Empowering For Independence
Preparing The Family For Their Own Journey
In many ways, preparing the family for economic independence and self-reliance is the cornerstone of community sponsorship and should constitute an integral part of the group's strategy from the get-go.
To guarantee independence in the long term, we should practice what we can refer to as "independence mainstreaming" meaning that all aspects of assistance will have independence as its primary objective.
Some key indicators of an independent life:
- Strong language proficiency
- School attendance
- Permanent housing
- Using public transport
- Club membership(s)
- Attending place of worship regularly
- Friendships with locals
- Participation in civic life (festivals, holidays etc.)
From the above list, three areas take precedence: Language, employment and school.
Language proficiency allows the family members to book their own appointments, navigate unfamiliar processes, communicate with others and actively engaging in civic life. In essence, language is a precursor for active citizenship.
Employment is the most important factor in securing the integration of migrants into society as it enables interactions, increases opportunities for learning local language and it provides the opportunity to build a future and to regain confidence. Refugees who are working adjust more easily to the host society than those who are unemployed.
School, of course, has the same benefits of language and interactions. More importantly, however, school is where children establish lifelong friendships and the social capital to carry them through life.
Ways to ensure the above include:
- Adequately preparing the school for the job ahead (Refugee Welcome Schools is one option)
- Seeking out volunteering options in the local area, perhaps even before the family arrives
- Research local clubs (knitting, sports, cooking etc)
We advise that the family's long-term independence is planned well in advance. One way to handle this proactively is by creating a clearly defined timeline with milestones for each family member. See this module on Person-Centred Planning.
Below you can watch a snippet from our Lunch & Learn on Preparing for the end of the sponsorship agreement.
Attachment - A comparison of community sponsorship and government-led resettlement of refugees in the UK: Perspectives from newcomers and host communities
Elle UK - What It's Like To Be A Refugee In Britain Today - link
Dina Nayeri - The Ungrateful refugee
Your Group secured housing for the sponsored family for two years. In some cases, families move before that period - occasionally out of the area, perhaps to live closer to other family members. But usually sponsored families remain in their initial housing for the full two years.
If they want to stay beyond that period then it is obviously a good thing if they can. So one thing your Group can do, at any point of the sponsorship, is to explore with the landlord - and fully involving the family, to see if the tenancy can be extended.
Remember, the rent must be affordable according to the family's current financial circumstances. If they are working, they may be able to afford a higher rent - and that could help in discussions with the landlord. If they are not working, then you might be appealing to the philanthropy of the landlord again to offer a rent well below the market level.
Applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain for Refugees
After 5 years of living in the UK, refugees are eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain. It is important that they apply in a timely manner. Read more about the specific rules in the attachment below.
Attachment - Settlement Protection Q&A