How and why did SDCAS become involved in the project?
We were approached by Refugee Action to do a joint bid for funding on this project, which is called Asylum Early Action. Eight organisations are involved in total. Myself and another member of staff Ola started working on it in January 2019 as an extension of our other roles at SDCAS.
What is the timescale of the project?
The project is 3 years in total, and towards the end of the first year we will review the project and then draw up what will be done in the 2nd year.
What exactly are we doing?
The project is the most exploratory thing we have done at SDCAS, at least to my knowledge. The whole idea around Early Action is something that Refugee Action have borrowed from homelessness charities such as Shelter, Crisis and St Mungo's. It is based on the idea that those who work in the sector know what the best way of doing things is. It means intervening and de-escalating crises as early as possible, rather than working on a firefighting basis.
We are looking at what we do and have done, and showing how we have implemented more principles of Early Action into our work. We will then, in the future, be able to go to funders and say this is what works for us and our clients.
So far we have interviewed a set of clients, staff and volunteers for their opinions and experiences of homelessness, and we are working on building an evidence base for the problems that we need to address. From this we’ll develop a set of recommendations for the rest of the year.
We have also already started doing a few things that have come out from the interviews - for instance, we have created a directory of homelessness services that is kept up to date and can be used by staff and volunteers.
We have begun destitution casework, which means we have a list of beneficiaries who are at risk of destitution or are insecurely housed. Ola and I work on these cases and try to join up all the work the three separate day centres do, as these cases are our highest priorities. We are also looking at more training and other measures we can take to address the gaps in our service.
How big a problem is homelessness for clients at SDCAS?
It is huge. Homelessness is experienced by a large number of our clients, exacerbated by London’s housing crisis. It is caused by a wide range of factors, and we have frequent situations where certain groups fall through the gaps. Some of these are asylum seekers whose claim for asylum has been refused, but who have no way of returning to their home countries. They receive no state support.
Others have severe mental health issues, others have just arrived, and others have active asylum claims but are unable to access the support they’re entitled to. Some have been in the UK over 20 years but don’t have adequate proof - similar to the recent Windrush deportations.
You can find out more about the Early Action project here.
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