In June 2019, Bristol Refugee Rights worked in partnership with Bristol City Council, The British Red Cross and Bristol Hospitality Network to improve outcomes for disabled asylum seekers with care and support needs.
A specific case in April 2019 highlighted that there were sometimes barriers to putting in requests for care assessments in Bristol. This included social workers very rarely coming into contact with asylum seekers and unclear social care procedures and processes. In response to this, and as part of Bristol City Council’s Refugee Strategy, an audit was carried out to identify areas where improvements could be made.
Bristol City set up a meeting with partners to enable more coordinated working. Face to face meetings were held with partners to help each party mutually understand each other’s remits and capacity, capture issues and make improvements.
As part of the improvements, new guidance for adult practice was reviewed by social care practitioners at the council. Feedback was provided on sections including understanding the asylum process, supporting people impacted by healthcare charges, and community resources to help signposting and referrals to voluntary community services. The new guidance was launched in May 2019, with subsequent audits scheduled to ensure it is kept up-to-date.
Bristol Refugee Rights and the VOICE project were also commissioned by the council to undertake a training course for their social care teams. 40 practitioners were trained over two sessions covering topics such as the asylum process, asylum support, entitlements, impacts on health and mental health, past trauma, local services available and unconscious bias. During the course, practitioners were given a tour of Bristol Refugee Rights Welcome Centre and had the opportunity to hear members of staff experience. Feedback from the training was extremely positive, and the ambition moving forward is to make this course part of the council’s annual training programme for social care teams.
Two of the council’s senior social workers have also recently delivered training for Bristol Refugee Rights and organisations from the voluntary and health sectors. The training aimed to improve knowledge and understanding of the care assessment process, the Care Act, pathways and thresholds.
Drawing upon the new guidance has helped Bristol Refugee Rights when referring people to Bristol City Council, ensuring that the best advice is provided as early as possible. An open dialogue between partners, and specifically practitioners and managers, has led to the sharing of knowledge and insight, and improved working relations. Overall this has led to partners practice and goals becoming more aligned and, most importantly, outcomes for individual care assessments being improved.
Partnership working is really important, as well as being open to recognising the pressures and limitations of statutory and non statutory ways of working. The No Resource to Public Funds (NRPF) network guidance is a great resource for feeling confident about the rights people in the asylum process have to receive care and support. Referencing this guidance is a useful way to support social care practitioners to make the right decisions about eligibility and assessments.