February 10, 2020

Hardly Hard to Reach: towards refugee-led service provision is the newly released report detailing findings from Race On The Agenda’s (ROTA) three-year Active Lives, Healthy Minds project.

The project assisted partnership organisations and the community members they support in developing holistic, intersectional projects and activities to support their mental health and wellbeing in a culturally sensitive and non-stigmatising way.

The project supported well over a thousand people from the Eritrean, Nepali, Somali and Tamil communities over a period of three years, with a core group of 150 people attending weekly activities across the four partner organisations. *

Drawing on interviews with community members, volunteers and service coordinators, this report makes the following recommendations for reforming mental health service provision for refugee communities.

  1. Use an Intersectional approach when working with people from a refugee and migrant background – creating awareness and consideration of how gender, class, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, ethnicity, refugee or asylum-seeker status and levels of English language proficiency intersect and inform people’s experiences.
  2. Use a holistic, social model for supporting people from a refugee or migrant background with mental health challenges. In order to provide sustainable support, services need to focus on the barriers aggravating mental health support needs and develop an understanding of how stigma, language and cultural differences impact on people’s ability to access “mainstream‟ services.
  3. Work in a linguistically-inclusive way. Language is a main barrier to accessing and receiving appropriate mental health services for people for whom English is not their first language. Interpretation for mental health requires additional training to be effective for community members.
  4. Be culturally sensitive and community specific
  5. Involve community members and the organisations supporting them at every level Services should be designed, developed and run by community members. Statutory bodies and voluntary sector organisations should consider working in partnership with refugee and migrant-led community organisation to deliver integrated mental health services.
  6. Fund local authorities appropriately and ring fence grant funding. The value of small community organisations in catering to people with intersecting needs should be acknowledged.
  7. End racist policies and practices. Everyone working with people from a refugee or migrant background should develop an awareness of how policies like the Hostile Environment influence people’s mental health and should consider engaging in advocacy and campaigning to change the current political environment.


The full report can be accessed here.

One of the report’s authors Kimberly McIntosh is available for interview.
To arrange an interview contact Lee Pinkerton on


Notes for editors

* Between 2016 and 2019 Race On The Agenda (ROTA) facilitated a refugee-led mental health and wellbeing project in West London run in partnership with the Account Trust (a Nepali community organisation), the Network of Eritrean Women UK, Qoys Daryeel – Family Care (a Somali community organisation), the Tamil Community Centre and Ilays (serving the East African community).



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Race on the Agenda (ROTA) is a London-based, BAME-led social policy organisation focused on issues affecting Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities. All ROTA’s work is based on the principle that those with direct experience of inequality should be central to solutions to address it. Our policy priorities of health, education and criminal justice are shaped by the lived experiences of BAME communities and their organisations.