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Section 3: Referral and Engagement


People from minority ethnic communities can find it difficult to access employability services. There are number of reasons for this: 

  • people do not know where to go to get help;
  • they perceive services will be unhelpful;
  • they feel services will not understand issues or be relevant;
  • services may be inaccessible because of location, or the time they are open or the way they are provided.

It is important that services carry out a regular critical review to identify whether there are any barriers to services that may be preventing target groups from accessing the service. Employability services also need to be proactive and take positive action to reach people from minority ethnic groups and engage them successfully. 

Some employability projects have carried out research to determine how they could reduce barriers to services. They talked to organisations working with minority ethnic groups.

These organisations suggested reaching clients could be more effective by:

  • developing relationships with minority ethnic organisations to tap into their client base and expertise;
  • using leaflets which have representation of the minority ethnic community;
  • highlighting the confidentiality of the service;
  • engaging with the community by having posters and leaflets available in places worship, schools and community centres, as well as having a presence at community events;
  • raising the profile of minority ethnic staff working in the organisation and the availability of interpreters;
  • ensuring all staff have had equality and diversity training.  

Employability services in Scotland have developed approaches to reach people as shown in the examples of work below. 

The Youth Community Support Agency (YCSA) in Glasgow works with minority ethnic young people aged 16-25.  They find that a lot of the young people coming to them are not accessing services for a range of reasons including thinking that services will not meet their needs. They are also developing partnerships with other local agencies to try to reach more young people.  Working with other family members has helped them to engage more young women.  


Frae Fife reach people through workshops to promote their service and networking with community groups. This networking is a very important way of reaching people as not all of their clients are in touch with Jobcentre Plus or other mainstream services which normally refer to the service.

Once people have been referred, or have referred themselves, there are particular factors are associated with keeping people engaged with the service. These include: 

  • offering personalised and tailored help;
  • knowing how to accommodate people with different backgrounds;
  • ensuring clients have repeat contact with the same adviser - who gets to know the client's circumstances;
  • ability to access provision to tackle a range of barriers.

More examples of work are highlighted below.

ESF-funded employability providers took a number of steps to increase engagement and participation of minority ethnic individuals. These included the following.

  • Arranging outreach events designed to target specific minority ethnic communities. For example, one provider, in consultation with elders of a local community, held an outreach event which led to a significant increase in participation. 
  •  Forging links with minority ethnic community and voluntary sector groups to raise awareness of the service. This route was seen as more effective than advertising in places like Jobcentre Plus offices because the relevant groups would be more likely to access them, and as trusted channels they could help to overcome negative perceptions, suspicion or wariness of employment-related services.
  • Learning from community and voluntary groups about issues facing different participant groups and of the best ways to provide help and support to them.
  • Employing staff who could communicate with individuals for whom English was not their first language. This helped improve understanding and better meet clients' needs. It also raised awareness of the relevance of employability provision amongst non-English speaking communities.
  • Helping participants to have their qualifications and skills recognised in the UK by raising awareness of qualifications that could be recognised in the UK or of qualification conversion programmes.

For more information please see the Evaluation of Gender Equality and Equal opportunities within the European Social Fund report.

Communication with People who Need Language Support 

Refugees and migrants may need language support.  When engaging people who need this support it is important to think about communication. The way native speakers of English talk naturally can create difficulties in understanding for people who are not native speakers of English. The ESOL department at Glasgow Clyde College identified several factors relating to native speaker communication which can create barriers to understanding for new learners of English. These include the following.

  • How quickly someone speaks.
  • Lack of repetition.
  • High level of certain phrases or which might be unfamiliar (such as 'on benefits').
  • Using language which is too complicated.
  • Using vocabulary which is too difficult or unfamiliar.
  • Not checking whether someone has understood what has been said.
  • Speaking with a local dialect/accent.

Practitioners can make a conscious effort (and monitor their own speech) to make themselves more easily understood by new speakers of English. The required techniques are relatively simple to incorporate into work with clients and will improve understanding on both sides. They include the following:

  • Making sure the other person is listening.
  • Simplifying speech - making sentences short and simple and using common vocabulary.
  • Slowing pace of delivery.
  • Lessening any accent.
  • Checking understanding.
  • Repeating as necessary.
  • Using other means of communication (e.g. miming, visuals, body language).

Section 3 - Side Picture

Key Points

1. People from minority ethnic groups can find it difficult to access employability services and so a proactive approach to engagement is likely to be needed.
2. Developing relationships with local organisations that work with people from minority ethnic communities can be good way of reaching potential clients.
3. Communication with people who need language support can be improved through taking a few simple steps.