14 September 2017
All of the work we do at the Family and Childcare Trust focuses on making sure parents have the support they need to make genuine choices about their lives. This involves including parents and facilitating meaningful ways for them to participate and bring about the changes they want to see. Parents who face disadvantage, social exclusion and poverty are likely to face more barriers that make it difficult to be included and feel valued.
This is particularly true for migrant and refugee parents. When it comes to being able to make genuine choices about their lives, like accessing childcare in order to be able to work and to help boost children’s development, migrant and refugee parents can have to deal with additional obstacles such as language barriers, dealing with past trauma, poor community cohesion, lack of transport options and challenges to employability.
Migrant women’s employment is around 20 per cent lower than their native counterparts. Research carried out with Eritrean and Somali refugee families showed parents expressed a deep sense of isolation, insecurity, fear and reluctance to approach official agencies for help. Unsurprisingly, these disadvantages can widen the development gap between children of migrant and refugee parents and their peers. In the EU, 25 percent of second generation children with two foreign-born parents lack basic reading skills at age 15, compared with 17 per cent of pupils with native-born parents.
That’s where childcare comes in. Childcare can play a critical role in narrowing the development gap between disadvantaged children and their peers and can support parents to work. And all parents are entitled to access 15 hours of free childcare for their three and four year olds. But the very disadvantages that childcare can help overcome can often be an obstacle to accessing childcare in the first place.
To combat this, we’ve teamed up with The Parent House in Islington to set up Parent Champions for Migrants and Refugees, a special focus of our Parent Champions programme that supports migrant and refugee parents to find their feet in their local community and build a bright future for their children. Parent Champions are parent volunteers who give a few hours a week to talk to other parents about childcare and other local services available to families.
The Parent Champions for Migrants and Refugee scheme in Islington supports parents to connect with the local services that can help their children make new friends and prepare for school, as well as support parents to work. The scheme has 18 active Parent Champions volunteers who themselves come from migrant and refugee communities, including from local Syrian, Bangladeshi, Somalian and Turkish communities. The volunteers have been motivated by their own experience of local services to support other parents. Speaking the same languages and having a personal understanding of migrant and refugee parents’ experiences, Parent Champions are able to share their own positive experience of local services in a relatable, trusted and informal way.
The scheme has engaged 55 migrant and refugee parents in the last three months alone. The parents have reported that they feel more confident and aware of services and local organisations have reported that more parents are now accessing these services.
The work The Parent House does was recognised this summer when they won the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service. After the pilot is completed in December 2017, we want to roll out Parent Champions for Migrants and Refugees to more areas. To be kept up to date about this, sign up to our newsletter below.
Parent Champions for Migrants and Refugee is a simple solution that doesn’t require us to reinvent the wheel. It helps migrant and refugee parents link up with the services that are already in place, like childcare, making it easier for parents to participate and feel included.