Often those who have immigrated to the UK have done so under difficult circumstances, meaning they may struggle when it comes to knowing which services are available to help them

Throughout the UK, local councils have worked with colleges and universities to provide free English as a second language (ESOL) courses for those who come to the UK and speak little or no English.

However, in many cases – although not all – immigrants have come to the UK under difficult circumstances and may also experience a severe culture shock. When they only understand or speak very basic English, they are highly unlikely to comprehend complex terms such as ‘safeguarding’ or ‘undergraduate’, whereas terms like ‘child protection’ and ‘help for migrants’ may be easier to comprehend.

In addition to this, although ESOL courses are free and widely available in many UK cities, huge numbers of immigrants simply do not know about them. While most UK citizens are comfortable with the digital world, depending on their circumstances, immigrants may also have little experience with technology and digital devices. This means websites offering information about safeguarding and language courses are rarely accessed by the immigrants that need them. Often, families who have immigrated to the UK will be completely unaware of the basic services they are entitled to.

The importance of visible services

Any person that moves to another country to live and work is likely to be overwhelmed with the change in culture, as it is difficult to know what to expect. Even the slightest tasks like reading a menu in the local cafe, doing a food shop, and accessing health services, can prove to be very difficult.

The first couple of weeks of a person’s residency in the UK is likely to be when they are at their most vulnerable. Some individuals may have arrived in the country via trafficking, and therefore owe a debt to their traffickers. This will limit their opportunities to ask for or access help and support. In other instances, people may have moved to the UK to escape danger and be suffering as a result of any traumatic experiences.

It is crucial that, within this time frame, services are visible to migrants so they can be protected from abuse or neglect. It is also vital that safeguarding services and organisations clearly outline what constitutes abuse. Organisations can do this by handing out leaflets and placing them in places where immigrants are likely to be or visit.

Safeguarding awareness courses

In Leeds, organisations from across the city come together to form a Multi-Agency Meeting to talk about issues around refugees, asylum seekers, and other migrant groups. It provides those who are new to the country with Voluntary Action Leeds (VAL), which delivers a Safeguarding Children Basics course within the community. It has been developed to help people learn about the basics of safeguarding before undertaking more formal training.

Across the community, this course has been well received, and specifically within newer migrant communities that may have limited awareness of safeguarding. Because of the success of this course, VAL has gained funding from the Safer Communities Fund to develop a new basics course, which will help bring together children and adult safeguarding. Here, the aim will be to improve people’s knowledge and provide them with the confidence to have conversations within their own communities about safeguarding.

Promoting services

Over the years, numerous reports and reviews have highlighted the importance of putting a person’s rights above any consideration of their immigration status, and professionals should do what they can to actively promote services to families newly arrived in the UK.

Ways safeguarding professionals can work towards doing this include:

  • Engaging with family members: In some cases, families are split up during immigration. Here, one of the best ways to help migrants is to try and contact members of their family, whether this be those living in the UK, or from outside. They may be able to help with support.
  • Considering that families may have little to no money: When dealing with minors, it is important to consider that their parents may not have access to public funds. Local authorities have a duty to protect the welfare of all children, and professionals must make sure children are able to access the support or protection required.
  • Never assume: Safeguarding professionals can never assume that immigrants will know how to access support and must actively promote even the most basic services such as healthcare, education and welfare systems.
  • Communicate between countries: Both countries should communicate to share information relating to newly arrived families or immigrants. They can do this by contacting the UK Border Agency or children’s services in the person’s home country.