Bev Jones and Siobhan Andrewartha

Asylum seeker women’s group

Background

Our service user group members are new to the country and originate from a diverse background with limited experience of a formal robust health service. In addition to this, they are isolated due to language barriers.

In order to facilitate engagement to address their needs as a team we felt we needed to be proactive and look at innovative ways of providing a service for unmet health needs.

We started attending an evening conversation club which was being run by a voluntary organisation in order to raise awareness of our service in a less formal neutral environment. This has proved to be successful and has facilitated increased engagement. However, it has highlighted the fact that it is difficult to engage women; we are seeing many vulnerable women who have experienced many difficulties including trafficking, sexual exploitation and slavery.  

 

It is difficult to engage women; we are seeing many vulnerable women who have experienced many difficulties including trafficking, sexual exploitation and slavery

 

There is no specialist group for these women to attend to receive support. We would welcome support from the RCN to establish such a group in Barnsley. As a team we feel this group is underserved and vulnerable and developing a support group is vital to their recovery and integration into the UK’s society.

Aims and objectives

The aim of the project was to support vulnerable asylum seeker women to access a safe space to address physical, psychological, emotional and social needs.

community woman final

Activity to date

A weekly women’s group has been set up during the day providing friendship, conversation practice and peer support.

Outputs to date

  • Supporting vulnerable asylum seeking women and meeting their holistic needs
  • Empowering asylum seeking women to take ownership of their health needs
  • Develop new opportunities for the Health Integration Team (HIT) service and raise awareness of the service

Lessons learnt

Be more judicious of who we partner with. We made links with a charitable organisation but had to severely adjust our project aims and objectives to meet their rigid criteria to be eligible for their bid. We should not have pursued this bid. 

Think about the suitability of the venue. We originally hosted the group in a corporate building which was not child friendly.

The specialist health visitor for asylum seekers and refugees left her post in July 2017 and her post has been vacant to date. This has impacted upon our recruitment of women into our group. We have therefore used this time to regroup, plan and make connections with key stakeholders such as Refugee Council and Barnsley Council, locate a new venue and plan a programme of activities for 2018.

open book

Reflection on impact

  • To improve the health and well-being of asylum seeking women
  • Raise the profile of HIT services
  • Build and develop networks with independent and public health care members
  • A model for replication to be used for future project
nurse-from-back-with-patient-close-up-edited
Our service user group members are new to the country and originate from a diverse background with limited experience of a formal robust health service

The way forward

  • We aim to raise awareness of the impact of the Health Integration Team and our women’s group project through writing for publication. We envisage this will raise our profile at a national level and hope to be recognised as a beacon of excellent practice for our innovative work with asylum seekers
  • We would like to highlight to commissioners the impact our service has on asylum seekers, particularly the difficulty to measure impacts which are not part of traditional quality measures such as Quality Outcomes Framework (QOF), Commissioning for Quality and Innovation (CQUIN), friends and family or patient/public involvement
  • We would like to develop a national minimum expected communication standards of care for asylum seekers as we frequently hear that interpreters have not been used or the health needs of asylum seekers have not been recognised 

Sustain momentum embed the project

Through partnership working with Refugee Council, Independent Domestic Abuse Service (IDAS), MIND, Central Library and pooling resources to sustain the project.