Changes at New Link

New Link Peterborough is a groundbreaking service that provides guidance and advice to new arrivals in the city, who may not be familiar with the language and culture. Changes in the service now mean that instead of being office-based they will become peripatetic, with four out-reach workers travelling around offering the service at different venues in the city.

08:21 Tuesday 30th November 2010
Peterborough Breakfast Show BBC Radio Cambridgeshire.

SHANE O’CONNOR: Peterborough’s New Link Centre, which helps immigrants and people new to the city settle in, is to be scrapped at the end of January. The service based in Lincoln Road is being replaced by four out-reach workers. Council officials say the new arrangement will ensure that people from all communities and neighbourhoods can benefit from their work. Leonie McCarthy is the Neighbourhood Manager for Peterborough City Council. She used to manage the New Link service, and joins us. Leonie, good morning.
LEONIE MCCARTHY: Good morning.
SO’C: Thanks for being with us. For those who don’t know about the New Link service, what exactly is that?
LM: Well basically we were set up about six years ago in response to asylum seekers and refugees in the city, new people coming into Peterborough who didn’t understand their rights and responsibilities. And there was tension between some of the settled communities and these new people coming. So what we wanted to do was to try and make sure that when they came into the city they understood how Peterborough works, see what skills they had that we and they could utilise within the city and fill unfilled vacancies, and get them to get to understand the different communities in Peterborough and to work together to make Peterborough a better city. So that’s really where we started, and over the last six years we’ve been seeing now people from all over the world, but in the majority from eastern Europe, from the Polish, Lithuanian, Latvian, Portugese countries. And we’ve been working with those individuals to make sure that their children are at school, that they know how our healthcare system works, and really just help them be part of the Peterborough community.
SO’C: And what about the volume of people you’ve been able to help. Has it been a success in that way?
LM: Oh yes. Interestingly we’re the only Centre of its kind across the UK, so we’ve been seen as best practice, not just in Brititain, but also around the world. I’ve been asked to go abroad to speak for the Government about what we do at New Link. And now there’s more Centres opening up around the country delivering the same sort of thing, where they’ve found there are tensions in certain areas. But we have continually had a flow of people coming through, and we have about a hundred visitors a week coming through to the Centre. And we’re helping all those different individuals with different issues that they have when they come through.
SO’C: So the change, is that going to decimate the service that you can provide them? There’s you going round the country, talking to other people. Other people are setting up a similar kind of thing. And now we’re changing what we do.
LM: Absolutely. No. I really felt, with all the issues around the cost-cutting, that New Link may be one of those services that had to go completely. But actually what the Council have done is we’ve sat down and looked at … because we know that it’s a very important service, and it does provide something that’s fairly integral to Peterborough we’ve looked at how best we can deliver that service but obviously for less funding. And what we’ve realised is the thing that we’ve always wanted to do is to actually .. the idea is you no longer need a Centre, that all the services are able to deliver for the different communities, and it’s already a part of what happens in Peterborough. What we’re doing now is making sure, because the new way of working is very much about working out in local areas, working in local communities, that the work that we’ve done within one building in Peterborough is now going to be replicated across all the different areas of Peterborough. And we’ll be working with agencies like health centres, community centres, childcare. So it could be any organisation that’s working at a local level will have our service delivered from there. And also, we no longer are just going to be focusing on new arrivals, we’re going to be able to offer our services to all of the different communities that are out there, where there’s a need.
SO’C: So, I’m a bit confused. Is this a good thing because it’s the next stage development of the Link service, or is it a bad thing because we’re cutting it because we haven’t got enough money to fund it?
LM: No. We’re very excited about it. The staff for some time over the past year have been working hard, sitting down working out, we know that we just can’t continue to sit in an office with people coming through, coming through and things not really changing. And this is the point now where we’ve got the opportunity to really move our service forward, and I believe in the coming year the Centres that are in other parts that are growing, in other parts of the country, will want to do what we’re doing. They just need that starting point that we were at six years ago.
SO’C: And what about the practical things like the mechanics of it, like language. You mentioned five or six different communities there, at least three different languages. How easy is that to do on the road rather than in the Centre?
LM: Well we’ve got members of staff that speak five languages. So it’s not .. and also one of the issues that we’ve identified, a lot of materials that we’ve had translated over the years, a lot of the different services, know what interpreters they need to use. There will still be the language abilities there out in different areas. But they’ll be of use to everybody living locally, and all the services locally, rather than just for one Centre that people have to come into.
SO’C: And as a final point, how will people find you? If people are listening to this this morning and thinking, I didn’t even know this service was available, and I know somebody who needs it, will you be that easy to find now?
LM: We will. We’ll still be on .. through the direct service at Peterborough Direct on 747474. Just ask for the New Link service and they’ll put you through to the right person.
SO’C: Leonie, thanks for that. Appreciate your time this morning. That’s Leonie McCarthy there, who’s a Neighbourhood Manager for Peterborough City Council. How cool is that? What did she say, four or five languages people are speaking. You sit here, and you think you’re doing a good jonb. You have no idea, do you?