Home‐Start Butetown Grangetown Riverside has set up a dedicated service to support refugees and asylum seeking families after realising that parents and children in Cardiff were not getting the urgent or long term support they desperately needed.

In 2015, just over 32,000 people applied for asylum in the UK. Cardiff is one of the cities that supports the largest number. Of the 2,856 asylum seekers in Wales, 1,450 live in Cardiff. They are often fleeing war, conflict and persecution in their own countries and arrive in the UK with few possessions and little money.

Jon Sait, the manager at Home‐Start Butetown Grangetown Riverside (BGR), explained “People come without support. They are incredibly socially isolated. There are lots of services in Cardiff for refugees and asylum applicants but we found that the majority of people accessing them were young men. Families were overlooked.”

Home-Start BGR is based in Cardiff’s most ethnically diverse area. It was being asked to support more and more refugee and asylum families with complex problems. The team created a special project so they could give the additional support needed by families. Three years’ funding has been secured from the Tudor Trust, and Fehmida Ahmed was appointed in April 2016 as Refugee and Asylum Family Coordinator.

Fehmida’s specialised support to families frees other members of the team to work with local families with different needs. And the city’s other local Home-Start, based in East Cardiff, can refer families to the refugee project.

Fehmida says “People have access to basic advice and information, but it is emotional and social
support that is lacking in the community. Supporting people one‐to‐one and going that extra mile is where there is a huge gap, especially when it comes to family support.”

“There are extra vulnerabilities when it comes to families, and women and children,” she adds, “and I think that Home‐Start really meets that gap.”

The project is already supporting 10 families and 22 children. Fehmida is able to provide practical advice and support to families, helping them to understand the many letters they receive, assisting them in contacting legal advice, attending court, or helping them access doctors and schools for their children.

An important part of Fehmida’s role is supporting these very isolated families to give them a connection with the local community.

Read Aminatu's story of how Home-Start BGR have supported her and her family.

The one‐to‐one support Fehmida provides means she is able to understand the family and their needs and advocate on their behalf, making sure vital details and changes in circumstances aren’t missed.

Home‐Start’s approach means Fehmida also provides emotional support for parents and children. Families often have to wait many years to receive the result of their asylum claim.

“During this time they go through an enormous amount of mental stress,” says Fehmida. “If the family is going to need long-term emotional support, they are placed on a waiting list for a Home-Start volunteer; for example, if a family is really isolated in the community and needs someone to spend a bit more time with them to give mum more confidence”.

With many families requiring urgent support, having a dedicated coordinator also allows Home‐Start BGR to rapidly respond to need.

One of the biggest challenges Fehmida has to deal with is housing. The accommodation provided is often unsuitable for families, and families can be moved at short notice - making it impossible for parents to create a safe and settled home for their children.

On top of this, asylum seekers are not entitled to work in the UK. They receive assistance that is less than 60% of basic income support: that can be less than £5 a day.

“Parents have such little income and struggle to do anything with their children. They want to take their children to a class or a recreational activity but just can’t afford it.”

According to Jon Sait the project is already having a significant impact.

“We’re working closely with other organisations supporting refugees and asylum seekers,” he says. “Home‐Start is putting the focus on families, and we’re encouraging other organisations to ‘think family’.

Most importantly it is having an impact on families.

“It’s reducing stress and anxiety,” says Jon. “This is especially important for people who are arriving with existing trauma, depressions and anxiety.”

Home‐Start BGR’s refugee and asylum support project is just one of the ways that local Home‐Starts are using their experience and knowledge to create a solution to problems facing families in their community.

You can read how Home-Start BGR supported Aminatu  and her family here.