Employment benefits refugees and the local economies of the places they live. It gives them opportunities for financial independence, to contribute their skills and experience, and to integrate into the wider community. But refugees face multiple barriers to employment, including a lack of English, poor mental health, and low understanding of the value of employing refugees among employers.
To address this, Renaisi developed Project RISE with funding from the Big Lottery Fund and European Social Fund Building Better Opportunities programme. Between April 2017 and December 2019, RISE is helping refugees in ten boroughs in north and east London to overcome these barriers. As the lead organisation, Renaisi is working with local authority and voluntary sector partners and employers across the capital to address participants’ wider employment and wellbeing needs.
For us, designing an effective, sustainable service means understanding, from the outset, the needs of service users as well as partners, employers and other stakeholders – and working collaboratively to address them. To achieve this, we placed engagement at the heart of our approach to developing and delivering the service.
Between May and July 2016, we conducted a far-reaching engagement exercise involving nearly 80 members of refugee communities, local authorities, community organisations, and service providers. This collaborative approach enabled us to design a service that is not only responsive to refugee needs, but also involves partners that will be vital in addressing wider issues and challenges.
Together with our partners, we are providing targeted interventions across a four-stage customer journey designed to increase participants’ confidence, develop their English language skills, and help them prepare for and find work. These include activities to support positive wellbeing, such as arts and crafts and social events, as well as help with related issues including housing and benefits, and in-work mentoring support.
We also engaged refugee groups and partners to create an appealing visual identity and marketing materials that resonate with participants.
In the first quarter of the 2017/18 financial year, RISE was on course to meet its participation and job outcome targets. RISE is being evaluated by Renaisi’s research team and the Institute of Employment Studies, and a full report on its impact will be published in 2019.
In July 2017, we hosted a launch event for RISE to bring together our partners and people working across sectors in London to explore barriers and opportunities around refugee employment. 100 people participated, 98% of whom said they learned something of value to them or their work with refugees. We captured the insights in a report which you can view here.