Settlement work and Information & Referral – a primer

Today is Information and Referral (I&R) Day.

If you work in immigrant and refugee settlement, information and referral is a key part of how you serve your clients.  From the site above:

final-ir-day-logo-191x300“Information and Referral is the art, science and practice of bringing people and services together and is an integral component of the health and human services sector. People in search of critical services such as shelter, financial assistance, food, jobs, or mental health support often do not know where to begin to get help, or they get overwhelmed trying to find what they need. I&R services recognize that when people in need are more easily connected to the services that will help them, thanks to knowledgeable I&R professionals, it reduces frustration and ensures that people reach the proper services quickly and efficiently.”

We should all be well trained I&R service providers.

But, not everyone gets the same information.

So, here’s some referral. 🙂

A settlement I&R primer

Download and work through the Settlement Information and Referral Training Manual – 2010 (PDF).

#CdnImm Event #7 – Information & Referral in Settlement Services

This is a great presentation and overview by Findhelp Toronto’s Faed Hendry: “The aim of this session is to better understand current practices and challenges with how settlement agencies are providing I&R, and consider the options ahead to ensure the best possible services for newcomers. It is an opportunity to connect with practitioners in the settlement sector (settlement workers, researchers/academics) with an interest in I&R as well as link with other I&R practitioners and experts to collaborate on common challenges.”


Standards for Professional Information & Referral: Requirements for AIRS Accreditation and Operating 2-1-1 Systems (PDF)

Service standards? Yes, certified I&R organizations and workers are expected to meet specific service standards. They are based on the Basic Principles of I&R (also known as the I&R Bill of Rights) which states:

  • The I&R service maintains accurate, comprehensive, unbiased information about the health and human services available in their community.
  • The I&R service provides confidential and/or anonymous access to information.
  • The I&R service provides assessment and assistance based on the inquirer’s need(s).
  • The I&R service provides barrier-free access to information.
  • The I&R service recognizes the inquirer’s right to self-determination.
  • The I&R service provides an appropriate level of support in obtaining services.
  • The I&R service assures that inquirers are empowered to the extent possible.
  • The I&R service assures that inquirers have the opportunity to access the most  appropriate I&R service available in the system.

“The purpose of these standards is to establish reference points which define expected practices within the field and provide guidelines that communities or other jurisdictions can use when they develop an I&R program to meet the needs of their people. The standards are the foundation for AIRS Accreditation and provide an organizational context for certification of I&R specialists through the AIRS Certified Information and Referral Specialist (CIRS) and Certified Resource Specialist (CRS) programs. They include bottom line requirements for all I&R services wanting to be accredited as well as recommendations regarding further enhancements of I&R operations for organizations currently positioned to implement them. Whether the I&R service is national or local in scope, comprehensive or specialized in nature, or offered in nonprofit, for-profit or government settings, these standards serve as indicators of service quality and effectiveness, aid in the development of new I&R services, and can be used to upgrade established services.”

So much useful info in this document that any human service organization could benefit from.

Other useful sector resources

Immigrant Settlement Counselling: A Training Guide – 2000 OCASI

Older resource, but still very relevant and useful.

“This resource is an attempt to describe the dimensions of settlement work and to provide tools that can be used to train workers to be effective settlement counsellors. It is a training guide, not a source of answers to all the challenging questions related to settlement counselling. The emphasis is on processes that trainers can use to initiate introspection and animate group discussion on these issues. For many of the questions there are no final answers, because of the complex nature of the settlement process and the cultural dimension of every issue. The assumption is that participants in this type of training, given stimulating activities, will come up with important insights from their own collective experiences.”

Best Settlement Practices – Settlement Services For Refugees And Immigrants In Canada     Canadian Council For Refugees  February 1998
Again, older, but still very relevant, especially section 6, best practice guidelines, which align well with I&R.

Further expanded on in 2000, in this document: Canadian National Settlement Service Standards Framework

Best Practices for School Settlement Workers

The manual is useful for any settlement worker. It is broken into the following categories:

  • Introduction
  • Contact with Clients
  • Communicating with the School
  • Referrals From School Staff
  • Referrals to Community Agencies
  • Group Sessions

Building Local Information Support to Ontario Newcomers

I ran into this course earlier this year, but haven’t been able to find out any more. I haven’t been able to access the actual modules, but there is a fair amount of publicly available content that makes it look interesting enough for you to review and check out:

“Building Local Information Support to Ontario Newcomers project aims at strengthening collaboration of service providers working with newcomers in local communities.  Learn methods to build capacity for sustainable local information management  practices by working with both community information and settlement sectors through our online training modules and toolkits of smart practices.”

If anyone took this training, I’d love to hear more about it.

These links should give you a good overview of what you need to know to practice excellent I&R with newcomer clients.

2 thoughts on “Settlement work and Information & Referral – a primer

  • Hi Marco – Thanks for sharing this on your blog/ Always good to remember I&R day and the important role it plays in the settlement and integration process of newcomers.

  • Hi Faed,

    Thanks for commenting, Faed. Always appreciate your and Findhelp’s important work in our sector.

    Take care!

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