Phase 1 (CSO funded) and 2 (SFC funded) of this work both have a strong focus on the fight against COVID-19, specifically as it impacts on the social and mental wellbeing of a neglected population. Asylum seekers and refugees are known to have limited access to support networks (Strang, Baillot & Mignard, 2017; Nelson et al., 2020). These networks were severely eroded during lockdown and the negative social, health and psychological impacts are likely to be experienced in the longer term. During phase 1 we interviewed 51 asylum seekers and refugees across Scotland and identified clear messages regarding the experience of connectivity and isolation; stressors and mental health; rupture and liminality; and resilience and coping.
During phase 2 we will work with policy and practice partners to share these insights and embed research impact through co-producing dissemination events and documents. In addition the study will extend the reach of the QMU Social Connections Mapping tool to gather quantitative data on the social networks of refugees and asylum seekers across Scotland. By combining the interview and network mapping data, we seek to build a rich picture of the resilience and resources of this neglected population in coping during the pandemic.
Throughout this research we are working closely with policy and practice partners across Scotland to maximise the relevance and value of our findings in informing policy and practice and thereby improving the mental health and wellbeing of asylum seekers and refugees living in Scotland. We anticipate that these implications for good practice will be picked up beyond Scotland through our UK and global networks.
The research findings will represent a unique body of knowledge on refugee social networks. This will provide the basis for new research examining the social networks of other populations in relation to mental health and wellbeing. It will also enable us to refine the tool for use in longitudinal studies to examine the impact of different interventions.
IGHD is currently investigating the feasibility of creating an online platform of new research tools – developed by researchers in the Institute. The QMU Social Connections Mapping tool will form one of the resources made available through this platform.
This funding enables us to continue to employ the research team who have undertaken the primary research into asylum seekers and refugees’ experiences during the COVID pandemic in Scotland. They are best placed to maximise the potential impact of the work so far, and to continue to develop the research on this topic. Crucially the funding provides the resource to work with partners to co-produce training and dissemination events and publications. In addition, it enables further refinement of the Social Connections Mapping online app to maximise effective data collection across remote populations.