Coordinating the Family Support Team

Finalising the Family Support Team

Before the family arrive, a Community Sponsorship Group has to move from the first phase of its life - planning and application - to the second phase - welcome and support. 

At this stage, you need to confirm who will be on the team of volunteers i.e. happy and competent to work directly with the family in various specialist roles such as teaching English, while others take care of general befriending and welcoming. 

People can of course 'muck in', but welcoming and supporting a refugee family does require some structure and organisation. Ideally, there is the clear leader of the Family Support Team who coordinates all the activities. Under this person, you have people leading on benefits, registrations, housing, English language and interpretation. 

Attached - Suggested Roles & Responsibilities

Agree how you will coordinate support

Consider different scenarios, and how you would coordinate support. For example:

  • Son needs to go to the dentist
  • The heating is broken in the house
  • The parents have received the wrong amount in their benefits this month
  • Mother would like someone to take her to the local mosque
  • Dad wants to practice for a job interview

Who would the family speak to first, and how would you ensure their support needs are met?

Below, you can find an example flow communication chart from a group in London.

Procedures Flow Chart.pdf

How To Communicate Effectively

We would advise that you set up a Family Support Team WhatsApp group so that all members of the team can communicate as a group in real time. This allows you to alert each other about issues immediately and to share information quickly and easily. If group members would prefer to keep their contact details private, there are alternatives such as Telegram, which do not display phone numbers.

We would also recommend Slack which allows you to chat, share documents, add to your diary etc. You can use it on your desktop as well as an app on your phone. Some groups have found that their members were hesitant to learn a new technology at first - but after holding a "how to slack" workshop, people have found it intuitive to use, and it is by far the best option we have found for coordinating group activities (do comment below if you have found other good solutions!)

In addition, it is good to set up a secure online diary that records when Family Support Team members (including ESOL teachers) have appointments in and outside the house with the family members. This will help you avoid clashing appointments and allow you to plan effectively.

Family Visit Reports

And we recommend that you keep a record of visits with the family, so that you can coordinate and keep track of what has been covered, and any follow up actions to be done, so that nothing slips through the net. It is also good safeguarding practice. One way you could record visits is through a Google form - see an example here. If you are particularly tech savvy, it is even possible to sync this form with Slack - as you can see in the video below.

We would recommend that you write these reports with the family at the end of each visit, so that they know what is being recording about them, and can agree with your summary of the visit.

It is important that any information you exchange and records you keep are secure and are not shared beyond the Family Support Team. With particularly sensitive information, such as health issues, you should only share among a smaller sub-group. You should not write down or share any information that you would not be happy for the family to read themselves, whether within the Slack Group or on WhatsApp. The only time this does not apply is if it would be unsafe to do so (e.g. some safeguarding concerns).

Group Meetings

Once the family arrive, they should be included in your group meetings (unless it would be unsafe or inappropriate - for example, if you are discussing a safeguarding issue, or group dynamic issue). The family should be leading their own resettlement, defining what support they need and how their needs are met.

We do recommend, however, that you also have schedule time for regular confidential check ins as a Family Support Team, so that you have a chance to air challenges and receive emotional, social and practical support from the team, in a safe environment.

These check ins are an important opportunity for the DSL and Project Lead to notice if any volunteers are struggling, and may need extra support, or some time out. It is also a chance to catch and manage any difficult group dynamics.

Complete and Continue