Housing and migration- following up the guide

Last year, the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) released a guide to assist social providers in their work with migrants.

Here CIH policy adviser and HACT associate, John Perry, investigates what effect the work had on the sector:

Last July, CIH published – for the Housing and Migration Network – a UK guide to issues and solutions


It’s always good to see if guidance actually works, so I’ve been collecting a few examples since then of what housing professionals have been doing in this field.

In the case of working with migrants, one criticism made in the guide was that many social landlords fail to engage with the issues. Is there any evidence that this is changing?

Let’s start with the best news first. Wolverhampton Homes decided to use the guide systematically to review their policy positions and work with migrants, creating an action plan based on its recommendations.

They’re at an early stage, but Shabir Hussain their Diversity Officer describes the guide as a ‘valuable tool’ to get them going. They’ve started to consult local migrant support groups on the review (one of the points emphasised in the guide). This is very much work in progress, but as the guide is intended to cover systematically (if briefly) the whole range of issues about housing for services for migrants, it should make a good basis for Wolverhampton to use.

One of the founders of the Housing and Migration Network was the Metropolitan Migration Foundation, and two of the follow-up projects they are supporting develop key themes from the Network’s guide.  The first, being run by HACT and OCSI, is called Population Insight. This is a free service for housing providers, enabling them to use 2011 Census data to drill down into local information on who lives in the neighbourhoods where they work, how big a factor migration is and where migrants come from. Population Insight will be a great tool to help landlords better understand their customer base.

The Foundation’s second follow-up project is being run by Praxis. They are setting up a unit to provide accommodation for destitute migrants in London, using property supplied by social landlords and similar to Birmingham’s Hope project (which featured in the Network’s guide). The Praxis project will provide an advocacy element – for example it will convene a new forum focusing on destitution in the capital.

Salix Homes aims to improve the access of ‘hard to reach’ groups to its services. This led to collaboration with the Salford Forum for Refugees and Asylum Seekers. Separately, it led to the setting up of a Disability Focus Group two years ago. Both groups had misconceptions and were apprehensive about working together. Salix talked to the groups and came up with the idea of making a film that would give them the opportunity to talk about differences as well as get to know each other better.

Filming went really well, if at first with some difficulty, over the course of four workshops. After the first, the groups got on so well they decided to plan a joint diversity event as part of Refugee Week in 2011. The film was premiered at the event. They now meet as one forum and friendships have developed as a result. They work together on different projects including refugee week and black history month celebrations. Salix’s Debbie Broadhurst said: “this is good as customers sometimes think that refugee week is for refugees only and now we have lots of customers attending the events and learning about each other.”

In Coventry, Whitefriars aims to identify new communities, assess the impact on neighbourhoods and work in partnership with other services to promote integration. This led them to work with the Roma community (mainly from Bulgaria and Romania), thought to number up to 3,000 people. Voluntary organisations told Whitefriars of the pressures put on their services because of both the community’s language difficulties and the complications of the immigration status.

As a result, Whitefriars held advice sessions on a range of issues, attended by over 60 Roma people. The hope is that these become a permanent link into the Roma community to help improve their access to services.

Whitefriars’ parent body, WM Housing Group has developed a cultural awareness training package – ‘My Culture, Your Culture’ – which has been delivered to over 200 front-line staff. Residents from a range of new communities in Coventry talk on film about why they came to the UK, how they arrived here, how they celebrated their religion/culture originally and how they celebrate it now. They also talk about what staff can expect and need to take into account when they have contact with them.

WM’s Ravinder Kaur says “we are working towards integrating our new communities better into our neighbourhoods and also equipping our staff to engage more effectively with these new residents”.

These examples all show what housing providers can do and – even better – that some at least are doing it, often in innovative ways. CIH would be happy to see details of other examples of this kind of work.

This article first appeared in the opion blog for 24dash.com