Frankfurt sets up ‘clearing point’ advice service for patients
Dr Petra Tiarks-Jungk reports on a new council service inspired by her participation in C-MISE, which will steer irregular migrants into the mainstream welfare system for the first time
December 2021 will mark the 20th year of providing free medical treatment to irregular migrants at the Health Department of Frankfurt, Germany, through a clinic for uninsured patients which I run.
As a local authority, Frankfurt Health Department believes it is our job to provide health care to anyone without health insurance, explicitly for irregular migrants. An estimated 25.000 - 40.000 irregular migrants live in Frankfurt. Psychosocial and health problems are inevitably connected with living in precarious conditions. Normally about 600 patients visit our health care centre each year.
Despite the challenges of the Coronavirus over the past year, we have been planning a new service, launched in February, arising from my participation in the C-MISE project!
Services offered by other cities gave me inspiration for a new idea The council’s Social Welfare department has provided 10,000 € (for 2021 -2022) to set up a weekly ‘clearing point’ advice and referral service in our clinic, with access to a telephone translation service. Here we can refer our patients, confidentially and anonymously if they prefer, for an assessment undertaken by professionals regarding health, housing, and all aspects of their welfare.
With this programme, the migrants have the chance to enter the mainstream welfare system for the first time, including the possibility of monthly welfare payments and health insurance. Because of COVID-19, it is not easy to calculate exact numbers, but at first, we expect 30 clients per month. We hope to expand the service step by step because we know from experience that there will be a great demand for it. We think that there is a good chance for a bigger grant in future when we are able to present the first promising results.
The exchange with other city representatives in the C-MISE meetings helped me in developing the project. It benefited from their experience. I learned about the Barcelona example of a one-stop-shop advice and referral service, which existed already for some years and the Utrecht experience of advice provision linked to the provision of shelter. Without these meetings, I would never have had the courage to start a similar project! With this knowledge and the possibility to speak about it, I could convince my colleagues in the Social Welfare department to collaborate on this clearing point project. It gives them the confidence to start a new service, knowing that other cities have already successfully installed such programmes.
We also had the chance to present our healthcare model (Humanitarian Consultation Hours) to our regional authority - the Parliament of the Federal State of Hesse. The parliament decided, subject to a final decision, to start a programme to reintegrate irregular migrants and all persons in precarious situations into the mainstream healthcare system. If it goes ahead, 5 Million Euros are calculated as the first budget per year. I shall keep you informed!