Refugee community organisations (RCOs) are often a key source of volunteers and befrienders, providing interpretation and advocacy support to their communities. Their involvement in planning and delivery of services can also contribute significantly to service development. With the cooperation of health professionals, the involvement of RCOs can support health promotion and care that is culturally sensitive and recognises the barriers and disadvantages refugees face. By consulting refugees, practitioners can help ensure that health care is accessible.
The Department of Health’s (DH) 2006 extensive survey Your health, your care, your say recognises that key issues for ‘seldom heard groups’ include poor communication and a lack of cultural sensitivity amongst health professionals and a lack of personalised care. ‘A stronger local voice: A framework for creating a stronger local voice in the development of health and social care services’ sets out Government plans for the future of patient and public involvement in health and social care. These include the establishment of Local Involvement Networks (LINks) which will replace patient forums. One of the functions of LINks is to work with existing voluntary and community sector groups to promote public and community influence in health and social care.
The Compact is an agreement between the voluntary and community sector and government to improve their relationship for mutual advantage. The Compact on relations between Government and the voluntary and community sector provides a framework for partnership working. It includes The Black and Ethnic Minority Code (.PDF) that lays out the rights and responsibilities which the statutory and the voluntary sector should reflect in their relationships to make them work. The BME Code recognises the significant role that the BME voluntary and community sector plays in building stronger communities. The Code supports investment in the BME voluntary and community sector and the development of capacity and infrastructure at local, regional and national levels.
The Strategic Health Authority’s Race Equality Guide 2004: A Performance Framework (.PDF) sets out ways SHAs can promote racial equality and good race relations through the performance management of their local NHS organisations. Race Equality legislation requires patient involvement and consultation to ensure that communities most affected endorse any assessment of the relevance of services.
However RCOs face barriers to developing their role in supporting the health of their communities.
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