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Inclusive Islington

Learn about some of the barriers residents face and how everyone in the borough plays a role in trying to overcome them.

Everyone’s experience of migrating to the UK is different and everyone’s experience once they have arrived in Islington will be different too.

What we have done to understand the experiences of migrants, refugees and residents seeking asylum

We care deeply about the experiences of migrants, refugees and residents seeking asylum. We want to understand these experiences so that we can meet their needs as best we can. We have hosted events, service users forums and focus groups to hear about people’s lived experiences from them.

In 2023, we hosted workshops with local charities who represent, support and advocate for the rights of this community. These workshops helped us understand what the emerging priorities of the community are and directly informed how the council is planning to improve its services over the next three years.

To better understand how our residents relate feelings of sanctuary, home, and welcome to Islington, All Change Arts worked with residents to gather their views – all of which are depicted in these wonderful illustrations.

Collage of cartoon drawings of things you find in a home like a clock, fireplace, chest of drawers, each with words that sum up the idea of a safe place to call home 

These cartoon drawings are of items that you would find in the home, like a clock, a fireplace, a sofa, a frying pan, a plant, a chest of drawers, some decorations, a candle, a book and a box for keepsakes or jewellery. Each one has words on them like 'always welcome', 'a shelter from any storm', 'traditions' and other things that sound like they would come from a safe place to call home.

What we do know is that despite often fleeing similar conflicts and circumstances, residents can have very different experiences in our borough, and that some may face more barriers than others.

Barriers to living in Islington

  • Legal services are stretched and therefore lack the capacity to take on cases, particularly when Legal Aid is required. This means that residents may not be able to access good quality legal advice. 
  • Migrants, refugees and residents seeking asylum can experience mental ill health, and some suffer from isolation and loneliness. When residents do seek mental health support, there may not always be appropriate support available, and waiting lists can be very long. There may also be stigma around accessing mental health support.
  • Access to health services, including dentistry, can be difficult - with some NHS services asking for identification and proof of address, which not all residents have.
  • It can be difficult for residents to navigate the welfare system on their own. Often residents need the help of an advocate to assist them with form filling, completing applications and understanding their entitlements.
  • Interpreters are not always available and there is a lack of translated materials outlining services that people can access.
  • Phone lines of some council services have long wait times.
  • Due to the eligibility criteria and timeframes upon which local colleges operate, some residents face long waits in starting a new course or qualification.
  • Many skilled professionals face obstacles securing employment in the UK due to a lack of recognition of their qualifications and experience. Many must repeat training or degrees, whilst grasping a working level of English or accessing funds to pay for additional qualifications.
  • The cost of childcare can prevent parents from attending educational and employment opportunities.
  • The cost of travel in London makes it harder to access most services and partake in wellbeing activities.
  • The government’s cost of living support has not been available to all residents, and this has left some people living in poverty.
  • After a grant of refugee status, people can find it difficult to access suitable and affordable housing. This has been exacerbated by recent changes whereby residents with newly-granted refugee status have as little as 7 days to find move-on accommodation and register for benefits or seek employment. This is hugely challenging for residents and presents a real risk that many will become street homeless due to this limited time frame. 

Getting around the barriers

To counter some of these difficulties, residents and local charities suggested:

  • more formal and and informal English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) opportunities - some residents would like to attend conversational English classes, whilst others feel they would benefit more from intensive language classes
  • more employment support, interview skills sessions and volunteering opportunities to assist them in reaching their ambitions.
  • a centralised hub where residents can access all the support they need in one place.

It takes a whole borough…

Helping people to feel welcome, integrated, and connected with the place they now call home takes a whole community. It’s not just the council who plays a role - it takes the whole borough of Islington.

The voluntary and community sector

Islington has a vibrant, dynamic, and independent voluntary and community sector (VCS). Community, arts based and faith-based organisations across the borough are providing services, advocating, and organising activities to ensure that people thrive.

As a council, we are privileged to work with these experienced partners and are grateful for their work in the delivery of vital services, improving engagement with residents, and holding the council to account when we don't keep to our own standards. We are committed to working with and supporting the incredible range of VCS organisations who support our migrant, refugee, and asylum-seeking community here in Islington.

Islington’s residents

The role Islington’s residents play in helping our new arrivals feel integrated is huge. Hundreds of residents have come forward to support refugees in a variety of ways. Many have offered a room in their homes to those fleeing wars, some have donated money or clothes and others have set up local support groups.

The council’s experience of working with Islington residents has been one of generosity, solidarity, and gratefulness - much of our work would not be possible without their involvement.

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