The First Two Weeks
How long is a to-do list?
These first two weeks will almost certainly be a busy period, and it is likely that members of the Family Support Team (including English teachers by around the second week) will be visiting every week day - with perhaps some more social activities, such as a trip out, at the weekend.
Many families have said that they found their first two weeks were very overwhelming, and they felt exhausted. They advice to go slowly, and to be flexible.
Be guided a bit by the family's wishes and attempt to devise a timetable for appointments and meetings which fit with what they feel they can manage. However, you must get a certain number of things done quite quickly and impress on the family that they can't be left too long.
In the first few weeks, you should aim to have completed:
- First visit to the Job Centre (the sooner you can get the family signed up for benefits the better)
- Bank account opened
- Registered with the GP, and initial appointments booked (many refugees arrive with chronic dental problems, so you may also need to prioritise dental appointments)
- Registering with the school and possibly the first day at school for children
- Registering and attending English classes at college (+ starting English classes in the home, provided by volunteers)
- Familiarisation with local public transport - first trip on bus, train or tube. Sorting out Travel Cards (with any available discounts)
- Visiting the local mosque (or other place of worship) depending on the family's attitude to religion
- Visiting local shops, where the family can find Halal and Middle Eastern Food (they will almost certainly want to buy some things that you did not supply in provisioning the house).
- Digital connectivity. Following up to ensure the family can contact you, have useable mobiles at reasonable costs (you may need to get them onto new contracts), email addresses are working, Wifi is installed etc.
Do not worry if you do not complete all of the tasks above and some slip into the following weeks. This is inevitable. The most urgent thing is the sign up for welfare benefits as it is so important that the family have some financial independence as soon as possible.
This module details how to do this.
As mentioned above, assuming the family is willing, it is nice to do something like a trip out, on one of the weekends in the first fortnight. This might be an opportunity for a slightly wider group of volunteers to meet the family - but do bear in mind that you don't want to overwhelm them.
Defining the Scope of Work
You should make sure the family are aware of your Safeguarding Arrangements and your Complaints Procedure. Again, you should be stressing that you are volunteers who do not 'work' for the family. But under the scheme, you have agreed to provide support to the family in resettling in the UK for 12 months. You should explain that if they are unhappy with the support provided, they can speak to the Home Office.
You should introduce The Contract between the family and the Group, setting out expectations and boundaries, and establishing the responsibilities both sides have to each other. Ideally, you should both sign the Contract. The family should keep one copy and the Group Chair the other.