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Frances Brabazon has just completed her degree in Early Childhood Studies and is about to embark on  a Masters degree in Social Work.  Here she shares her research findings at the Doncaster Conversation Club drop-in. 

I have volunteered at the Doncaster Conversation Club (DCC) for a number of years when I have been on holiday from University. As part of the final year of my Early Childhood Studies degree I had the opportunity to undertake a research study. I decided to conduct my research on how the DCC supports families with early years children (ie children up to the age of seven). I found that most of the research on community organisations for refugee and asylum-seekers is over a decade old. There is little recent research looking at how these organisations are currently working. My research took the form of a case study focusing on the DCC. To collect data for my research volunteers kindly filled in questionnaires. Some of the asylum-seeker and refugee families who attend the DCC also kindly took part in interviews. I was grateful for their contribution to my research because it helped me gain a wide variety of views.

My research found that the DCC provided a wide range of support to asylum-seeker and refugee families. Many of the families commented on how important the social element provided by the DCC is for their families. Meeting families in similar situations to them was a vital element of support to them. The families and the volunteers also commented on the basic needs support provided by the DCC for

many families such as food and clothing. Many families saw this support as one of the main reasons to come to the DCC. Many parents of the families also took part in the English lessons run by the DCC. Some of the parents mentioned how they hoped their improving levels of English will help their children learn English. Another area of support the families found particularly helpful was receiving help in accessing other services such as their local GP and schools. DCC often signposts families to the correct services. The DCC also works with the nearby Children’s Centre. Most of the parents interviewed had been introduced to the Children’s Centre and found it useful for their family.

From my research I found that the volunteers and the families attending the DCC often put emphasis on different types of support, for example families were likely to make comments about the benefit of practical support whereas the volunteers placed greater emphasis on the emotional support they provided. It is however important to highlight that the families put great value on the social connections they made at the centre which provided some level of emotional support to them. The families may not have been as explicit in mentioning the emotional support provided because of how the practical and emotional support blend at the centre; each time a family gains practical support they also gain personal contact and make social connections which provides a level of emotional support. I also found that there were gaps in support specifically for early years children, it is however important to remember that this service is volunteer run. Volunteers cannot be expected to gain the qualifications necessary or spend time setting up this type of provision, a situation compounded by funding and space constraints

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