Recruits, trains and mentors refugees through structured work experience placements.


Camden Libraries Refugee Work Experience project began in June 2004. It arose from:

  • Findings of Scrutiny Panel in the London Borough of Camden on Refugee Education, Training and Employment
  • Participation by the library service in the pilot phase of Welcome To Your Library (WTYL) in 2003-4, opening up engagement with refugees
  • Opportunity as result  of above, for library service to be part of wider Camden Council partnership programme, RAISE. (Refugees Access into Sustainable Employment), funded by European Social Fund with an element of trans-national work with Denmark and the Netherlands.

The key components of RAISE are employment services (including job brokerage), ESOL, a Medical Journal Club, the development of a Camden Welcome Pack for refugees and capacity building.

Setting the scene:

  • Camden is an Inner-London borough with population of c.220,000
  • Estimated 25,000 refugees (figure largely arrived at from the Camden Education Department)
  • Largest refugee community is Somali, followed by Albanian, and growing numbers from the Congo and East Africa (Scrutiny Panel report July 2003)
  • More than two thirds of 220 Somalis consulted were failing to access libraries but said they would if Somali staff were present (WTYL)
  • Refugees often have high levels of education and skills.. Currently, unemployment among refugees of working age is around 36%, which is six times the national average.
  • For ethnic minorities the unemployment rate is two and a half times greater than the white population at 11.3 %.
  • Despite it being commonplace for employers to make statements relating to equal opportunities and race equality in employment practices, existing research has consistently shown that ethnic minorities and refugees face multiple barriers to employment and inequalities in the labour market in the form of direct and indirect discrimination, which are economically and socially costly to society as a whole. (Working Lives Research Institute, London Metropolitan University.)

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Key objectives of library work placements

  • Help refugee minorities integrate with host community
  • Improve their self confidence
  • Help refugees develop their CVs and job prospects
  • Encourage other members of refugee communities to come into Camden's public libraries e.g. to help with their children's homework or develop their language skills.
  • Refer refugees to job brokerage services and employment agencies.

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Project description

Placements are refugees and asylum seekers with IT skills and entry level 2 English. They must be 18+, have the legal right to work and live in the borough or on its borders.

Each work placement lasts for 12 weeks for 15 hours a week and includes payment for lunch and travel expenses. Experience includes training in library management system, routine library duties and familiarisation with UK working culture. Placements have access to the library learning centre support for IT and ESOL courses that help with drawing up a CV, job seeker skills and interviewing technique.

The Project Officer has developed documentation to support both placements and library staff and clarify the process of recruitment, training, mentoring and evaluation of the work as much as possible. The documentation has been modified in the light of learning from the project.

The library service used £30,000 additional funding from Camden Council, awarded in the light of the findings from the scrutiny panel, as match funding for the ESF funded RAISE project. The work is now mainstreamed. Apart from cost of part-time Project Officer, project costs vary depending on length and number of placements at any one time. Refugee Community Organisations have been consulted throughout and are directly involved in both planning and delivery of the RAISE work.

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Impact and outcomes

At December 2005 17 refugees from seven countries have participated along with 12 libraries. Five are known to have gained employment. Evaluation (of placements and managers) achieved through a mixture of forms, appraisals and ongoing troubleshooting. Bookmarks and flyers have promoted the scheme very successfully.

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Key lessons

  • Line managers need much support and a good learning plan to supervise learners, carry out induction processes and plan timetables. The scheme will not work without serious commitment from senior management and effective mentoring and trouble shooting from a practitioner with adequate communication and negotiation skills.
  • It is easy to end up with misunderstandings – for example, 'monitoring' may mean something quite different to someone coming from a war zone, than it does in the context of monitoring learners and staff involved in a library learning centre.
  • It would probably have been better to require entry level 3 English for work placements.

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Contact information

Helen Pollock
Project Officer
Refugee Work Placements
020 7974 6354 or  

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Useful resources


Scrutiny Panel report


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