Giving Digital Inclusion and Employment Support to Refugees in Oxfordshire

By Aspire Oxfordshire’s Employment & Development Worker, Nataliia Zadesenets

At Aspire, we're working with SOFEA Didcot to deliver the ‘No Limits’ community employment development project across Oxfordshire on behalf of the  Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (OxLEP). We’re able to provide a comprehensive menu of person-centred support to people aged 16+ in the county at risk of being held back by the detrimental effects of the pandemic and cost of living crisis, including digital inclusion support through joint working with the Getting Oxfordshire Online initiative.

Hanna’s story

Hanna is a Ukrainian refugee who recently moved to Oxfordshire, finding herself starting from scratch in the UK. Focusing on studying English, making connections and finding work, Hanna was supported by Aspire to access a smartphone and wi-fi through the No Limits project’s partnership with Getting Oxfordshire Online, which have proved crucial for areas such as translation and her job search.

Abi’s story

Abi is also a refugee, having previously faced homelessness while his asylum application was under review. Once housed in shared accommodation with some financial support and a right to work, Abi was eager to find a role in the care sector to continue his home country career. Through the No Limits project, Abi was supported by Aspire to access a mobile phone and laptop from Getting Oxfordshire Online, and undertake English, Maths and further care sector training.

Both participants have been supported by Aspire’s Employment & Development Worker, Nataliia, who also came to Oxfordshire as a refugee in May 2022. Nataliia recently celebrated her one-year anniversary working with Aspire, and is now helping other Ukrainians in Oxfordshire with employment support.

Hear from Nataliia on her experience with Aspire to date:

"I am a trained psychologist, and wanted to find a meaningful job close to my heart as soon as possible on arrival in the UK. I am grateful to the inclusive recruitment team at Aspire for believing in me and giving me the chance to join their team as Candidate Resourcing Lead, where I was also able to learn more about British culture - especially in relation to work - and found that I could access a Continuing Professional Development (CPD) fund for my English language test (IELTS), and support from Aspire to cover my exam fees.

I later joined the No Limits programme as a Community Employment Support Worker, and volunteered with LandAid on a pilot project as a translator and support worker, to help other Ukrainians make positive steps toward the British labour market. With greater need for Ukrainian refugee support, I then joined the Homes for Ukraine employment support project as a Refugee Employment Support Worker to provide dedicated support to Ukrainians seeking help in Oxfordshire, in partnership with Asylum Welcome and Oxfordshire County Council.

I passed my English language (IELTS) exam and this, alongside building on my English over the last year, has enabled me to start the process of registering as a Practitioner Psychologist. I have also secured an unconditional offer to study an MA in Refugee Care at Essex University later this year. I’m proud to have worked so hard to achieve these outcomes - and grateful to Aspire for supporting me to achieve them!"