Failing to adapt: institutional barriers to RCOs engagement in transformation of social welfare

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Britain has entered a new era of super-diversity and many regions of the UK are experiencing the arrival of new communities. Refugee Community Organisations (RCOs) have developed following the arrival of new asylum seeking and refugee communities, and have been charged with the role of supporting the integration of these newcomers. However, there is much evidence to suggest that they are functioning only with individuals rather than working with institutions to transform systems and ensure welfare provision is adapted to account for diverse needs. This paper looks at the role of RCOs in attempting transformation and, using data collected through survey, interviews, and participatory action research, examines the extent to which RCOs are able to engage with the public and wider voluntary sector, to ensure that refugees' welfare needs can be met. It finds that in addition to the much-researched functional barriers to transformation, there are major institutional barriers to engagement. Institutions have failed to adapt their systems to enable representation of new communities instead expecting RCOs to build their own capacity to communicate. The paper ends by offering some ideas around resourcing RCOs to be represented and developing the capacity of institutions to adapt to new diversity.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)181-192
Number of pages12
JournalSocial Policy and Society
Issue number2
Early online date1 Mar 2010
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2010