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Signposting - support services for asylum seekers and refugees

Various churches, individuals and organisations have asked for a signposting template so they can know where to go and how best to support asylum seekers and refugees they come into contact with - so here's something brief in case it's helpful, based on the things I most commonly get asked about. Most of it is Leicester city specific, and there’s a lot more out there than what I’ve put here. Feel free to pass any of this on or use it as you see fit. And get in touch with the things you're aware of that are missing from here!

Urgent new arrival - If someone has just arrived in the UK in the last 48hrs and have lots of desperate urgent needs, set them up a Red Cross appointment by calling 0116 479 0900. Usually appointments are available within a couple of days if it's urgent; the Red Cross person will call the person’s phone or arrange an in person session if needed. They may be able to coordinate translation support for the appointment if required, and sometimes even transport too if that's really needed. They can also do a lot of signposting and be a really helpful one-stop-shop for urgent bits. You can also call them for advice yourself regarding how best to support someone with any specific needs.

Clothes / coats / shoes and similar - Open Hands offer these things on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10-12. The person will need a referral form - either you can complete this with them or ask them to get Red Cross to do an Open Hands referral. See for more info. There is also the Hope Hub clothing bank at Wigston Community Church - if you want to take people here you’ll need to contact Marilyn to arrange a time - [email protected]. No referral needed, though someone would need to go with them.

Food - Again Open Hands (with referral form; see above). Or they could go to the foodbank at the Centre Project on Alfred Place (Mondays 10:30-1pm is the food bank); they’ll need to go for a needs assessment (Tuesdays 10-4) but can self refer without any paperwork, and then can access all kinds of support including groups and activities on Fridays as well as the Monday food bank and often good one-off things like haircuts and trips.

(Free) English lessons - If they’ve been in the UK over 6 months then Leicester College is likely to be the best bet, though it's a fairly rigorous application process and they can only take a limited number of asylum seekers due to funding constraints. It's worth applying, if someone can sit with them to go through the application together - and there is a good variety of different options on the college website under ESOL. The college also have a crèche so can welcome young mums in the classes! Leicester Uni also run excellent free English classes for asylum seekers and refugees, for every ability level - email [email protected] to contact them, or people can self-refer; these are really easy to get into as they don’t have an application form or referral process etc. Open Hands also offer very good English classes but they’re often full; likewise Leicester City of Sanctuary. Leicester Adult Education is very good with a range of classes and groups as well, and can support people into a range of different learning opportunities for free.

School places for kids - The family can contact the Choice Advice service for help with school applications - (You can contact them on behalf of the family if language or websites etc are a struggle). The staff there take the kids’ details and submit an application to the council on their behalf, and they're really helpful. After the council allocate a school they will email the parent to let them know. At this point the family will need to contact the school and arrange to meet staff there to fill in the internal school application forms; usually the school staff are well equipped to help with this. Once that’s sorted, the school should be able to help with uniform for the child (though one or two Leicester schools are notoriously bad for this - if uniform becomes a real struggle the Zinthiya trust may be able to help with it).

Baby bits / push chair or other baby equipment - Baby Basics are fantastic. You can fill out a brief referral form with the mum/family and take details of what they may need - you’ll then need to collect the items and deliver them to the mum/family once they're ready. You can find the form and contact details on Leicester Mammas are also great for free antenatal sessions, mum-and-baby groups, social events, practical support, mental health bits and learning sessions.

Issues with accommodation, Home Office paperwork or Serco - Migrant Help are the place to go for any of these issues and more. If one phone operator can’t help with the issue, the person could always try again and see if a different one can…! There may be a longish on-hold time (thankfully they aren't charged for the call); it's normally worth the wait. Freephone 0808 8010 503 - this is the national helpline; each family will also have been given the relevant regional/local number.

Physical health stuff, or counselling support - Assist medical practice, 45 East Bond Street LE1 4SX, 0116 294 6305. The person will already have the details for this; details are also online if not. It’s standard to phone at 8pm to try to get a same day appointment; there aren’t always appointments available and it doesn’t always work as quickly as we might like, but that’s the practice they’re likely to be registered with who have specialist support for asylum seekers and refugees. The person may need to bring someone along to translate, though with certain languages on certain days Assist have help with this. Assist refer people for dental stuff, opticians and other specialised health bits too. Counselling is also available for women through New Futures, the Zinthiya trust, Quetzal, and likely other charities too - these all have waiting lists I think and some are longer than others, but on the whole they’re very good. (I'm not sure re counselling for men, but Assist might know.)

Nursery - I believe all families with kids aged 2-3 are entitled to 15 hours govt-funded childcare (per child) with any nursery - they can apply for this within the nurseries directly and staff may be able to help with the process. Some have more rigorous registration forms than others. Some also charge for food/snacks - look out for this, make sure the family are aware of any such charges before signing up. 

Leicester city of Sanctuary also have a drop in every Wednesday, at The Bridge centre - this includes free samosas and hot drinks, signposting, paperwork support, social groups and activities, etc. They unfortunately don't have space to welcome children into the centre at the moment, but adults and babies are welcome.

After18 provide support to 16-25s including tutoring, support groups, youth activities and practical help.

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