Identity, citizenship and belonging among settled Eastern European migrant children in the UK

Project Co-PI: Marta Moskal

Project members:Daniela Sime (PI) from Sociology and Social Policy, University of Strathclyde and Co-I Tyrell from Geography, University of Plymouth:

Summary: This is a Standard Grant from the ESRC of 2 years and 4 months duration that started on 1 April 2016. 

Focus of the project

Eastern Europeans who have arrived in the UK in the last decade are the fastest growing ethnic groups in the UK. This study will be the first to focus specifically on Eastern European migrant children who have lived in the UK for at least three years, and to compare their everyday lives and sense of cultural and national identity and belonging in Scotland and England. The primary aim of the research is to inform public debate, policy makers and service providers on the issue of children of Eastern European migrants settled in Britain. The study will promote social inclusion, by exploring the experiences of settled migrant children in relation to the distinct discourses around migration, identity and citizenship in the UK and by ensuring that voices of children from the 'new' minority groups are taken into account in current debates on national identity. Settled migrant children's perspectives help us understand whether or not they are being socialised into their local communities' culture and can highlight the spatial and temporal dimensions of their social lives and opportunities for future. Concepts of ethnic and diasporic identity, belonging, transnationalism, culture and nation are taking new meanings across Europe and need reassessment and questioning when discussing national identity and social inclusion.

Evidence to be produced 

By bringing together discourses on migration and integration of migrant groups with knowledge on how children experience these discourses in their everyday interactions, the study will generate new knowledge on the UK's new ethnic minority children and their long-term experiences of integration. Focussing on children aged 12-18 of Eastern European migrants living in the UK for 3+ years, the study will provide a unique understanding on migrant children's long term experiences of settlement, exploring family, peer and community social networks. Another key area of investigation will be children's expressed needs in terms of the array of services they use, issues in access and the extent to which services are meeting their needs. Third, we will explore the factors that enable children of Eastern European migrants to adapt to the new social, economic and political context of the regions in which they live, as they negotiate national, social, cultural and political identities in the context of a changing Europe. Data will be generated through a review of existing evidence, a survey of between 500-600 children across six urban, semi-urban/rural areas in the UK and focus groups with between 70-100 children. In depth case studies 16-20 families will also be conducted. A young people's advisory group will have a central role in the project development and dissemination.

Originality, contribution to knowledge and anticipated impact

The originality of the project stems from the consideration given to the ways in which Eastern European children living in diverse geographical spaces are engaged in on-going, dynamic processes of making sense of the world, and their place within it, at local, national and global levels. The study will fill a gap in information on newly settled migrant communities, with a view of informing policy and practice. Information on settled migrant children's social practices, educational achievement and aspirations, sense of cultural and national identity and belonging will provide insights into the extent of European migrant communities' integration in the UK, in the context of various representations of 'nation' that circulate in policy, political and public discourses. The study will address the relative absence of migrant children's voices in public debates and provide policy makers and the public with an improved understanding of the lives of children who were originally migrants, but have settled long-term in the UK. This information will be disseminated widely, to benefit children, service providers, policy makers and the general public.

Planned Impact
The plans to ensure impact and how we will capture this are detailed in the 'Pathways to Impact' document in the attachment. In summary, through the proposed activities, a range of audiences will benefit from participation in events and opportunities to share good practice in supporting migrant groups and developing service delivery and policy targeted at inclusion of migrants, including: 

1. Practitioners in Scotland and England working with children and families 

The project will facilitate increased understanding of the complex issues of identity, belonging and access to opportunities for settled Eastern European migrants and draw key implications for improved service delivery. In order to facilitate these processes, student teachers/social workers in both host organisations and practitioners from services such as education, social work, health, leisure from public, private and third sector organisations will have the opportunity to take part in practice-oriented workshops, which will combine delivery of research-informed findings with opportunities for sharing good practice.

2. Policy makers and service managers 

As the project has significant potential to inform policy in areas of social inclusion, education policy, service access etc., policy makers and service managers will be invited to contribute and attend the programme workshops and become familiar with the project findings, identifying opportunities to implement findings from the research into policy and practice; the planned events will provide further opportunities for cross-sharing of ideas between services and policy-making organisations at local and national level. Providing knowledge and insights from Eastern European children's perspective will enhance professionals' and policy makers' understanding of the particular difficulties children encounter in relation to access to opportunities, issues of identity and belonging. We will work closely with our existing contacts in Scotland and England to reach policy makers and service managers from a range of local authorities, government bodies and services. 

3. Migrant children and young people 

Eastern European migrants, currently the fastest growing minority group in the UK, will benefit from the project through participation in a mobile arts exhibition and the distribution of a child-friendly booklet entitled 'The lives of Eastern European children in Britain', representing stories of integration emerging from the research and accounts of children's experiences; this booklet will be freely available through the project website. They will also benefit from being represented in the research findings disseminated, giving them a voice in current debates and through improved practice and services.

4. Non-migrant children and families (general public)

The general public will benefit from a better understanding of Eastern European migrant children's lives. Knowledge and insights from the research will engage the general public in more informed debates on issues of diversity and equality in a democratic society. Currently, debates on the value of migration and issues of community engagement and social cohesion are mainly driven by sensationalist media and less informed by research. We will aim to engage the general public through community events organised in the six areas identified for the fieldwork and through regular contributions through press releases and public lectures of the research team. The mobile arts exhibition will give a vivid representation of children's experiences of views of aspects such as multiculturalism, intergenerational and community engagement, racism and experiences of ethnicity and will engage the general public through displays such as photos, videos, objects, collages etc. Our previous experience suggests that public perceptions can be challenged through art and children's voices and we will aim to make the travelling exhibition accessible to wide audiences.


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