MESH Out & About: The Power of Forms
I recently attended a session of the Refugee Integration Forum. This Forum convened by Migration Yorkshire includes colleagues from across Yorkshire and Humber with an interest in enabling refugees and asylum seekers to settle and belong in the region. We meet regularly to discuss issues, share information and collaborate. You can read more about the Forum and its activities here.
In this session the Forum focused on the issue of trauma, and how to develop trauma informed practice in agencies that have a focus on refugee and asylum seeker support. One of many points covered in a presentation by Kathryn Ashworth of the charity Solace is the potential for forms to act as triggers for trauma.
Forms are such a familiar feature of ESOL provision. Entry-level ESOL is peppered with activities related to the filling of forms. How many times have I asked a learner to fill out a form as part of an initial assessment, which is itself a kind of form? A form within a form. We do this, of course, because forms are so embedded in everyday life. It is useful to learn the kind of English you need to fill out a form.
But Kathryn’s flagging of forms as a trigger to trauma made me reflect on forms as power. They can appear like gates, barring access to almost anything and everything – from a driving licence to a health appointment to peace, safety and security. In the context of the endless bureaucratic process of applying for sanctuary, forms are not just a language challenge; they can be a serious challenge to mental health.
How can we address and make room for this, in the context of the ESOL classroom?
By John Zavos