Helping refugees to build new lives through the Refugee Employability Programme

Home Icon

As experts in specialist employment support, we understand the unique benefits of recruiting people with lived experience and are ensuring this remains front and centre throughout our delivery of the Refugee Employability Programme (REP)

Since launching the programme in September last year, we have been providing vital support to thousands of refugees in the West Midlands and North West of England, helping them to overcome significant barriers and adjust to a new life in the UK. 

At the heart of our delivery are colleagues like Rishtin, who arrived in the UK with his wife and two young children in August 2021, following the collapse of peace negotiations in Afghanistan.

As a former lecturer for international relations and analyst for strategic information for the Ministry of Defence, he struggled to access the tools he needed to become fully independent when he first arrived.

He explained: “When I came to the UK, there were so many obstacles to overcome, such as finding housing, obtaining work, integrating into the wider community and addressing language barriers. It is very complicated.” 

Rishtin received support from a variety of refugee organisations, attended ESOL (English for Speakers of other Languages) classes and navigated the asylum process. Once he had secured accommodation, Rishtin was offered a part-time interpreter position with an organisation he was volunteering for. 

Rishtin continued: “I was really keen to find a humanitarian position so I could help other refugees who were in the same position as me and when I was looking online to find more support, I came across the Refugee Employability Programme. I referred myself to the service in December 2023 but was feeling low and demotivated.

“I was in dire need of help and support and had to overcome the obstacles and barriers that every refugee goes through. I had to familiarise myself with the new systems of a new country, I had accommodation issues, and I lacked any kind of employment history from the UK, which affected my chances of getting any employment. It was a very challenging time.”

With the help of his Case Manager, Rishtin developed a new CV, was shown how to effectively job search and was given wellbeing support to improve his confidence and motivation.  

Rishtin added: “The REP service isn’t just about finding work, it is so much more. Service users are provided with all levels of support including English language skills, advice and guidance to help you to integrate into the community and help to find accommodation if it is needed.” 

Fluent in Pashto and Dari, Rishtin was offered interviews with several refugee organisations however chose to accept a Case Manager position with Maximus as he was keen to help other refugees to overcome similar challenges. 

Reflecting on his experience, Rishtin said: “REP empowered me to overcome my barriers. My dream was to have a job where I can help make a difference to the lives of other refugees looking to settle in the UK. 

“I now have a full-time job with Maximus, occupying the chair that I was receiving advice from. This is my opportunity to utilise my experience to help refugees and I’m super excited. The most beautiful moment in your life is when you stand on your own feet and now I’m helping others to stand on theirs, that’s a great feeling.”

Kath Williams, Operations Manager for REP, concluded: “Having colleagues with lived experience like Rishtin on our team really benefits all our service users. They are empathetic because they understand the journey that the refugee is on, and it’s a positive experience for the service user because they can see that they can build a life here.”

20 June, 2024