Council to hire Brexit officer to help EU nationals

Concerned migrants in Worcester are to be given a voice as part of a council plan to hire a dedicated person tasked with helping EU nationals during the Brexit transition period.

Councillors are set to agree to spend £45,000 of government money to help EU nationals living and working in Worcester as well as help migrants access services and housing, reduce hate crime, improve health and wellbeing, and promote community cohesion.

The money would pay for the officer to be in post for one year.

The city council said the aim of its Brexit project would be to ensure EU migrants are supported during the transition, continue to feel part of the city, ensure they feel safe and contribute as best they can to the local economy.

The news was welcomed by Tomasz Jarecki, who runs charity LikeU which supports ethnic minorities in Worcester and the People’s European Aid Centre (PEACE) based in Lowesmoor.

Mr Jarecki said he was pleased to see the money would support migrants worried about the UK’s exit from the European Union and provide a direct link between the council and the various minority communities.

He said unemployment and mental health were also major concerns within ethnic minority communities.

“It is great that the city council want to do this, and we are very happy that these funds will be used to create a job like that,” he said.

“Obviously we hope to be working with the officer on a regular basis. They will be welcomed every day in our minority centre and our hope is that they will be our constant guest.

“I wish for a day when this kind of role is not dependent on just funding and becomes a permanent job in the annual budget.

Mr Jarceki believed the role would be helping even more people in the city as he estimated around 7,000 EU migrants were living in Worcester – a few thousand more than predicted in the council’s report.

“Obviously Brexit is the biggest concern. I think around 70 per cent of migrants in the county have not yet applied for settled status. That is being followed by unemployment and a huge mental health problem. It really is a hidden issue.

“The problem is that in mental health, in order for it to be effective, it really needs to be delivered on a soul-to-soul basis and because of the language and cultural barriers, it’s not really happening with us.

“A lot of migrants are just afraid to admit they are having mental health issues in the first place. But still the biggest deal is Brexit.

“Also, let’s just say we are not the most socially loved people ever.

“But absolutely we really welcome this officer who will be helping ethnic minorities in Worcester. It is really great news.

“It’s a very welcome first step that we are very happy with, but we do hope some further strategic thinking about minorities will come after this. Let’s just hope it’s not ‘ah we’ve been given some Brexit money, let’s employ someone and wrap it up.’

“We as a community we actually have built up to a reaching point where we are very happy to cooperate, but we do need somebody to cooperate with. We would really like to see the reaching hand for a change.”

A report, due to be discussed by Worcester City Council’s policy and resources committee next Tuesday (June 9), said: “The uncertainty surrounding Brexit continues to be a source of concern for EU nationals and their family members, including the ones living and working in Worcester.

“It is estimated from electoral information and Home Office statistics that there are more than 5,000 EU nationals living in Worcester and that 2,880 people from Worcester have applied for the EU settlement scheme.

“This project looks at supporting migrant communities in the transition period, enabling them to engage and contribute to the city.

“The project will support migrant communities to settle or work in Worcester during Brexit, identifying their strengths, as well as developing and supporting local organisations and services to address migrant needs.

“It will promote the social, economic and environmental benefits to the city through its investment in its migrant population.

“It will also work alongside local groups and agencies to coordinate support across communities.

“While other agencies have been established to support those affected by Brexit, and migrants ore generally, there is no overall coordination of these activities with Worcester or the county more widely at present.

The council has said it previously it also aims to host drop-in clinics to provide advice and support for the city’s migrant communities, host community events, create a website to raise awareness of the city’s different cultures, services, community groups and events and host awareness-raising campaigns focusing on modern day slavery, hate speech and rogue landlords.

The council’s new officer would also help other council departments – particularly housing and homelessness prevention.

The council’s policy and resources committee meets from 7pm next Tuesday (June 9).

By Christian Barnett - Local Democracy Reporter