Families from Eastern Europe still face big problems in UK

Professionals working with migrant families from Eastern Europe need clearer guidance and better training, a new research has recommended.

While many children had positive experiences after migration, researchers from the University of Strathclyde found that a number experienced racism. Some of the children struggled with language while some found access to services more problematic than in their home countries.

The research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), looked at the experiences of children who arrived in Scotland from the new accession countries after the expansion of European Union in 2004.

Dr. Daniela Sime said migrant families from Eastern Europe were an under-represented group. "This study gave the young participants a voice and recognised that their experiences are shared. It also gave them an opportunity to offer ideas on how provision can be improved to support migrant families with children," she said.

Many children talked about their resilience in coping with their new lives: "I was scared. But then we got a house, I went to school and I just kept going every day, and in the end I was fine," a 12 year-old boy named Vladislav from Lithuania said.

Some had traumatic experiences and found it very hard to settle in. Andrzej, a father from Poland, said his family had been afraid to go out of their flat: "It was terrible. There were drunk teenagers shouting abuse almost every day, banging at our door, drawing swastikas on our door. The police were here almost every week."

Most families had good experiences of the education system, although some said their children were working below their level of ability.

However, their views on the health system were less positive. Several had travelled to Eastern Europe to get treatment. "My child has asthma and they said you need to wait two months for a specialist," said Agatha, a mother from Poland. "So I just decided to take a flight to Poland and see the doctor we know there."

Social and family networks were important, and some participants described feeling lonely, missing friends, family and even pets. "We hardly have anyone opening the door. Back home, the house was always full. So we have to manage and look after the children by ourselves, which is hard and lonely at times," said Berta, a Polish mother.

For most participants in the study, being 'at home abroad' meant a stressful and challenging time for family.

The research called for a national guidance for local authorities to reduce variations in services between different areas. The implementation of such a guidance should be monitored, the report recommended.

The report also recommended better funding and guidance to support migrant children at school, in addition to better funding for initiatives aimed at tackling racism.

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