Overcoming Barriers for Migrant Families Accessing Social Services

By Petrina Wright | Posted: Thursday June 20, 2024

The Southland Multicultural Trust (SMCT) has taken over the coordination and management of the Southland Migrant Settlement Network from Family Works, bringing organisations together to maximise support and positive outcomes for Southland’s migrant community.

“We are very pleased with this outcome as we believe the work of the network sits nicely within the parameters of SMT’s focus,” Family Works director and network chair Judith McInerney said.

In response to Southland’s migrant population growing and diversifying, Family Works initiated a community project two years ago to explore ways to overcome the barriers migrants experience when trying to access social services.

Funding was received from the Tindall Foundation, through Presbyterian Support NZ which enabled Family Works to bring together organisations and agencies which worked with migrants in Southland to discuss the barriers faced by staff and the migrant community when accessing social services, and how they could be overcome.

About 30 Southland organisations and agencies became involved in the network, including NZ Red Cross, Ministry for Ethnic Communities, SIT, Southland Multicultural Trust, MAR Colombia, Barnados, NKMP, NZ Police, Southland Migrant Walking Together Organisation, Reach and WellSouth.

Judith said a highlight over the past 12 months was hosting community meetings with the Police national ethnic liaison team and the MBIE Refugee and Migrant Services team.

Other highlights included inviting former Colombian and Congolese refugees to a meeting of the network in March this year to discuss their needs and concerns. A number of their concerns were able to be addressed during the meeting and others were to be followed up.

The network had been approached to discuss how $30,000 in funding from MBIE could be utilised to develop refugee leadership and input  It was agreed the network would assist with identifying projects and individuals who would benefit from the funding and the distribution of this funding for Southland.

The network members also worked with the Invercargill City Council on its Welcome Kit for migrants.

Judith said one of the biggest benefits to have come out of the meetings was the increased cohesion and collaboration between the groups working with migrant communities, and the sharing of information.

“This not only benefits our migrant population in Southland, but also those who work with them as it builds confidence, knowledge and collaborative relationships.”

Judith said there continued to be an enthusiastic buy-in from stakeholders, and links between stakeholders and national agencies were being strengthened.

SMCT community liaison officer and office manager Jo Wilson said taking over the coordination of the network was a perfect fit for the trust, complementing their work with the Southland Multicultural Advisory Group.

SMCT officially took over the coordination and management of the network at the end of June.