Refugee Council criticises social services over hospital discharges

Social services departments are reluctant to provide appropriate
help to asylum seekers discharged from hospitals, the Refugee
Council claimed last week.

Refugee Council specialist team manager Virginia Tshibangu told a
conference in London that there were asylum seekers going in and
out of hospital because social services, mindful of costs, were
“unwilling to take responsibility for them”.

“When it comes to looking at resources, we need to consider whether
it makes sense for a client to live in a hospital for six months
when they can live in the community with support from social
services,” she said.

Tshibangu also called for improved partnerships between agencies
working with asylum seekers leaving hospital.

Kent Council’s strategic director of social services, Peter Gilroy,
who chaired the conference on asylum seekers and health and social
care, warned delegates against assessing and diagnosing asylum
seekers inappropriately in order for them to obtain services under
the strict eligibility rules of the Nationality, Immigration and
Asylum Act 2002.

“If we medicalise this system too much it labels and stigmatises
asylum seekers,” he said.

“This is what has happened in the US where all asylum seekers have
a diagnosis because it is the only way they can access money to pay
for services.”

Hackney GP Angela Burnett said although it was important to address
the psychological well-being of asylum seekers and refugees, there
was potential for health and social care professionals to
“pathologise perfectly natural reactions to highly abnormal
situations”, when, in fact, few people had a mental illness.

“We all know that black and minority ethnic people are more likely
to be diagnosed with schizophrenia, be sectioned and be given
anti-psychotic drugs,” she said.

The conference was organised by the Harrogate Centre for Excellence
in Health and Social Care.

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