisations subsequently became regular informants for our research projects, speakers at events and contributors to consultation processes. The event paved the way for a larger, 2-day conference on 'The Equality Impact of Big Society', with over 100 community sector participants and academics. The conference included a number of thematic workshops for practitioners on the effects of the spending review and policy changes on education, health, housing services and on specific provision for migrants, women, older and disabled people. These were delivered in partnership with third sector organisations such as Age UK and Evelyn Oldfield unit and the London boroughs of Barnet and Haringey. Later on, a Knowledge Exchange event on 'Welfare Needs of BME communities' (2013), discussing the effects of welfare restructuring and the future challenges for the community sector, attracted over 70 participants (public and third sector) from across the country, confirmed how the work of the SPRC over the last few years has contributed to fostering community networks and partnership initiatives and to bringing a change of mentality among community organisations about the importance of getting involved in and using research.

Recent partnership initiatives with Day-Mer (5.1), Paiwand (5.3) and BME Advice Network (5.4) are regarded as models of community-based research and have led to several enquiries and plans for long-term collaboration with other groups, such as Barnet Refugee Services, the Centre for Armenian Information and Advice, the British-Iranian Community Development Organisation and Elbistan community centre. The increasing number and variety of organisations, which have approached the SPRC over the last few years, demonstrate the perceived effectiveness and tangible impact of our work model in enabling local communities to gather evidence to inform interventions which promote broader and more equal access to public services. For example, since 2012 we have been working closely with the Enfield Citizens Advice Bureau to analyse their client database and — through additional research — identify emerging local needs, particularly among new migrant communities, and producing recommendations in terms of service delivery and development strategies. This work has enabled the CAB to indentify and `reach out' to target groups (5.5) The work with Enfield CAB also involved both commissioned research and a programme of student placements.

It is however our work on migrant and BME children in schools that offers one of the strongest examples of a thematic strand of activity whereby impact has been delivered on several levels and with a number of stakeholder groups, impacting upon local practice and fostering strategic thinking. An initial study on Polish children was commissioned by the organisation Multiverse to provide insights to be shared with educational professionals within their network. Subsequently, an ESRC Follow On project, `Polish Pupils in London Schools', provided training as well as networking opportunities to teachers across several London boroughs, for example, Barnet, Ealing and Tower Hamlets (5.6).

Our guide for Polish Parents (in Polish and English) was acknowledged by the Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza (], positively reviewed and provided as a resource to be downloaded by a number of websites of Polish communities in the UK, such as the Polish Associations in Kent ( and Eastbourne (, the Polish Newsletter for the East Midlands ( and, one of the most widely used online portals for Poles in the UK. Working in partnership with Action for Social Integration (AFSI), we adapted this into a broader guide for BME parents on the UK education system, targeting recently arrived migrant families. This was distributed and advertised among community organisations and practitioners as a valuable and practical tool (5.7)

We have also aimed to maximise impact by working in close collaboration with partner organisations, including Tower Hamlets Education Services, the Federation of Poles in Great Britain and Hackney Learning Trust, through exchanging data, gathering practitioners' insights and delivering presentations at public and internal meetings. In particular, our evaluation of BME supplementary education services received the attention and praise of Hackney Learning Trust — which had sustained the development of such services using dedicated funding from the local authority — since it represented the first local attempt to conduct external evaluations involving organisations, parents as well as mainstream schools.

In many cases, work in the area of education later led to broader interventions with BME service providers. For example, an initial voucher for a small piece of research with Day-Mer, with over 2,000 clients, was used to evaluate their education services (including parental engagement, in- school tutelage and supplementary classes) but also to raise awareness on the role of community providers in education. The research report was used by Day-Mer to successfully apply for additional funding from the Big Lottery, in partnership with other BME organisations providing education services [] (5.1). Based on this success, Day-Mer subsequently used a Big Lottery `Transition Fund' grant to commission research by Middlesex staff on the `Welfare and advice needs of Turkish and Kurdish communities' in order to inform service planning in this area over the next few years ( (5.1).

Findings from the study were requested by strategic forums and other decision makers from Enfield and other London boroughs. A similar development also occurred with Paiwand, an Afghan organisation with about 2,000 users per year and operating in Northwest London. After a first evaluation of their supplementary school services by the Middlesex team, Paiwand used funding from Hammersmith Council to commission a study on the welfare needs of the Afghan community, which brought in a number of other London-based Afghan organisations. The initiative, strongly supported by the local authority to inform more effective community interventions, has equipped the beneficiary organisations with better evidence, sounder sustainability plans and stronger capacity (through targeted training), which have been immediately implemented in additional service provision, such as mentoring ( and informing successful funding applications, such as with the Big Lottery ( (5.3).

Sources to corroborate the impact

1) Coordinator Day-Mer Centre

2) Outcome of the Haringey Voluntary Sector Investment Fund 2012-2015, sector-investment-fund.htm

3) Director, Paiwand Afghan Association

4) Senior Development Consultant, BME Advice Network,

5) Chief Executive Officer, Enfield Citizens Advice Bureau and Annual Report 2011-12

6) Ryan, L, et al (2011) Polish Pupils in London Primary Schools: A Dissemination and Knowledge Exchange Project. ESRC Impact Report, RES-189-25-0005. Swindon: ESRC,

7) Newly arrived migrant and refugee children in the British Educational System