Community Fund research Issue 2 Refugees and asylum seekers in London: the impact of Community Fund grants

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1 Community Fund research Issue 2 Refugees and asylum seekers in London: the impact of Community Fund grants The London regional office of the Community Fund has made a significant number of grants to organisations providing a service for refugee communities. Up to June 2000 we had made 138 grants totalling 15 million 9.2 per cent of the total amount awarded by the London office since we began making grants in This research into our grants to refugee and asylum seeker communities was commissioned in August 2000 to: assess the impact of our grants on refugee and asylum seeker communities; and guide our grant-making and policy for organisations providing services to refugees and asylum seekers in London.

2 Main points Grants from our London regional office have: Provided over 25 per cent of the annual income of over half of the groups we surveyed. Grants from the London region provided more than 50 per cent of total funding for a third of the groups. Paid for 15 groups to provide health related services to refugee and asylum seeker communities who traditionally have a low take-up of mainstream health provision. Leveraged over 300,000 of additional income from other sources. Created one or two full-time jobs in 44 per cent of refugee organisations, and one or more part-time posts in 50 per cent of them. In total, 17 full-time and 24 part-time jobs were created as a result of our funding in the 34 organisations surveyed. Increased access to welfare and housing advice for asylum seekers and refugees. Increased services for young people and children, improving their education and sense of identity. Increased services for older people in refugee and asylum seeker communities, reducing their sense of isolation and improving their well being. Paid for 25 per cent of the organisations to provide urgently needed advice on immigration and asylum issues. Paid for 25 per cent of the groups to provide employment and training for asylum seekers and refugees. Paid for five refugee groups to provide English language tuition to equip refugee and asylum seekers to integrate more easily into society. 2

3 Introduction Background Refugees and asylum seekers in London are estimated to number between 350,000 and 420,000, or about one in 20 of the city s resident population (Refugees and Asylum Seekers in London: a GLA Perspective 2001). About 85 per cent of asylum seekers entering the UK come to London. Over 450 organisations in the Greater London area provide services for refugees and asylum seekers or represent these communities. Organisations surveyed in the study commented that poverty, the workings of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 and uncertainties about immigration status made life particularly difficult for refugees and asylum seekers. Since April 2000, the National Asylum Support System (NASS) has been supporting destitute asylum seekers. The Audit Commission published a report in June 2000 which identified a number of shortcomings in the system, and these were all mentioned during the research: 1. Isolation, lack of community support and racial harassment were felt in areas where asylum seekers had been dispersed; many often moved back to where they could find support. 2. The standard of accommodation was poor, with many providers failing to provide services. 3. Some providers contracted under NASS failed to help refugees and asylum seekers find essential services such as education, health and English Language classes. 4. There were problems getting legal advice. As there were not enough legal firms to deal with the work, asylum seekers could fail to meet the deadlines for completing Home Office forms and were then refused asylum. There was also evidence from organisations that the voucher system for buying essential provisions was producing serious hardship. In October 2001, the government announced a radical reform of the NASS dispersal system. A network of accommodation and removal centres is planned across the country, and the use of council estates and private accommodation will be phased out. Asylum seekers will be required to sleep at the centres, which will provide full board and lodgings and a range of services including education, legal advice and healthcare. The government also plans to replace vouchers with a combined ID and cash card. The Refugee Council has said that the card will exacerbate the problems that asylum seekers already face in accessing the basic services to which they are entitled. Overview of funding of refugee and asylum seeker communities by the Community Fund Sixty one per cent of our funding for refugees and asylum seekers currently goes to groups in London where we have made over 200 grants where refugees were beneficiaries. Of these, 138 (totaling 15 million) were to organisations offering services focusing on the needs of refugees and asylum seekers although in many cases groups other than refugees were also beneficiaries. The research study In August 2000 we commissioned Lucy Ball and Sally Griffin (independent researchers) to carry out research to: assess the impact of our grants on refugee and asylum seeker communities; and guide our grant-making and policy for 3

4 Introduction The findings organisations providing services to refugees and asylum seekers in London. All completed grants where refugees in London were the main beneficiaries were included in the study. The research analysed monitoring documents for these 34 grants. A qualitative survey was also carried out on six organisations, with interviews conducted with 20 management committee members, 14 staff and 36 users. The organisations Most of the 34 organisations in the study worked only with refugees and asylum seekers, though a few had a broader remit. The organisations fell into three categories: 1. Refugee Community Organisations (RCOs). Most of these offer a wide range of services, covering welfare, housing, health, advice on immigration matters, advocacy, cultural activities and language classes. Refugees manage these groups themselves. 2. Central or umbrella agencies which provide a service to refugees and asylum seekers. 3. Specialist agencies that offer specific legal, housing or health service related services. 21 of the 34 organisations surveyed were RCOs. 10 were central or umbrella agencies and three provided specialist services. The 34 organisations in this study had received a total of 3.2 million in Community Fund grants. Approximately one third of grants were for under 50,000; one third were for between 50,000 and 100,000; and one third were for between 100,000 and 200,000. There was one grant for between 350,000 and 400,000 to build a community centre. 4 Impact on finance The refugee organisations we fund are usually small. Around two thirds of them had an income under 100,000 when we first funded them. Our funding provided over half the total income of 32 per cent of the groups. For 53 per cent of them our funding added up to more than a quarter of their annual funding. The research revealed that we were often the biggest funder even of large organisations. We cannot always tell whether our grant attracted extra funding from other agencies. However, the research highlighted two examples where it did. A grant of 30,000 for a new telephone system attracted extra funding worth around 300,000 to expand the telephone advice line. A local college paid for an ESOL tutor for a refugee organisation that had worked with them in one of our projects. Impact on staffing Over 80 per cent of the 34 projects we funded had fewer than eight staff members before funding; 20 per cent had no staff members; and 20 per cent had only one member of staff. Only three had more than 20 staff members. All but three of the organisations used volunteers. Two thirds of the organisations used between one and 20 volunteers. Nearly a quarter of the organisations used over 20 volunteers. In 44 per cent of the organisations we funded one or two full-time jobs were created by our grant. In 50 per cent of the organisations, the funding created one or more part-time jobs. In total, 17 full-time and 24 part-time jobs were created.

5 of the funding 1. Access to welfare and housing advice Respondents described the principal difficulties which refugees and asylum seekers face with the benefits system and housing. These are: Lack of familiarity with the system and the organisations which administer it. Ineligibility for benefits because of their immigration and asylum status. Difficulties in finding suitable accommodation. This makes them dependent on the private rented sector where housing may be of poor standard and over-crowded. Lack of spoken and written English skills makes it difficult for some refugees to find information. One organisation, funded for a three year period, helped 486 individuals with welfare and housing advice and achieved successful outcomes for 474. Gave verbal and written information and advice in the mother tongue and English. Gave explanations of welfare and housing benefit systems which resulted in an increase in claimants income. Offered advocacy on clients behalf. Provided rent deposit and furnishings which helped people get housed. Provided interpretation services between refugees and asylum seekers and statutory and voluntary organisations. When I first came to UK I needed help with lots of things and a friend told me about here they helped with getting money for me and about accommodation and getting some furniture. They still help me now because I, my husband and my two children share a house with another family from another culture, we don t have enough room and we share a bathroom it is very difficult. 2. Services for young people and children RCOs described the importance of making sure that young people and children had a secure sense of identity through links with their own community. They also said that the impact of living in poverty and being isolated could be relieved by taking part in recreational and cultural events. Refugees and asylum seekers are keen to make sure that their children do well in school and college, and to ensure that language difficulties do not disadvantage them. We funded an organisation to build a community centre and language school which resulted in 317 pupils attending a Saturday school, 200 youth members attending a Youth Club and 20 cultural events for a total of 1,552 people. Provided opportunities for children from refugee and asylum seeker communities to receive extra help with English and other subjects. Offered opportunities for children and young people from refugee and asylum seeker communities to learn more about their culture and establish their identity. Increased the knowledge of volunteers, teachers, health and social service staff and providing opportunities for them to review policy and practice. Provided opportunities for single mothers to take part in recreational activities with children and to meet each other. Often they may be quite isolated at school at 5

6 The findings least when they are new, here at the Saturday school they can meet other children from their culture and talk together. 3. Services for older people Older people in the refugee and asylum seeker communities have specific needs. They are often isolated and speak little English which prevents them accessing health and other services. This can have a negative impact on their psychological well being. Our funding paid for one organisation to build a community centre where they provided 3,675 lunches for older people over a three year period. Supported teaching older people English. Provided welfare, housing, benefits and health advice. Offered help to older people who were ill. Provided cultural and social activities. When you come here to UK, you are like a blind man; you don t recognise anything, you have no knowledge. Here they helped with everything. I am not healthy, it is very complicated in UK; all these different hospitals and specialists they helped me here I received the best service here. 4. Health advice and help in finding treatment It is recognised that there is a lack of take-up of mainstream health services by refugees and asylum seekers, often because of cultural and language barriers. This is despite a high level of post traumatic stress and depression within refugee communities. As a result of our funding, 15 organisations used our grants to offer specific health related services. 6 An RCO had a grant to set up a health resource centre. It carried out an assessment of their community s health needs which showed that more than half had experienced mental health problems. As a result, people received culturally sensitive counselling and medical help. Improved awareness and access to NHS health services. Increased take-up of testing for HIV, treatment at an early stage and prevention work on HIV/AIDS in communities where it is prevalent. Reduced hospital admissions and deaths related to HIV/AIDS. Offered help with mental health difficulties. I really felt we had achieved something very worthwhile and important 2 or 3 years back people were not accessing services and not going to their GPs if they had HIV or AIDS for fear of being tested and of the stigma for them and their families. Now we have many less deaths in the community, people are getting treatment and we are supporting people and their families. 5. Immigration and asylum advice and advocacy services Nine organisations (25 per cent) were able to offer services on immigration and asylum issues as a result of our funding. The range of services offered by RCOs and other organisations include: Representing clients in person at the Home Office. Representing clients at immigration ports, detention centres, police stations, benefit offices, local authority offices etc.

7 One organisation used our grant to employ an outreach worker. In one year they represented 130 new arrivals; worked with barristers to prepare 22 cases to present at Immigration Appellate Courts; prepared and represented 18 social security tribunal appeals and visited eight detention centres and police stations in respect of detainees. In the first year they reduced the number of their clients held in detention from 65 to 20. Advised asylum seekers on matters concerning their asylum claims. Provided cost effective services on complex legal matters. Provided medico legal reports to prove when asylum seekers had been victims of torture. Reduced the number of asylum seekers in detention centres. Often the most important thing we do is to provide a point of contact for people in our community before they access other services. People s immigration matters are often very complex and services like health and education want to see people's immigration documents before they can gain access to services. 6. Employment and training advice and volunteering opportunities Nine organisations (25 per cent) used their grant to give advice or other services about the employment and training needs of refugees and asylum seekers. Many of these used the grant to train and supervise volunteers who make a substantial contribution to the work of RCOs. A project to refurbish premises and employ an education and training worker helped 100 women. Skills learnt included dressmaking, childcare, community development and interpreting. As a result, 16 students found employment as freelance interpreters. An increase in refugees' confidence to enter the job market. Support from other members of the community who have gone through similar experiences in the UK labour market. Increased vocational skills and knowledge. Increased number of refugees gaining employment. For refugees it is specially important to be in a setting where your particular needs and circumstances are understood it s been very important for me to see the success of my peers friends and colleagues from this community who have struggled and achieved. There are no quick fixes to building confidence, overcoming the difficulties of leaving the career you had at home behind, and getting used to conditions and the job market in the UK. A lot of advice and help comes free here, it is real value for money. 7. Language provision English language and mother tongue The acquisition of language skills is crucial in helping refugees and asylum seekers to settle in the UK. Five refugee organisations used our grants to pay for English language tuition, some of which was provided in single sex classes. Eight used the grants to offer cultural and social activities that included lessons in their mother tongue. 7

8 In one project we paid for basic English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) provision for 34 homeless refugees and asylum seekers. Twenty-five finished the course and gained a place in an further education college. The same organisation ran an education drop-in service which referred people to the in-house ESOL course, 162 to other ESOL teaching and 48 to further education. Increased the ability to be independent. Helped refugees find jobs. Gave opportunities to meet with other members of the community. It is easier for me to learn English here with other women; I feel more comfortable. In our culture I cannot be in a class with men outside the family it is very difficult for us. Conclusion This research set out to assess the impact of our grants on refugee communities and to provide the Fund with a guide to grant making in this area of deprivation. The research showed that funding made an observable impact on the community, as demonstrated by the examples in this report. This was supported by comments from members of the community. This finding has meant that the London office has kept refugees and asylum seekers as a funding priority. The case studies show the wide range of services and benefits offered by the groups funded, with no one service seeming to be more important or effective than others. This has helped inform the London office when devising its refugee and asylum funding priority to keep this broad and flexible. 8 This study also pointed to the importance of small community based organisations, in contrast to the possible tendency to centralise and develop expertise. Some flavour of the value put on these organisations by individuals can be found in the quotes included in this report. This finding will continue to influence our grantmaking to organisations offering services to this community. For more information The full research report is published on our website: For more information about our research please contact: Rachel Harper Enquiries Officer London Office Community Fund Camelford House 89 Albert Embankment London, SE1 7UF Phone: Minicom: Fax: Published by the Community Fund, November Designed by PRE Consultants Ltd. Printed by Howards on Chlorine free paper. Community Fund is the operating name of the National Lottery Charities Board. ISSN:

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