We strive to provide support services and a safe and welcoming environment through day centre provision, to help meet the needs of local asylum seekers. Through general advice and help we hope to facilitate access to a range of mainstream services, with particular emphasis on health, housing, employment, training, education and asylum issues. The sociable atmosphere of the day centres provides our clients with the opportunity to build their own social networks, which reduces the level of isolation so often felt in this disenfranchised group.
We aim to provide a wide range of holistic services which support, promote and secure the rights of asylum seekers and refugees in the London Borough of Southwark.
SDCAS was founded in early 1996 as a practical response from local church leaders and community activists to changes in government policy that resulted in an increase of poverty, distress and homelessness amongst asylum seekers and refugees. The following year SDCAS became an independent charity and our client base grew hugely.
Initially there was just one drop-in at the Copleston Centre in Peckham, but as demand increased moves were made to expand the service. In August 1999 SDCAS opened a centre at the United Reformed Church ‘Crossway’, located on the New Kent Road, in order to support the large numbers of asylum seekers from Albania and Kosovo housed in the area. This was quite a steep learning curve for us all, in terms of the numbers of service users with varied needs, use of the building and the range of resources and volunteers needed. There have been many changes since opening and most of the asylum seekers who use Crossway now are from Africa and Middle Eastern countries.
It became evident that the needs of isolated families living on large estates had to be addressed. Various new elements of SDCAS developed out of our work with children and families, including creating the post of Play Leader to manage this part of our work.
We have also appointed a mental health development worker to support asylum seekers suffering mental health problems and stress resulting from the difficulties they face in Britain. This worker also supports other members of staff and volunteers at SDCAS in responding to the needs of those with mental health problems. We have been working closely with South London and Maudsley staff to develop a mental health model suitable for people from many different cultures.