Change that leads to better lives

Health and Social Care Advocacy project for Refugees and asylum seekers

Lindsay from People First Independent Advocacy - which celebrates its 30th birthday this year - talks about their Health and Social Care Advocacy project.

People first project

I absolutely love advocacy, and this is a project that I am especially proud of. Why? Well for one, it absolutely encapsulates the ‘empowerment’ key principle of advocacy; and two, it is a small non-statutory advocacy project which is having a huge positive impact on the people it supports!

Our Health and Social Care Advocacy project supports people who are refugees and asylum seekers living in Lancashire and Blackpool. Funded through Lancashire County Council, the project supports people to:

  • Understand their rights to UK health and social care and explore options and choices
  • Navigate systems and processes, and access other services
  • Feel comfortable and confident to speak up for themselves
  • Raise concerns and challenge discrimination.

Refugees who access the project, tell us that they often experience barriers in accessing health and care services. This includes a lack of accessibility, access to quality interpretation and understanding of the services available. Therefore, the project also works with the health and social care system to reduce barriers and increase inclusivity. We do this through raising awareness, training, representation and challenging on our customers’ behalf.

Here are some examples of our work:

One to One Advocacy

Abdullah, a young man, was living in some temporary accommodation arranged by the Home Office and applied for asylum after a perilous journey to the UK travelling by boat. Abdullah had experienced trauma, loss, and fear for his life, and after arriving at the temporary accommodation, he began experiencing post-traumatic stress, isolation, and depression. His mental health was further impacted when he lost his bag which had his ID and mobile phone inside- his only way of contacting his only living relative back in his homeland. When Abdullah was referred to People First, he was not in a good place and had at times contemplated taking his own life. Our advocate supported Abdullah to think about what would make his life better and what support he may need. In their first contact, Abdullah said he felt relieved there was someone on his side, someone he could talk to about his problems, and he said he was given hope. The advocate worked alongside Abdullah for a number of months, supporting him to:

  • Contact his GP and arrange for some specialist mental health support.
  • Build a relationship with a volunteer from a partner organisation who spoke the same language and was able to introduce him to another young man of similar age.
  • Contact the Home Office to replace his ID to enable him to enrol on an English Course at the local college.

Abdullah now knows he is not alone in the UK and there are places he can go to get support. He has hope for his future and he feels able to contact People First should he need any further support.

Speaking Up Training

During Refugee Week 2021, we delivered ‘Speaking Up’ Training to over 40 refugees. This training explored what ‘speaking up’ is, why it is important to ‘speak up’ and what might stop us from ‘speaking up’. The training included role play and using a dual language ‘speaking up’ tool which attendees could take away with them to help them speak up in the future. 96% of attendees said the training helped them feel more confident to speak up in the future.

Photos of our advocates and attendees who completed the session and our Speaking Up tool.

Supporting the Health and Social Care System

We contributed to a three month research project run by Lancashire and South Cumbria Integrated Care System. We interviewed refugees to gather their feelings, wishes and experiences supporting the system to gain insight into:

  • Vaccine hesitancy within the Lancashire and South Cumbria population
  • Barriers and reasons for rejection
  • How residents’ concerns and hesitancy may be overcome or at least reduced.

The project to date has supported 81 people with one to one advocacy with the top three issues being access to dental treatment, access to interpretation and treatment in hospitals. If you would like to learn more about our project, please visit Health and Social Care Advocacy - People First (

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Gail Petty

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