‘Different Communities Have Different Needs’: Supporting Access to Services for All

In the last of a three-part interview, Dianna Djokey interviews local Mental Health Community Development Worker and co-ordinator of Portsmouth’s Cross Cultural Women’s Group, Shipa Ahmed Khan, about her work with vulnerable women from minority communities. In this final interview, Shipa explores how services and organisations in the city can better connect with minority communities.

Dianna Djokey: What events have you been involved in?

Shipa Ahmed Khan: I’m involved in a lot of work. One of the things that I’ve done recently is deliver a seminar about mental health and wellbeing for Portsmouth residents, the Mental Health Alliance seminar that took place on the 16th November. This was looking at Covid-19 and BAME – Black Asian and Minority Ethnic – communities in Portsmouth, looking at how [the pandemic has] impacted communities. We’re trying to give out information on how people can join in and look after themselves a bit better, or at least signpost [them] to what services are available.

As part of my presentation, I looked at pathways in Portsmouth: what support groups are available at the moment, how are they looking? They’re not meeting in big groups but maybe they’re meeting in smaller group sessions. We’re looking at HIVE as a central point of contact for people, so if they’re not aware [of local services and support], that’s somewhere that they can access.

But I’m also aware that there’s lots of other community groups in Portsmouth that are still running, be it slightly smaller, slightly differently, but they’re still running and they’re still providing services and they’re still providing a support structure and social network for people. It’s really about capturing some of that information and seeing how we can put it back into the community.

On a grassroots level collaboration and partnership has become an essential way forward in the pandemic. How important has partnership been for you? 

It’s been essential, because without partnership you can’t reach a wider audience. Sometimes in the line of work that we do, in terms of trying to get information out to community, we need to work with the experts in that field as well. So we’re partnering with Health Alliance, which is made up with Portsmouth City Council, Solent NHS, and other public bodies, this also includes charities and voluntary organizations as well. And that’s crucial to get the job done but also to make sure that we’re linking in with the right people and the right services.

People aren’t coming to me for everything, my job is to signpost them [to support]. [Alongside that it’s also important] for services to step up and show community groups, this is how you can contact us, this is how you can get into the service and the support you need.

A second webinar is scheduled for December and that’s looking at debt management and money concerns, again with mental health and wellbeing as an element. We’ve gone to people who work in that sector and asked them to step up to work differently come and do a presentation and we will put it out to the community groups.

You say ‘step up’ which is important. What do [services and organizations] need to take into consideration in order to do that?

It’s easier said than done. So when we say people of colour or people of BAME communities or Asian or whichever, you have to really look at the individual community groups, their needs will be very different. Don’t think going out and translating all the information and leaflets into different languages is the best you can do – it doesn’t work that like that.

You really have to look at your local demographic, the communities that are in Portsmouth: who they are, what age range they are, are they recent in Portsmouth, or have they been here 50 or 60 years? It’s quite a lot to consider. It’s looking at the individual communities and maybe working with community leaders, community groups. Certainly community workers, myself, my colleagues, we’re all community development workers trying to link in with the key people that can support you to do that. A lot of our job is working with services, supporting services to access those minority communities to enable more appropriate services.

S&C has been awarded funding from the European Journalism Centre Covid-19 Support Fund to explore the social impact of Covid-19 on diverse communities and sectors in Portsmouth:

  • voluntary sector, including charities, community groups and social enterprises
  • small businesses and self-employed people
  • BAME communities
  • people with disabilities

We have also been awarded funding from the Public Interest News Foundation Emergency Fund to explore the social impact of Covid-19 on migrants, and asylum seekers and refugees.

If you are interested in sharing your experiences in any of these areas, get in touch with us over on Facebook and Twitter, or email us at submissions@starandcrescent.org.uk

Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay.

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