Article by Jovanne Campbell
Refugee Week is the world’s largest arts and culture festival celebrating the contributions, creativity and resilience of refugees and people seeking sanctuary. Founded in 1998 in the UK and held every year around World Refugee Day on the 20 June, Refugee Week 2023 will be its 25th anniversary (19-25th June 2023).
World Refugee Day is an international event held on 20 June designated by the United Nations to honour refugees around the globe. It was established in 2001 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. It acknowledges the strength and courage of people who have been forced to flee their home country to escape conflict or persecution. World Refugee Day is an occasion to build empathy and understanding for their plight, and to recognise their resilience in rebuilding their lives.
Communities and partners across the county collaborate to provide comprehensive support and assistance to refugees. These partnerships involve organisations such as local voluntary and community groups, , District and Borough Councils and the NHS. We work together with organisations who have expertise in areas such as housing, employment, and mental health support.
Together, we aim to create a warm and welcoming community for refugees by providing the structures and the services to from which refugees can grow and thrive.
Here are some ways in which we work with our partners to support refugees in East Sussex.
Support to find a home
We work closely with our partners to try and secure accommodation and wraparound support for refugees. We understand the importance of having safe and suitable accommodation and the stability this provides when trying to settle in a new country.
For example, through partners we provide move on support and a rent in advance and deposit scheme for Ukrainians. They are also able to act as guarantors and provide support for purchasing things like furniture for households so that refugees can feel more comfortable.
The Local Authority Housing Fund (LAHF) is an innovative capital fund that supports local authorities in England to obtain housing for those who are unable to find settled accommodation on resettlement schemes. Local authorities across East Sussex are using this funding to purchase accommodation for both Ukrainian and Afghan refugees to provide secure accommodation across the County.
Support into Work
We have collaborated with employment services, training providers, and local businesses to help refugees access employment opportunities and develop skills necessary for the job market. This includes offering vocational training, job placement support, English language support and initiatives that promote diversity and inclusion within the local workforce.
Our partners’ core aims include assisting Refugees in East Sussex to get the right employment for them. Support will include advice with benefits when working in the UK, job search support, mock interviews, signposting to other support.
One of our clients, N, arrived in Eastbourne last May, leaving behind her son (Mid 20’s) in Ukraine and her senior job. Through our Support into Work programme, our partners worked closely with her to create her CV, a skills action plan and worked hard to improve her English Language skills at college.
Her commitment has paid off and has now started a role working with Eastbourne Council.
Emotional and mental wellbeing support for children and young people
Mental health support for those fleeing conflict is essential as it’s a distressing and uncertain time, especially for children. Our aim is help them to make sense of their experiences, drawing on their resilience and strength to recover and start rebuilding their lives.
Under the Homes for Ukraine scheme, we have funded a pilot project to improve the mental health and emotional wellbeing of Ukrainian children aged 5-16. This uses an approach called social prescribing, which is a way to link individuals with non-medical support within their local community.
All Ukrainian children currently living in the county are eligible to meet with a social prescriber who can support them with their mental health by helping them find and access positive activities of their choice.
This is just one example of the many measures in place to support children and young people.
Support in the community
In East Sussex we actively engage with voluntary and community groups to provide additional support and integration opportunities for refugees. We work closely with voluntary and community groups who organise:
- community events and hubs
- language support
- IT skills sessions
- buddy programs to foster social connections and help refugees feel welcomed and supported
We would like to thank all our partners for helping us to create a welcoming community for refugees through their long-term commitment and active involvement in grassroot activities. Especially the volunteers that take the time to build relationships, empathise, and support guests during challenges which contributes to a more inclusive and supportive environment for everyone.
If you are interested in learning more about the support organisations are providing in East Sussex, please visit:
- The Refugee Buddy Project
- Eastbourne Network
- Sanctuary Café
- Lewes Organisation in Support of Refugees and Asylum Seekers
- Hastings Community Sanctuary
- Village of Sanctuary
Through our partnerships, we are working to create a coordinated and holistic support system for refugees. By combining the expertise and resources of various organizations and volunteers, we aim to provide refugees with the necessary tools and support to successfully integrate into their new communities and rebuild their lives.