£2.4m project to support vulnerable communities

Published: 15 February 2024 at 09:43

Lord Ashcroft Building in Cambridge

Research will look at ways to repurpose community assets for the benefit of society

More than £2.4million of funding will help researchers examine the impact that factors such as poverty, precarious employment and insecure accommodation have on the health and wellbeing of migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers – and how repurposing community assets such as underused public buildings could benefit the whole of society.

The funding has been awarded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), led by the UKRI’s Arts and Humanities Research Council. The grant is part of their Mobilising Community Assets to Tackle Health Inequalities programme, which aims to support various marginalised communities across the UK, including people in rural and coastal areas, and those experiencing homelessness.

The £2,430,127 project will see researchers from universities, the NHS, local government agencies, charities and community groups work with migrant communities, refugees and asylum seekers to identify new ways to enhance their health and wellbeing through the use of community assets, such as open spaces, advice centres, community hubs and religious organisations.

Beginning this month and running until 2027, the project is taking place across 12 communities across the East of England and London. The research will be led by Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) as part of the Inter-University Migration Network, which also comprises the Universities of Middlesex and Greenwich. 

Project lead Margaret Greenfields, Professor of Social Policy at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), said:

“These groups face some of the most profound challenges in modern Britain. Recognising the value of existing community assets to support these communities will improve community integration and have a positive effect for everyone in the local area.

“For example, you might have a large pub at risk of closing down, or an underused community centre. Using parts of these facilities to help support families fleeing persecution, or deliver services at times accessible to migrant workers engaged in essential shift work could save or repurpose these assets for everyone’s benefit.

“If we can understand more about how people identify, create and use community assets and work with groups most at risk of exclusion or poverty, this becomes a model we can use for others who are facing similar issues.”

Most of the project leadership team have either direct experience of the asylum system, are themselves migrants to the UK, or are the descendants of refugees, so have personal understanding of the challenges which are faced by people building a new life in a different country.

Professor Elena Vacchelli, co-investigator and co-founder of the Inter-University Migration network, said:

"The project team is drawing on their existing links with civil society groups to generate lasting effects, allowing for health-related community assets to be efficiently integrated within and beyond the sites. 

“Using a range of participatory approaches, it focuses on the key areas of housing, nutrition and access to services to develop evidence-based conceptual frameworks leading to improved health outcomes for marginalised groups."