How does it operate?
As the name of the project suggests, “Ankerkracht” aims at “anchoring” young refugees in Ghent society. Since young refugees constitute a particularly vulnerable group, there is a need for appropriate guidance, both in groups and individually. The target group for this project are young people between the ages of 16 and 25, who have been granted either refugee status or subsidiary protection, receive a living wage, and have been living in Ghent for less than one year. The project takes a tailored and holistic approach to focus on all areas of the young person's life, with particular attention to psycho-education, identity and personality development, integration, participation, as well as social and financial empowerment. The aim is to support young people in acquiring skills. To achieve these objectives, the OCMW (Public Centre for Social Welfare) put together a multidisciplinary team of social workers, a psychologist, a housing coach and a job coach. This enables them to provide support in the areas of language learning, education, employment, networking and leisure.
What is the outcome?
The number of applications increased from 41 in 2014 to 77 in 2015, with the number of active participants each year fluctuating between 50 and 60. Both internal and external services are convinced of the social value of Project Ankerkracht. Key takeaways of Ankerkracht include (1) the investment in an informal, outreach approach to reach young refugees and build a relationship of trust, (2) the creation of a multidisciplinary team, both as a way to provide holistic support to the young people and as a way for the team members to support each other (in weekly meetings), (3) the recognition of the existing youth culture and the existing support network.
Who initiated the project? How?
Originally, the project Ankerkracht (Anchor Power) was set up by the Belgian federal government and funded by the European Union. However, in 2015, European subsidies ended. In that same year, Ghent’s Openbaar Centrum voor Maatschappelijk Welzijn (Public Centre for Social Welfare, OCMW) decided to attribute regular funds to Ankerkracht, and to take on the project as part of its own operations.