Migrant workers are now an integral part of the local workforce, in some cases accounting for up to 80 per cent of a company’s employees.
But this valuable sector of workers often feels marginalised by local communities, leaving them isolated by a lack of understanding about their rights and responsibilities.
Local employers can see huge benefits from better integration of their migrant workforce.Lisa Barwell, chief officer of South Holland and South Kesteven Citizens Advice service
A local migrant worker who has been employed in the area for over 10 years said: “Although my English is good, I am often treated as if I have only just arrived in the UK. Rather than just working and living here, I want to feel part of the community, to be accepted and feel appreciated for my hard work.”
With their aims of fighting discrimination, challenging harassment and working for equality for everyone, the Citizens Advice Bureau of South Holland and South Kesteven have collaborated in a joint venture designed to help integrate migrant workers more fully into their local communities.
For the last two years, pilot projects have provided face-to-face advice and a telephone helpline service to migrant workers using fully trained Polish advisers.
Providing practical, professional and free advice on a wide variety of general and specialist subjects, the three main recurring issues were employment, housing and benefits.
John Willoughby, former chief officer of Citizens Advice in South Kesteven, said: “Whilst government websites claim to offer translation services, this opportunity is not always available.
“Our advisers constantly provide feedback that our clients see a real lack of services in their own language, especially when trying to resolve stressful, complex or legal issues.
“Face-to-face support is so important concerning language and terminology used on forms, as well as health and wellbeing matters.”
As an organisation, the CAB also undertakes campaign work, lobbying for change in the workplace through Government and local authorities.
The CAB’s “Reaching Communities” project was successful in attracting a Big Lottery Fund award of over £250,000 that came into operation on Monday.
The funding will be used to imbed the support and services available to foreign workers over the five-year lifespan of the project.
Face-to-face advice and information delivered in native language will be available five days per week through Citizens Advice Bureaux in Grantham, Spalding and Stamford, aimed at migrant workers from Poland, Latvia and Lithuania.
Fully-trained advisers will also help clients with completion of forms when necessary, as well as undertaking casework where a client’s issues are more complex than just providing “one off” advice.
They will also look to signpost clients to other support services such as English language courses or other specialist services that will assist with integration.
“Local employers can see huge benefits from better integration of their migrant workforce” added Lisa Barwell, chief officer of South Holland and South Kesteven Citizens Advice service.
“Less staff turnover, less sick leave and more productivity are all positive outcomes of better integration and happier workers.
“Our long term aim is to make migrant workers less dependent on others by encouraging them to learn English and to support the natural integration of second generation families from these eastern European areas.”
The project is directly targeted at the migrant worker community and will be publicised via local employers, job centres, employment agencies, schools and children centres, local authorities, churches and community groups.
Details will also be available on the database of the Lincolnshire Advice Network. Leaflets and posters will be produced in Polish, Russian, Lithuanian and Latvian and distributed widely across both districts.
Support is also being sought from the two local authorities for extensive promotion of the service across the districts at their information points and in their publications.
Anyone wishing to access the service can simply call in at their local Citizens Advice Bureau or call the dedicated Migrant Workers helpline on 0844 8476128.
Concluding her official launch of the five-year project, Lisa Barwell added: “We now have native speaking generalist advisers available daily for face-to-face and telephone advice across south Lincolnshire.
“We really believe that by meeting our objectives in creating equality of opportunity, eliminating prejudice and discrimination through providing advice, information and support, we can build an integrated community where everyone plays their part to the full which will be to the benefit of everyone.”