Volunteer Resources

Refugees arriving in the UK are often eager to integrate into society and build new lives. Helping them find ways to practice English is one of the most valuable things you can do to support them. Find out how you can help them learn this vital skill.

Asylum seekers are entitled to free medical and dental care in the UK. Care4Calais have produced a helpful information sheet explaining how asylum seekers can get registered with a doctor and dentist, and what they need to do to ensure their access to health care is free. The text is repeated in Arabic and Farsi and can be download here.

Asylum seekers who arrive in the UK are often traumatised by the events they have suffered and witnessed. The support available is often inadequate and hard to find. We have put together some resources to help you access NHS, charities and local support groups.

If your client has an issue with their accommodation it should be reported to Migrant Help asap using the following details:

Phone: 0808 8010 503
Raise an Issue via the website
Email: [email protected]

Email is best as then you have a record. Include the client’s full legal name (per their legal documents) and if possible their NASS reference number. If possible attached a copy of a completed consent form (available here) and any evidenced e.g. photos.

Action should then be taken within the following timescales:

Classification: Category 1
Meaning: A defect which has, or is likely to cause, a risk to your health, safety or security, or disruption or loss of an essential service of the accommodation.
Response Time: Continuous call out facility to investigate and fix or provide temporary alternative accommodation within 4 hours of the provider becoming aware of the maintenance issue.
Example of fault:

  • Gas leak
  • Flooding
  • Structural instability
  • No mains water supplied
  • Fire damage
Classification: Category 2
Meaning: A defect that may cause an adverse effect on your health, safety or security or which has a significant impact on the property or your quality of life.
Response Time: 24 hours to make safe, 5 working days to make a permanent repair. If the provider cannot make the accommodation safe within 24 hours, temporary alternative accommodation must be provided.
Example of fault:

  • No hot water supply Heating not working
  • No electrical power supplied
  • No operational smoke or fire alarms
  • Pest infestation which represents serious hazard to health and safety
Classification: Category 3
Meaning: A defect which has or is likely to cause an adverse effect on your comfort and convenience, or the potential to lead to further damage to the property if not addressed.
Response Time: 21 working days.
Example of fault:

  • Peeling paint
  • Significant signs of dampness and mould growth
  • Significantly damaged wall and floor tiles
  • Other pest infestation

If this does not happen send an email to [email protected] and cc [email protected].  If you contact the Care4Calais access team they should be able to give you the clients solicitors email and they can be cc’d in as well.

If nothing then happens within 48 hours email [email protected] for assistance with next steps.

Dispersal accommodation

When a client moves into dispersal accommodation there are certain items that the provider should ensure are present.  These are listed on the following documents.  Ask your client to check that all these items are provided and if they are not email escalations@migranthelpuk.org

Language Provider checklist
Arabic Download
English Download
Farsi Download
French Download
Kurdish Download
Spanish Download

What can be expected in all accommodation

The Asylum Accommodation and Support Contracts (AASC) govern the relationship between the Home Office and the three companies contracted to provide asylum accommodation in the UK: Clearsprings, Mears and Serco.

Asylum Matters has produced summary and detail guides setting out information on these contracts.

  • There is an obligation in the contracts for accommodation providers to liaise and cooperate with other actors, including the voluntary sector and including through participation in multi-agency forums
  • All asylum accommodation is always required to be safe, habitable, fit for purpose and correctly equipped

Volunteers have had success working with the accommodation providers to improve food provision and other services to asylum seekers. It helps to know the standards to which they can be held accountable.

Download summary

Download full guide

Full guides to what asylum seekers can expect, and what is expected of them, while living in asylum accommodation have been published by the Home Office. These are available here:

Download in English

Download other languages

Moving or changing accommodation

We often receive requests from people to move accommodation to another area. Unfortunately this is rarely possible in Home Office accommodation due to the ‘no choice’ policy.  Guidance in respect of accommodation location requests can be found here.

Being evicted or made homeless

We see cases where asylum seekers are evicted from their accommodation.  This is often due to admin errors or mistakes.  When this happens:

  • If they have an ongoing entitlement to home office accommodation the situation should be immediately reported to migrant help with a strong request for urgent resolution, and  also red flagged if it happened due to a mistake by the home office or by the accommodation provider
  • If we are first informed of the situation after 5pm then we may decide to accommodate the person in a homeless shelter for one night only. Google search ‘homeless shelter’ plus the area. Budget is £20/night.
  • For any more budget than this is needed special authorisation will be required
  • If the person does not have an ongoing entitlement to home office accommodation then we need to refer them to their Local Authority and/or an appropriate charity such as Shelter or Crisis

People who are waiting for their asylum claims to be processed are entitled to financial support from the government.  This helpsheet gives summary of the different levels of support available and how to help people access the money they are entitled to.

The safety and security of everyone involved in our work is our first priority. Here you will find essential information about how Care4Calais keeps our staff, volunteers and the people we support safe. Please make sure you read this before heading off to meet refugees.

Fundraising can be hard work so here are some tips to get you started and to make sure you maximise the amount you raise. If you are purchasing new items we can help you to get the best deal possible when you order essentials including clothing and smartphones

For easy to understand information and advice on the asylum process see Right to Remain – Toolkit this includes videos in many languages.

For guidance on preparing for the substantive interview see here and here

The following free helpline is very good: 020 7553 7470. It is open on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays between 10am and 1pm. The helpline is free and confidential. JCWI: Our Helplines

For more in depth analysis and to keep up to date with legal developments we recommend Free Movement

Please note it is Care4Calais policy that when refugee status is achieved we refer on to other organisations and we discontinue our support. This is an incredibly difficult decision for all of us however, once someone has status they are no longer facing the extreme anxiety of being deported back to their home country. Their problems are by no means over, but this is a key fact. There are tens of thousands of newly arrived refugees in the UK who desperately need our help and who at present have no support whatsoever from any NGO. This must be the core focus of C4Cs limited resources.

A list of organisations to refer to can be found here.

When a client has a successful claim for asylum they will be granted refugee status or humanitarian protection.
The client or their lawyer should receive:

  • A letter confirming their asylum claim has been successful
  • Their Biometric Resident Permit card (BRP) – this is similar to a driving licence card and important to keep safe as this is their proof of right to work and contains their NI number. If they don’t receive this within ten days they can use this guidance to chase it. It can also be used to open a bank account (see below).

28 days after getting refugee status their asylum support will stop which means:

  • If they have been receiving cash support it will stop
  • If they are living in Home Office funded accommodation they will receive and eviction notice and have to move out
  • They are now allowed to work and can start looking for a job
  • They are likely be able to claim benefits – see citizens advice below

There is an useful guide to help them on the citizens advice website here.

And another guide on the gov.uk website here.

Universal Credit application

Applications take around six weeks to go through, but they can request an advance payment if needed. This will then be paid back monthly without interest. They will need to phone Universal Credit to do this.

If they have not secured housing then they can still complete the form, and then go back and update with details of housing once they have moved in. They will need their national insurance number to complete this form, which they should get in the post once they receive refugee status.

Contact their local council to present as homeless

It’s best to phone in advance as most are still not doing face to face appointments. It is unlikely they will get placed in social housing (unless they are a family). If they are a single person they also have a few other options-

  • They can self refer to Refugees at Home if they have not found somewhere to live before they are being evicted. They can offer somewhere to stay for 2-3 months whilst they are working with the council/ local organisations to find somewhere to live.  Please note Care4Calais are not able to do referrals to Refugees at Home.
  • There are housing charities such as Shelter and Crisis who can help them to find somewhere to live and give them advice on the next stage. The website details are below-

Shelter England

Crisis UK

There is also information on the Homeless Link website, which has a search function that allows you to search for any hostels/ night shelters/ housing advice in areas across the UK.

Opening a bank account

The following guide is useful Banking-Guide-for-Refugees-English.pdf 

The best bank accounts to try are Monzo, Metro, or HSBC, however you can try any of the major branches but make sure it’s a basic account. This ensures they won’t get an overdraft that could leave them in debt.

We want to ensure that our distributions are safe, fair and pleasant experiences for refugees and volunteers alike. Please read the guidance in our distribution manual and if you have any queries please ask your regional lead. We also run monthly distribution training sessions. To enroll email [email protected]

Not sure what items to collect? Here is a helpful list of the items that the refugees we support most need.

We’ve created a useful information leaflet for the refugees you meet during your volunteering. Simply download the Word document and fill in any relevant local information. We can help with cheap printing costs if you would like to distribute these leaflets in your hotel.

Virtual volunteers are a huge help to newly arrived refugees and can be based absolutely anywhere. They support by making remote welfare checks on people, helping them sign up with doctors and dentists, find local resources and much more. Find out more about becoming a virtual volunteer by emailing [email protected] and requesting a UK volunteer information pack.

Please note the time commitment is 5-7 hours per week.

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