£2.4m project to support vulnerable communities in Barnet and beyond

Research will look at ways to repurpose community assets for the benefit of society

jigsaw piece spread on a table, with one reading 'community'
Photo by Jonny Gios on Unsplash

More than £2.4 million of funding will help researchers from Middlesex University and partner organisations examine the impact that factors such as poverty, precarious employment and insecure accommodation have on the health and wellbeing of migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers – and how repurposing community assets such as underused public buildings could benefit the whole of society.

The £2,430,127 project will see researchers from universities, the NHS, local government agencies, charities and community groups work with migrant communities, refugees and asylum seekers to identify new ways to enhance their health and wellbeing through the use of community assets, such as open spaces, advice centres, community hubs and religious organisations.

Beginning this month and running until 2027, the project is taking place across 12 communities across the East of England and London.

The Middlesex University team will be working in Barnet and Islington, with some of the most diverse populations in the UK, and in particular with two community partners, Barnet Citizens and MigrationWork.

Tamara Joseph, co-chair of Barnet Citizens, said: “We welcome the opportunity to combine the expertise of academics with the resources and energy of the community. Already, we have found that this sort of collaboration can bring about real change that improves the health of migrants and sanctuary seekers. We are so excited to see where this project goes.”

The research will be led by Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) as part of the Inter-University Migration Network, which also comprises the Universities of Middlesex and Greenwich.

Project lead Margaret Greenfields, Professor of Social Policy at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), said: “You might have a large pub at risk of closing down, or an underused community centre. Using parts of these facilities to help support families fleeing persecution, or deliver services at times accessible to migrant workers engaged in essential shift work could save or repurpose these assets for everyone’s benefit.”

Professor Eleonore Kofman, Professor of Gender, Migration and Citizenship who leads the Middlesex University team, said: “We very much look forward to collaborating with our local partners over the next few years to improve the health and wellbeing of communities in Barnet and Islington.

“This project is based on close collaboration with our partners to research the challenges faced by these groups such as poor diet, poor accommodation and limited access to exercise, and look at how we can use ‘place-based resources’ such as underused buildings and spaces to improve access to accommodation, nutrition, exercise and other services.”

Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Health Inequalities Programme Director Professor Helen Chatterjee said: “These projects seek to improve the length and quality of our lives by making use of the rich cultural, artistic, nature and social resources that already exist within our communities. In this way, we can shape a healthier, happier Britain.”

The funding has been awarded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), led by the UKRI’s Arts and Humanities Research Council. The grant is part of their Mobilising Community Assets to Tackle Health Inequalities programme, which aims to support various marginalised communities across the UK, including people in rural and coastal areas, and those experiencing homelessness.

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