The study describes multiple systemic barriers to former refugee groups receiving adequate and equitable support in New Zealand health, housing, income support, education and social services. Access to services is limited by language and literacy barriers; the erratic use of professional interpreters; digital exclusion; a lack of Cross-cultural competency in services and the failure to recognise former refugees as an equity group and to respond accordingly with additional resources.
Mainstream responsiveness to former refugee communities is marginal and haphazard. There is limited understanding of the unique needs of families from refugee backgrounds reflected in public service strategies and policies and therefore little inclusion and investment in programmes to improve health, mental health, housing, education and socio-economic outcomes. At the level of service provision there is a lack of capacity and capability to meet the complex needs associated with the impact of the refugee experience and adjustment to New Zealand society. As one example, there is a shortfall between unmet mental health need in refugee populations in the Auckland region and the amount of funding received for primary and community-based early intervention programmes. With growing ethnic communities from refugee backgrounds in the Auckland region: navigator roles, language matched health and social services practitioners, access to free interpreting services, and cross-culturally trauma-informed organisations and staff are needed for services to respond equitably to the communities they serve.
Patterns of hardship have been exacerbated in the time of COVID 19. Former refugees are experiencing job loss and financial difficulties. Government services have shifted support services online and families without access to the internet and to devices are limited in their ability to access the income, housing and social supports they are entitled to. As this stocktake of refugee service providers shows, support and integration services are largely dependent on a few refugee resettlement organisations, ethnic community organisations and under-resourced NGOs. To improve health, education, and socioeconomic outcomes for refugee populations, the New Zealand Refugee Resettlement Strategy framework needs to be aligned to the work programmes of the Ministries of Health, Education, Social Development, and Housing and Urban Development.