Better outcomes for refugees

The genesis of the Integration Star

In a follow-up to our webinar introducing the Integration Star, research analyst Dr Anna Good tells the story of how the new Star for refugees came into being.

Help for refugees to integrate into this country has long been under-resourced and patchy. Specialist refugee organisations are doing brilliant work, but many other services struggle to work out how best to support refugees. And until recently, there’s been little in the way of solid outcomes data that can help shape service delivery.

It’s this context that spurred the creation of the Integration Star – a tool for services working with refugees that enables both better conversations and better outcomes.

The new Star has come out of an exciting and timely meeting of minds. For some years, Triangle had been interested in developing a Star for refugees. “It was on our radar, and several refugee organisations had said it would be great to have an Outcomes Star,” says Triangle director Sara Burns. “I could see it could really work. But because refugee support services tend to be small organisations and quite poorly funded, there was never the support necessary for the collaboration.”

“So I was delighted when in 2018 the Refugee Council approached us and said they wanted to collaborate on a Star. They’d just received a tranche of European funding for a refugee integration programme, and as part of that they had undertaken a commitment to collaboratively create a tool for refugee integration.”

The wider integration and employment programme, New Roots, was led by the Refugee Council in partnership with organisations in Yorkshire and Humberside, and has supported some 2700 refugees, often with complex and multiple needs. In our recent webinar, Better Conversations, Better Outcomes, Refugee Council head of integration Andrew Lawton explains that this programme gave the organisation an excellent opportunity ”to consider how we assessed the impact of our services, not just for the Refugee Council but also for its clients and for others working in the same space”.

“We had often felt that there was more we as an organisation could do to demonstrate a consistent way of measuring an individual’s progression as a result of our support,” he says.

At the time, the Home Office was working on a new framework to support its integration strategy, Indicators of Integration. However, that didn’t include a practical tool for service delivery organisations to measure outcomes. So the participants in the New Roots programme decided to collaborate on a tool that could work for people providing help on the ground, aligned with the Home Office Indicators of Integration.

“We wanted to work towards a set of outcomes that could be used across a range of front line services and that could be shared with other services doing similar work,” says Andrew Lawton.

The Refugee Council was already aware of the Outcomes Stars and approached Triangle about a new Star for refugees. And so the collaboration – between Triangle, the Refugee Council, four New Roots partners and ten refugee community organisations – was born.

These organisations formed the expert committee that helped develop the outcome areas and Journey of Change for the Integration Star. As research analyst at Triangle, I carried out an initial literature review around important outcome areas for working with refugees and mapped these onto the domains in the Home Office’s framework. This research was used to inform Triangle’s tried and tested iterative process of working closely with managers, practitioners and service users to draft and refine the new version of the Star.

“The result? ‘An evaluation tool that places the beneficiary at the centre of their own journey.’”

Andrew Lawton

Throughout the process we were careful to make sure that new Star could work both for refugees arriving through a government resettlement programme and for those who enter the asylum process after arrival. While resettlement refugees receive a package of support that starts with meeting them at the airports and encompasses finding accommodation and providing day-to-day integration casework, the same specialist support doesn’t exist for other refugees. “It’s left to refugee support organisations and the wider voluntary sector to intervene depending on capacity, funding and services they have available,” says Andrew Lawton.

The result of the collaboration? In Andrew Lawton’s words, “an evaluation tool that places the beneficiary at the centre of their own journey, providing them with a tool that is visual, that helps them recognise their own achievements, and really track their own progress with the support of an adviser”.

Following extensive testing and revision, the final version of the Integration Star was published in autumn last year.

“It was a long time coming,” says Sara Burns. “But we’re delighted it happened – it’s a really important tool for the refugee sector.”

Collaborators in developing the Integration Star 
The Refugee Council
RETAS (Refugee Education Training Advice Service), Leeds
PATH Yorkshire
Humber Community Advice Services (H-CAS)
Goodwin Development Trust.

10 community refugee organisations
Leeds Refugee Forum, Refugee Action Kingston, Iranian Association, Diversity Living Services, Bahar Women’s Association, Action for Community Development, West Yorkshire Somali Association, DAMASQ, Stepping Stone 4 and Leeds Swahili Community.

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The Integration Star was published at the end of 2020. A separate version, for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, the Planning Star, was published in July 2020. Both Stars are available to all organisations with a Star licence and training is available for workers and managers. Contact us for more information on info@triangleconsulting.co.uk or +44 (0) 207 272 8765.

Planning Star helps provide sensitive support for young asylum seekers

Photograph of Marie Buss

There was a sharp rise in the number of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children arriving in the UK last year, and children’s services are increasingly having to gear up to support them. It’s not easy – but the new Planning Star for young asylum seekers is ideally suited to the task, explains Triangle implementation manager Marie Buss

In August last year Kent County Council announced that it was no longer able to accept unaccompanied asylum-seeking children into its care – it had simply run out of capacity. The numbers of children, mainly teenagers, arriving on our shores without the care or protection of parents, had escalated, and local authorities in the South East were finding it hard to cope.

“Staff who aren’t used to supporting young asylum seekers need to be ready to meet their complex needs”

The Government’s National Transfer Scheme for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children is now under review to prevent the same thing happening again, and responsibility for these children is likely to be shared more equally around the UK. If that happens, staff who aren’t used to supporting vulnerable young asylum seekers need to be ready to meet their complex needs.

That’s where the Planning Star will really help. Designed in collaboration with the South East Strategic Partnership for Migration and the specialist charity Pathways to Independence, the Planning Star is specifically designed to support these young asylum seekers. It recognises that they arrive in this country without their parents, having undergone terrible experiences, and they can’t be expected to trust people, settle or integrate when they don’t even have a decision that they’re allowed to stay here.

Importantly, it takes into account that these children are traumatised, and it doesn’t push staff into trying to do support plans that may prove unrealistic. It shapes a conversation that covers the right areas and is sensitive to that child’s experience. And it’s very visual, which is crucial for children struggling with learning a new language on top of everything else.

“The Star is very forgiving and it’s very trauma-informed.”

So I think it will be incredibly useful for local authorities, children’s charities and residential services to have the Planning Star in their back pocket. As an implementation manager for Triangle, I’ve done some training with services where they were using the Young Person’s Star (for looked-after children) with everyone, including unaccompanied young asylum-seekers. I’ve shown them the Planning Star and trained them in the difference. And the response has been “thank goodness!”, because the Planning Star recognises that asylum-seeking children are on a totally different journey, and have very little control over their lives.

The Star is very forgiving and it’s very trauma-informed. It accepts that children and young people may be starting with a feeling of “I don’t know anyone, I can’t speak the language, I don’t know anything, I don’t trust any of those adults” – and that’s perfectly normal. Young asylum seekers need time and a lot of help to get to the point where they feel ready to talk and then give things a go themselves. Just getting to “stable”the third stage of the Journey of Change that underlies the Star – is a huge accomplishment for these children.

“Just getting to “stable” – the third stage of the Journey of Change that underlies the Star – is a huge accomplishment for these children.”

I love the fact that the Star has one area specifically about immigration with a different Journey of Change that is all about coping with uncertainty and making different plans for different contingencies (known as triple-track planning). And I appreciate how Triangle and its collaborators managed to design it in a way that even if children don’t get the permission to stay in the UK, it’s all about getting them ready for that decision.

It’s about getting children to think, “I need to not get too hung up on the immigration, that’s out of my control. I can only show up when they ask me to show up at the Home Office, but I need to get an education, I need to make friends and I need to think about what my options are in this country, but also be prepared that I may have to return. And I need to think about how I can make the most of this situation while I’m here, and trust the workers to look after me.”

This is something we’re passionate about at Triangle. We’ve done a lot of Stars for children, but I love the fact that the Planning Star is so specialist. All the Stars we design get under the skin of the client group and are trauma-informed, but this one is super trauma-informed. I think people would have forgiven us for not wanting to go down the route of immigration and unaccompanied asylum seeking children – it’s a complex sector, it’s quite legal and confusing – but I like the fact that we did it anyway, for children who will really benefit from it.

One other huge plus – the Planning Star allows people to collate data on asylum-seeking children that captures how they feel when they arrive, what support they accept, what their priorities are, where they’re able to progress, and what areas need more funding. For campaigners and policy-makers that is like gold dust. And if it leads to even better support for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, that would be truly great.

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The Planning Star was published in July 2020. A separate version, for adult refugees, was published at the end of 2020. Both Stars are available to all organisations with a Star licence and training is available for workers and managers. Contact us for more information on info@triangleconsulting.co.uk or +44 (0) 207 272 8765.