RådRum offers voluntary-based, free, impartial and confidential counseling for newly arrived migrants. Normally two counsellors attend each visitor; one native and one with a migration background. A wide variety of issues are discussed, and support is given on how to proceed. The social interaction is about trust and handling personal problems, but also about providing an opportunity for inter-cultural social interaction and practice of some simple Swedish.
In normal circumstances, RådRum would be located at a public place, such as libraries. In March, as the coronavirus was spreading and insecurity was growing, IM was forced to close RådRum as a physical meeting place. IM’s policy has been to convert, not to close, activities, since the need for support prevails. Therefore, the same day as we closed RådRum’s physical meeting place, we developed a method for RådRum at a distance.
In the beginning, we had some concerns. For example, could we advise how to fill in a form on a video call? Could we support a visitor on how to make a formal appeal to a decision in an e-mail? Would people reach out to us on sensitive matters? Would digital safety be guaranteed for both visitors and counsellors? The answers were all “yes”.
But new challenges appeared. For example, how can we assist visitors who cannot handle a phone or a computer? And how to reach the target group, when many stay at home? Solutions are in progress. A librarian can set up a computer screen directly connected to a counsellor’s computer screen, so that a visitor can get counselling without handling the computer himself. And a text message campaign is being carried out to reach out to potential visitors using the social networks of actual visitors.
Offering RådRum remotely; by phone, or by using Whatsapp and e-mail, could have been developed in any case, but it was the virus that forced us to be creative. It was a quick solution to an acute problem, but luckily with very encouraging results. It is likely that we will continue the practice, develop the method further and spread it nationwide, even once the virus is under control and the physical meeting places are re-opened.