Coordinating researcher Monica Kjørstad (OsloMet) and researcher Ariana Guilherme Fernandes (OsloMet).
The aim of this case study is to develop knowledge about the challenges and conditions for immigrants (with little or no education background) participation in the introduction programme for newly arrived immigrants and refugees. Specific research questions focus on what are the drivers and barriers of participation and how can participation be improved? Previous social work studies of implementation of workfare has shown that it is difficult to achieve a real user influence on decisions made and that it is also rare to achieve a partial influence (Kjørstad 2015).
The introduction programme is supposed to strengthen the target group’s labour market integration. While it is an important aim that the introduction programme should be developed in cooperation with each individual user, user influence might be difficult to (fully) attain, as participation in the programme is mandatory. Further, because the majority of immigrants in the programme have only been settled in Norway for a short period of time, language barriers might also be an important obstacle in achieving user influence. There are few studies (Kavli and Djuve 2015) that have focused on user’s experience of the programme, and even fewer, if any, that have looked at immigrants illustrating a pressing need to focus on the proposed user group.
In phase I of the project, the research questions will be explored and discussed based on a literature review. In phase II of the project, the research questions will be further explored through a series of 12 – 15 dialogue conferences lasting 1,5 years to study how service users´ needs are taken into consideration in the introduction programme. The analytical work will identify organizational, legal, professional, management and policy issues that could be drivers and/or barriers to developing participatory-based services. More importantly, the analytical work will also identify and examine user participants ability, or lack thereof, to utilize their user involvement.
The case study group consists of 9 service users recruited from the introduction programmes in Oslo and two researchers and group interviews and focus groups with practitioners. The study will be innovative by implementing the knowledge brought forward in the dialogue conferences into all relevant levels of the professional educational program of social work at Oslo Metropolitan University and other social work education programs, and to various relevant social welfare services.
 For logistical reasons, the service users will be recruited fromone main language. Moreover, it is imperative to take into account possible language barriers, as such the dialogue conferences will also have a qualified interpreter available for translation. The study will recruit participants and practitioners from “best practice” boroughs in Oslo municipality. What constitutes as best practice boroughs will be critical discussed and assessed with IMDi and Oslo Municipality, and in close consideration with available research and results with the introduction programmes.
We have currently conducted 7 dialogue conferences with the participants and 4 focus groups interview with the employees.
There has been a good turnout in each dialogue conference and there has been considerable openness and engagement concerning the themes that have been covered. Main themes until now have focused on the following:
§ User involvement
§ Norwegian language training
§ Work possibilities
§ Residency permits
§ Economic conditions
§ Family conditions
Because one of the main themes has focused on residency permits, we discussed the participants’ interest for inviting the Norwegian Organisation for Asylum seekers (NOAS) to inform about rights and duties pertaining to permanent residency permits. The participants showed interest for this, and we jointly developed questions to ask to NOAS. The meeting with NOAS took place the 5th of March.
For the remaining planned dialogue conferences, we will continue to explore different experiences and possibilities of user involvement connected to themes that the participants address.
Focus groups interviews with the employees have mainly covered the following themes:
§ Facilitation of user involvement
§ Possibilities and hindrances
§ Individual plan as a tool for user involvement
§ Organisational conditions, e.g. available time, economy etc.
§ Language training
In the remaining focus groups interviews, we will discuss models for increasing user involvement.