In the NHS there is a major emphasis on user involvement in health and social care policy and practice. The NHS Plan and Shifting the balance of power set out a vision of an NHS in which patients have more of a say about how health care is provided in their communities.
Some refugees with disabilities or special needs are cared for by their families. There may be an assumption from service providers and care agencies that the family will look after all their needs. As a result services that are available may not be offered.
Refugee families caring for those with disabilities and special needs may be doing so without the support of extended family networks, as refugee families are often fragmented.
Refugees who are deaf have the same rights to services as other deaf people. It is important to be aware of their diverse needs, particularly as people who are deaf are often over-represented in mental health settings.
Refugees have the same rights to benefits, and social and welfare services as British citizens. However, refugees themselves, as well as service providers, may be unfamiliar with the full range of entitlements and services that are available for those with disabilities or special needs, including:
Providing services that respond to refugees’ cultural, religious and linguistic needs can ensure the health needs of refugees with disabilities and special needs are better met. The developing cultural competence and understanding area of this website provides further guidance.
For many refugees, language may be a barrier to finding out what services are available, or getting service providers to understand and respond appropriately to their needs.
Interpreters and bilingual health advocates can assist refugees in finding out about services and ensuring that their needs are understood. Further guidance is provided in the language and communication area of this website.
The research commissioned by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation identified that awareness of the presence of disabled people within refugee communities remains low.
Special needs in particular may not initially be evident because of language difficulties. Lack of knowledge of a refugee’s history and circumstances may also mean that needs are inaccurately assessed. If initial health assessments, when refugees arrive, are not sufficiently thorough, important issues and needs may not have been identified.