Adjusting to life in a new country is never easy – especially for families fleeing from war and persecution. Keywork Adviser, Eszter Papp shares some of the highs and lows of helping newly arrived parents and children seeking safety, to feel at home in Scotland during a global pandemic.

Tell us a bit about your job

EszterI support newly arrived families that have at least one child under the age of 12. My role is to help families at the beginning of their life in the UK. I advise clients on things like accommodation, welfare issues, school enrolment, uniform grants, free school meals and accessing digital equipment. I also let them know about activities that are happening in their communities and about local groups that can offer support.

Usually, I work with families for between 6 and 12 months, but it really depends on their individual situation and the challenges they face. Life for these families can be a real rollercoaster. I’m here to empower them and give them the confidence and the information they need to take on those challenges.

How has Covid-19 affected your role?

Everything happens over the phone, which seems to be working well for some clients, but it can’t replace talking in person. As a result of the pandemic, many of the services have become less accessible. Lockdown has shed light on the fact that digital poverty is a real issue for newly arrived families. People are living on less than £40 a week. They can’t afford a tablet or data but most of the services they depend on are now being provided online.

What has been the biggest challenge?

One of the biggest challenges is not seeing people face to face. I support clients with every aspect of their lives. People need to be able to disclose details of their life to me and in order to do that, they need to trust me. It’s more difficult to build that trust over the phone.

What’s the best thing about Scottish Refugee Council?

My colleagues and clients! There is a real sense that we are all working together towards one goal.

What has helped you through lockdown?

I try to look at it as an opportunity to spend time doing things that I’ve always wanted to do but never gotten around to. I’ve started playing chess and learning French. I also love walking and cycling. I come from Hungary where you don’t have to worry about it raining so much. One thing I’ve learned about living in Scotland is that you really have to take advantage of those moments of clear sky 😊

Read more about our support for families. 
Rachel Lamb
Author: Rachel Lamb