2019-2020 Impact Report

How together we provided a lifeline to
people seeking safety in the UK

Just like you, we want to ensure refugees and people seeking asylum are welcome in the UK and are able to rebuild their lives, free from poverty and injustice.

We are delighted to be publishing this as our first online impact report. The external context for our work in 2019-2020 was highly challenging, but we are immensely proud of what we achieved.

The people we work with have seen the very worst of humanity. During these unprecedented times, we have the chance to show them the best.

IN THEIR WORDS…

A special thank you from MD, Russel, Bonheur, Ahmad and Steven.
(click to enlarge)

HUMANITY CAN WIN

AHMED, EGYPT

They told me to return to Egypt, but how can I go back when I’m in danger? So I applied for asylum.

I was homeless before and after applying for asylum. I slept in the streets because I had no place.

Then Refugee Action helped me apply for accommodation – both when I was an asylum-seeker, and then again when I was a refugee. They helped me get my passport back from the Home Office too after they held it for three years. Refugee Action did this for me.

BRUNO AND CATHERINE, ZIMBABWE AND THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

There was nowhere to go back to; there was nowhere to get my stuff or my passport, even for the kids. We had to leave.

People are very helpful and kind here in the UK. When you have people smiling at you, you wonder what you have done wrong, because we came from a community where people are suspicious of one another. Now we’re in a community where people are smiling and saying good morning. That’s so nice, so cool, it’s new for us.

BONHEUR, CONGO AND BURUNDI

When I arrived, I didn’t know anything, I started from zero; you showed me how to use the kettle to help us make a cup of tea.

I have never met workers like the people at Refugee Action. They support people from different countries and different cultures, introducing us to everything.

My basic understanding of the system in the UK started with Refugee Action, and everything I know about this country I learned from them. I can’t tell you how grateful I feel.

HELPING PEOPLE REBUILD THEIR LIVES

Together we have been fighting poverty and injustice, and have transformed many lives. We helped by:

THANKS TO YOU…

3,291 PEOPLE

in the asylum process have received critical support

90+ ORGANISATIONS

were supported to improve the lives of refugees and people seeking asylum

875 REFUGEES

were resettled in the UK and supported to rebuild their lives in safety

100,000+ PEOPLE

campaigned to end the ban on work for people seeking asylum

90% OVERALL CONFIDENCE ABOUT INTEGRATION

reported by the resettled refugees we supported in 2019-2020. This is a huge increase from 50% just one year ago. Thanks to you, refugees have been able to build relationships and successfully integrate into their new communities.

76% OF THE PEOPLE SEEKING ASYLUM

who received support have turned their lives around. Thanks to Refugee Action, they were able to understand their situation, and take tangible action—escaping poverty, isolation and homelessness.

WE SPENT £6.5M TO CHANGE LIVES AND CREATE A FAIRER AND MORE EFFECTIVE ASYLUM SYSTEM

THE FUTURE IS FAIRER

BY STEPHEN HALE
CHIEF EXECUTIVE

I am enormously proud of all we achieved in 2019-20, and deeply grateful to our highly skilled and committed team and to our supporters and funders for making it possible. It was not an easy year.

The Brexit process paralysed our Government until December 2019, making it impossible to secure new policy commitments. The country has often been deeply polarised, a difficult context for our clients and for our work.

A new government gives us some political stability, after four years of division and uncertainty. But this Government also clearly takes a more hostile approach to the rights of people to seek asylum.

We will continue to argue passionately that Britain can and must step up to help refugees and people seeking asylum to access justice and rebuild their lives in the UK.

Like everyone, we have been forced to adapt our services and plans dramatically since the onset of COVID-19 in March 2020. The COVID-19 crisis has dramatically increased and expanded the needs of refugees and people seeking asylum, who are at higher risk of poverty, homelessness, destitution and isolation.

I am deeply proud of the speed and effectiveness of our response. With decisive and creative leadership and the generosity of our funders, we have been able to expand our work and provide critical support and advice to other organisations facing similar challenges.

The coming year will be challenging in many ways. Nevertheless, I am confident we can sustain and indeed increase the positive impact of our services, campaigns and support to other organisations.

Our ultimate goal remains systemic change, as set out in our three-year strategy. We look forward to working with many others committed to achieving this.

THANK YOU

Our partners and supporters play a vital role. Together, we are changing the system and transforming the lives of those seeking safety in the UK. Thank you to our service partners, our good practice and partnership partners, and to all our funders, including those who wish to remain anonymous.

A SPECIAL THANK YOU, AND A FAREWELL, TO OUR BELOVED COLLEAGUE
NICOLETTE MUZAZI

We were stunned and heartbroken to hear about the death of our much-loved colleague Nicolette Muzazi at the end of January 2020, at the tragically young age of 37. She was passionate and full of energy, and since 2004 she had committed to supporting others who were on a similar journey to hers, first in Liverpool and then in London.

Read more

TOGETHER WE CAN ENSURE THAT EVERY PERSON SEEKING SAFETY IN THE UK FEELS WELCOME.

Your support is helping refugees and people seeking asylum get justice, live free from poverty and rebuild their lives.

Thank you.

DONATE     CAMPAIGN
 

CREATING A FAIRER
AND MORE EFFECTIVE
ASYLUM SYSTEM

People seeking safety in the UK are often met with a system that is too complex to navigate and injustice on many fronts.

They are not allowed to work and are regularly being failed by a dehumanising asylum system. In 2019-2020, we continued transforming lives through direct interventions and campaigning, and by partnering up with a network of like-minded organisations across the country for a coordinated approach.

Our ultimate aim is to change the system for good, so that people seeking safety are treated with fairness and dignity.

WE HELPED OVER 3,000 PEOPLE

who were homeless and
destitute, access housing and
financial support

WE RAN NATIONWIDE CAMPAIGNS

to change government
policies in support of people
seeking safety in the UK

WE WORKED CLOSELY WITH MORE PARTNERS

to develop a network of
volunteer Asylum Guides
across the country

LAST YEAR’S HIGHLIGHTS

DIRECT SUPPORT AT THE ASYLUM CRISIS CENTRES

The Asylum Crisis teams worked tirelessly to help people understand their situation and their rights, and advocated on their behalf with the Home Office. In addition, we helped over 3,000 people in Greater Manchester, West Midlands and London to access housing and support; and hundreds of families claiming asylum, as they face the double challenge of navigating the system while helping their children to settle.

EXPANDING OUR REACH THROUGH ASYLUM GUIDES

Working with ten different partners to date, we are developing a strong network of Asylum Guides — volunteers who are trained to support people to navigate the system.

So far, 72 Asylum Guides have received training, which has allowed us to help over 800 people.

CAMPAIGNING FOR CHANGE

It’s not enough to provide support when needed. We also want to make sure that the system is just and effective. In 2019-2020, we mobilised over 100,000 people to take action. Together, we continue fighting for the rights of people seeking asylum to access English language courses, and for the right to employment through our Lift the Ban campaign.

And we gathered vital data about the injustice people are facing every day, because with the right knowledge we can better fight for change.

KNOWLEDGE IS POWER

When fighting for change, it is crucial to that we can gather evidence about how unjust the system is. In 2019-2020, we released two key reports demonstrating the challenges refugees and people seeking asylum face in the UK.

Missing the Safety Net (2019)

This report, published by Refugee Action and the No Accommodation Network (NACCOM), reveals that vulnerable people refused asylum in the UK are being failed by the Government’s asylum support system.

Read the report

Lifting the ban: common sense (2020)

A ban on seeking employment is still in place in the UK for people seeking asylum, forcing them to live on just £5.66 per day. This report shows the strength of the evidence in favour of giving people seeking asylum the right to work.

Read the report

HELPING PEOPLE REBUILD THEIR LIVES

Together we have been fighting poverty and injustice, and have transformed many lives. We helped by:

 

ENABLING LOCAL SERVICES
TO WORK TOGETHER
AND MORE EFFECTIVELY

We recognise that services in the community are essential to improving people’s lives.

However, local services can only work effectively if grassroots organisations, charities and local Governments work together seamlessly.

We have made progress in ensuring this happens, and in 2019-2020 we focused on two regions – Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire.

Our aim is to create integrated regional services which are so effective that they can be a model for other areas.

THE STEP CHANGE CONSORTIUM

was created in Greater
Manchester together with
8 other organisations

WE HELPED HUNDREDS
OF FAMILIES

in West Yorkshire, in
collaboration with other
organisations and local
services

90+ ORGANISATIONS

were supported to improve the lives of refugees and people seeking asylum

LAST YEAR’S HIGHLIGHTS

Providing the right support for people as they move through the asylum system is not just about the services we can give. It also means ensuring that all the key actors in an area are working together to ensure that there is a fully joined-up approach.

A HOLISTIC APPROACH IN MANCHESTER

Thanks to our teams, in 2019-2020 Greater Manchester saw the creation of two working groups that will improve the integration system for refugees and people seeking asylum:

1) the Step Change Consortium, made up of nine charities;

2) the Manchester Network, an initiative connecting charities, services and local Government.

HELPING FAMILIES IN WEST YORKSHIRE

Families claiming asylum face a double burden —they need to navigate the complex asylum process and support their children to settle into a new area and school system.

Our West Yorkshire team strengthened relationships with Bradford Council and other local organisations, providing support to 309 families who were previously experiencing mental health issues, poverty and challenges integrating their children at school.

This partnership approach also helped 58 families to access school places and other educational opportunities. And we worked with the Council to create effective relationships with employers that have resulted in higher numbers of people in employment.

HELPING PEOPLE REBUILD THEIR LIVES

Together we have been fighting poverty and injustice, and have transformed many lives. We helped by:

 

SUPPORTING REFUGEES
TO RESETTLE IN THE UK

In 2019-2020, Refugee Action’s resettlement service continued to offer support to refugees arriving directly from refugee camps around the world.

Our teams take a tailored empowerment approach to resettlement. We recognise the skills and talents of the extraordinary families we work with, and support them to realise their own aspirations.

From access to healthcare and emergency services, to school, housing and financial support, we help refugees set up their lives in the UK.

875 RESETTLED

refugees received
support, including 488
new arrivals

44% OF PEOPLE

we helped in 2019-2020
were children
and families

100% OF REFUGEES

we helped received essential training
on keeping safe and accessing
emergency services in the UK

LAST YEAR’S HIGHLIGHTS

HEALTHCARE AND SAFETY FIRST

The first step to resettling is ensuring that the urgent needs of a family are addressed. So, in 2019-2020 we made sure that:

– refugees accessed a GP for the first time within eight days of their arrival;
– 100% of the refugees we worked with received an Emergency Services briefing on their arrival day, learning how to access these services and about the types of things that they can help with.

Within three days of arriving in a new community, we give refugee families a Local Orientation tour, the first step to successfully settling in the UK. This is followed by a tailored Personal Integration Planning process, which starts within the first month of arrival, with a follow-up meeting every three months. We look at core aspects, such as

housing, finance, education, employment, health, relationships, and legal support.

We are proud to say that the refugees who have received this kind of support reported an overall confidence level of 90% about their integration in the UK. This is a staggering increase from 50% just one year ago.

LOOKING TO THE FUTURE

We also made the case for a continued UK resettlement programme, as the existing government programmes were due to end in March 2020.

So we were relieved to welcome the announcement in June 2019 of a new scheme for 2020-21. But this is not enough, and we continue to advocate for a long-term commitment by the UK Government.

HELPING PEOPLE REBUILD THEIR LIVES

Together we have been fighting poverty and injustice, and have transformed many lives. We helped by:

 

REMOVING BARRIERS
TO EMPLOYMENT
AND INTEGRATION

Learning English is a crucial step to integration and to finding work. However, far too often, refugees and people seeking asylum find it impossible to access the English classes, either because there simply aren’t enough teaching hours available, or because childcare prevented them from accessing the lessons.

With your support, we are campaigning for all people with refugee backgrounds to access English classes as part of our efforts to remove the barriers to employment and integration.

75% OF PARENTS

reported that a lack of
childcare prevented them from
accessing English classes

60%

is the amount that government
funding for English language classes
has shrunk by in the last decade

2 OUT OF 3

refugees were not confident that
their level of English was good enough
to find a job in the UK

LAST YEAR’S HIGHLIGHTS

LET REFUGEES LEARN

In 2019-2020, we ran the Let Refugees Learn campaign which called on the Government to increase funding for English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes.

We mobilised 1,900 people to email their MP, secured media coverage, and won vocal cross-party support, with a debate in Parliament – where 11 MPs spoke on the need for increased ESOL provision. Following this work, Home Office officials told us there was an increased focus in the department on the issue.

In June we also published a new report, Turning Words Into Action, that revealed how government funding for ESOL had shrunk by almost 60% over the previous decade.

The report also showed that two out of every three refugees were not confident that their level of English made them ready to find work in the UK.

THE WORKING ENGLISH PROJECT

The project was set up in two significant population centres, Greater Manchester and Bradford, to help refugees understand the employment process in the UK, from job advertisements and interviews, to rights and responsibilities. It also supported refugees to improve their English language skills.

Last year, the project assisted 229 people who subsequently felt confident to actively search for a job, attend interviews and increase their skills through volunteering.

KNOWLEDGE IS POWER

When fighting for change, it is crucial that we can gather evidence about how unjust the system is. In 2019-2020, we released a key report to demonstrate the vital need for ESOL classes for refugees in the UK.

Turning words into action (2019)

Speaking English is crucial to helping refugees integrate within society. However, this report, presents results from a survey of refugees across England, which shows that the resources made available by the Government are not enough.

Read the report

HELPING PEOPLE REBUILD THEIR LIVES

Together we have been fighting poverty and injustice, and have transformed many lives. We helped by: