In 2017/18, we supported 186 asylum seekers, refugees and migrants. We are open to everyone, regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, sexuality, religion or any other factors. Our clients were extremely diverse, coming from over 60 countries. Everyone who comes to ICRM has left their home country: fleeing persecution or warfare, or seeking to make a better life for themselves. You can find out more about the problems they face rebuilding their lives here.
The majority of ICRM clients were asylum seekers – at the end of 2017/18 83% of clients were seeking asylum, and 83% of our asylum seeking clients were experiencing destitution. 26% of clients were refugees.
We were able to support a number of our most vulnerable clients to make positive progress in their claim for protection, helping them to meaningfully move towards integration. This included support to overcome destitution. Of our asylum seeking clients, in 2017/18 on entering the service, 102 experienced destitution. Supporting them to progress their case meant that by the end of the year, the number experiencing destitution had fallen to 89.
Supporting progression in English language learning
Learning English is the most important first step to ensure that asylum seekers, refugees and migrants are able to live independently in the UK. It facilitates social networks, integration, and a feeling of belonging. In 2017/18, we delivered 156 ESOL (English as a Second Language) A and 156 ESOL B classes across the year. ESOL A works with people with little or no English language skills at all; ESOL B is a larger class, focussing on people who have some English language skills.
“Before I started coming here, I could not speak English. Before I could not speak on the bus and people laughed at me because of my broken English. It was difficult to explain my pain to the doctor. Now I’m so happy and confident because I can communicate with people.”
44% of clients assessed moved up an entire level, and 42% progressed within their level (e.g. moving from Entry 2 emerging to Entry 2 established). For 7 clients there was no change, or some regression, which can occur for a number of reasons – for example, mental health issues.
Supporting people to overcome their practical problems
Our Support Service helps clients to overcome their practical problems, providing support, advice, and advocacy. This ranges from helping clients to access emergency grants to meet their needs for food and clothing, and supporting homeless clients to access homeless shelters, to securing long-term accommodation and helping clients who have secured status to access housing.
We work closely with partner organisations to ensure clients are accessing appropriate specialist support. This includes therapeutic organisations such as The Refugee Therapy Centre and Room to Heal, housing, homelessness, and hosting organisations such as Shelter from the Storm, C4WS, and NACCOM, and specialist advice providers such as the Red Cross, Hackney Migrant Centre and Citizens Advice.
“I am suffering from depression from the past experiences in my country. [In London] I used to sleep on the street, bus, more than two years on the streets of London. The only place for support I have is the Islington Centre. Without the help of the Centre it would have been very difficult to improve myself in all terms of my life.”
We were delighted to help significant numbers of clients to make real, positive change in their lives:
- We supported 8 asylum seekers to secure refugee status, and a further 28 to make substantive progress through supporting them in making an appeal or Fresh Claim.
- We supported 13 destitute asylum seekers to access sustainable income, including asylum support and welfare benefits.
- We supported 20 homeless individuals to access sustainable shelter.
- We supported 33 individuals to overcome barriers to accessing education and training.
Supporting people to improve their emotional and physical wellbeing
We aim to help our clients begin to lead healthier, happier lives at the Centre, and in their day to day lives, and in 2017/18 offered a range of services to improve physical and emotional wellbeing. These activities included healthchecks; exercise; access to clothing, toiletries, and food; the creation of a safe, welcoming space, and activities and services to enable people to develop confidence, emotional resilience, and social networks.
“To me, this centre is like a family home, because when I come here every day I feel relax”
Our clients reported very positive improvements in their sense of wellbeing having accessed Centre services – again, we also saw an improvement against our results in 2016/17.
“I’m alone, but in the Centre I have friends”
We asked our clients to rate how they felt that they had progressed in the year on a scale of 1 to 5, with one indicating no progression, and 5 indicating the most progression.
Supporting skills development and progression
In order to ensure that our clients are able to access the best quality skills development, we work in partnership with a range of external partners who are expert in their respective fields. As we have developed the programme over 2017/18, we have delivered several pilot projects, including taster workshops on financial management, ICT, art skills with the Institute of Contemporary Arts, and understanding the asylum system. We have delivered career-focussed classes within our main English language provision to enable clients to explore potential areas of work in the UK – for example, working in a charity.
“As refugees we are stuck always in our life process in the UK. The centre helps us to find a solution for our problems, helps us to light the dark moments”
We have placed 10 clients as internal volunteers. We have also undertaken a pilot external volunteering programme, working with the Wallace Collection to support 6 clients to work as tour guides within the Collection, including undertaking art historical research in order to formulate a tour based on clients’ preferred art works. We have supported 52 clients, where they are eligible, to access further educational and training opportunities.
To find out the impact of this work, we again asked clients to rank progression in skills development out of 5, with 1 being minimal progression, and 5 being very strong progression.
Supporting community integration
We offered a range of social and other activities to support increased social connectedness, working to ensure the development of social networks, independence, and feelings of belonging and integration.
We have also developed a new Ambassadorship Programme. Clients have received training and support in storytelling and public speaking to enable them to craft and tell their own stories, reaching out to the community to challenge misconceptions about asylum seekers, refugees, and migrants. Since its establishment in March, clients have spoken at a number of local community groups.