Romani Wellbeing Project

Implementation period: April 2017 – April 2020

The aim of this project is to provide advice and support Romani people living in Manchester to improve access to a diversity of possible social needs, related to the social inclusion of the community and its members. This project make a distinction between individual/family social requirements and group social needs of the Roma, as a specific ethnic migrant community. The individual and family needs that arose during our work and are addressed within this project are predominantly about building individual capacity to gain knowledge of their social rights, improving their own skills and access various types of social opportunities (e.g. education system, welfare system, NHS system, housing rights, employment/work rights). The project objectives are:

  • Inspire the next generations to be the best they can;
  • Support people to find work, stay in work and progress at work;
  • Improve health and wellbeing;

Our services reach out some of the most vulnerable and excluded members of the Roma community, including older people, single parents, people with mental health issues and physical disabilities. Nonetheless, an additional focus of this project is on the Roma community need to develop a community leadership and self-organisation. The importance of self-reliance and having influence on how the needs of Roma are interpreted and problematized is stressed both when addressing individual or collective social needs.  Through this project we want to continue to support Roma migrants by:

1.     English for Speakers of Other Languages Class

One of our main activities is to equip Roma beneficiaries with knowledge and skills that will enable them to independently seek employment. There is evidence to show that a language barrier is one of the main obstacles in accessing the labour market, so within this project we seek opportunities to engage various organizations that would be able to offer support in the provision of ESOL classes. Between October 2018 and April 2019, the BHA in collaboration with the LifeSkills Manchester initiate the first class of English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL). The class was led by a qualified language teacher and has a helpful assistant to support 10 individual learners. The graduation of this first class has been held at the end of April 2019 when all the students received an ESOL Class Graduation Certificate. Nevertheless, this highlights the need for local adult literacy and English classes, as key to families’ ability to participate in community life.

2.     Educational and Qualification attainment

Research suggests that the marginalisation of Roma is exacerbated by their limited access to educational opportunities, systematic exclusion from schools, negative education experiences, low qualifications and early drop out. Underlying factors, such as family poverty, poor education of parents, perceived discrimination and racism experienced in schools contribute further to their limited opportunities. Within this project we considered that guiding people efficiently through the network of available education services at the first opportunity helps avoid risks to children’s safety and wellbeing and ensures that families integrate effectively. Therefore, we provide support to Roma families for the registration of their minor children within the education system. We also provide any advice to school staff in relation with educational matters related with the educational achievement of Roma pupils or students in schools. The project also aim to encourage and support Roma young people to continue with their studies to achieve higher qualifications

3.     Employment support and advice

Roma tend to face much larger barriers to labour market integration than non-Roma migrants from central and eastern Europe. One of the core objectives of this project is to provide advice and support to those Roma migrants that are Jobless but actively seeking for work. For instance, the process of applying for a National Insurance number is the same for Non-EU citizens, although you must have the right to work or study in the UK to obtain it. Within this project we offer advice and support to Roma migrants for obtaining this important document.  Likewise, we provide guidance and direct support to Roma Jobseekers for building CVs; online job search and various Job applications.

4. Self-Employment and Career advice

During this project we have noticed that a good number of Roma migrants have already developed a self-employed business in various areas, such as: cleaning services, trading, satellite antenna, constructions or driving. However, most of the self-employed we meet are men’s and only very few women embarked on the self-employment path. While men work, women tend to look after children or older relatives, deal with bills or letters from services. While many women were happy with their domestic roles, some talked about wanting to engage in further education, find employment or participate in community activities. We decided to evaluate the skills of the women in order to link those to skills to self-employment opportunities. Therefore, we have promoted the idea that self-employment is not only a men’s opportunity but also can be a viable option for women.

5.     Welfare Assistance support

Many Roma families have limited knowledge of the possibilities available to them or had no confidence to access these. Many families relied on informal networks to get information on health, welfare, housing, social work. An additional objective of this project is to enable those families which go through a crisis or change in employment to access welfare benefits. This temporary welfare supports it is important to prevent starvation, disease, and overall misery among the poorest of the target group. As results of this activity we provided support and advice [application and interviews] to three families to access the Universal Credit benefits system. Nevertheless, improving communication with families on how services operate and what services can do for them remains a priority of this project.

6.     Housing

Roma migrants living in Manchester face multiple dimensions of disadvantage across housing. With very few exceptions, Roma migrants in Manchester live in rental accommodation. During this project we built concerns about dishonest behaviour of some of the landlords. Often our beneficiaries are worried about requesting home repairs or maintenance although they rent the property with the explicit responsibility of the landlords to repair and maintain the property. A similar problem is that some of the tenants don’t receive receipts for the rent they are paying to the landlords. Our Support Worker advise various Roma tenants in various issues such as the legal requirements for the landlords to ensure their home is safe and in good repair; to direct the tenancy deposit to The Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS); to receive receipts every time they pay the rent.

7.     Access to Health Services

An added objective of this project is to ensure that Roma migrants have access to health services. One of the major setbacks seems to be related with the GP registration. Although the NHS regulation and judicial recommendations settle very clearly that for EU citizens applies the same rules in terms of registration, we met a number of cases where Roma migrants have been refused to be register by GP reception staff on the ground that they need to provide a relevant ‘proof of address’. Many of new arrivals had the opportunity to provide only Tenancy agreement, and some of them, because they live with their relatives, neither of these documents.  In our view there is an obvious need for health service providers to take an active approach to engaging with Roma migrants. If there is a general problem with the GP staff attitude towards the Roma migrants, as we found, this might be an issue that needs impending and urgent exploration.  We also plan to find alternative methods to ensure Roma communities are aware of and comfortable with using NHS services. This could include contacting trusted Roma individuals who can act as community mediators or direct involvement of the NHS by hiring members of staff to translate and communicate directly with the community. It could also involve thinking imaginatively about how different services interconnect and where engagement with Roma migrants in the local authority is most extensive.

Project Team:

  • Liviu Dinu, Community Engagement & Development Worker