NEW RESEARCH: Pandemic exposed major problems for resource availability and mental health wellbeing for refugees

As part of ongoing research conducted by the University of Birmingham’s Institute for Research into Superdiversity (IRiS) a study on the impact of the COVID-19 in the UK’s Community Sponsorship Scheme (CSS) concluded that with the advent of the pandemic and the introduction of social distancing and lockdown in March 2020 Community Sponsorship groups were challenged to offer alternative support to refugees in new ways. As the pandemic took place emerged and evolved, volunteers, majority of whom are retired or semi-retired realised that many refugees faced language barriers or were unable to access information digitally. With some volunteers and refugees needing to shield themselves and many services moving to remote provision, these groups faced a situation very different to that for which they had planned.

The study also found how the mental health of many refugees had deteriorated as expected during the pandemic, but it was more difficult for refugees as they were already experiencing psychological problems associated with experiences of conflict, loss and isolation as lockdown was overwhelming for refugees already struggling with trauma. Some local groups did try and offer support such as introducing refugees to activities such as gardening and birdwatching to help with their wellbeing, but such resources were not available to all.

Dr Marisol Reyes-Soto, co-author of the research from the University of Birmingham says: "The pandemic came at a difficult time for those refugees who were part of the community sponsorship scheme. Our research highlighted the problems that persisted, but we have created a toolkit for both community groups and refugees which provides resources for sign-posting and concrete examples of how digital tools and wellbeing support can be obtained. It is essential to have these tools in place for refugees who have often experienced trauma and will not be left to their own devices during a critical period when they are attempting to settle in their new communities."

  • Click here to see the full report ‘Community Sponsorship Scheme: Supporting refugees and volunteers during the Covid-19 pandemic'.
  • Click here to access the toolkit with resources for use during and beyond the Covid-19 Pandemic.
  • For more information on monitoring & evaluation of community sponsorship schemes, read the report on the Roundtable on Refugee Sponsorship Monitoring and Evaluation we held last March 31st 2021 here.
  • For more information on the impact of COVID 19 on welcoming and integration for refugees and migrants across the EU, and on the responses to COVID-19, read the SHARE Network survey here.