Team buzzing with ideas after
learning trip to Bristol Refugee Rights
The InterAction Drop-in team visited Bristol to see what lessons could be learned from their Asylum Early Action partners.

Richard, Director of Operations, Kate, Drop-in Manager, and Tolosa, Drop-in Coordinator, from the Action Foundation team in Newcastle travelled all the way down to Bristol last month to visit Bristol Refugee Rights (BRR) to check out how the organisation operates on a day to day basis and came away full of ideas on how to develop the InterAction drop-ins, which began in May earlier this year.

BRR was set up as a voluntary organisation in 2006 with the aim of upholding and championing the human rights of asylum seekers and refugees.

They are one of the eight core organisations, along with Action Foundation, in the Asylum Early Action partnership, discovering, implementing and sharing learning about services that help people in the asylum system before they reach crisis point.

BRR provides a place of welcome where asylum seekers and refugees can meet, as well as helping them to play a full part in the life of the wider community.

They run three Drop-ins a week in two different locations and provide a wonderful range of services for asylum seekers including:

* casework and advice
* free clothing shop
* refreshments (toast and tea/coffee)
* free lunch
* games
* free haircuts
* crèche
* massage

Richard, Kate and Tolosa got the chance to go along to one of the Drop-ins to see how it all worked and were impressed with both the range of services available as well as the well-established sign-in and registration system in place.

BRR Welcome Team Manager Alice Cutler took the team through their database system and showed them how great it is for easily producing useful data and reducing the pile of paperwork folders; but reflected on the drawbacks of duplication of data and sometimes lowering the actual figures of people seen.

A volunteer-led service

BBR have three advice staff and volunteers who are qualified to provide casework and advice services. The Action Foundation team were struck by how experienced the BRR volunteers are, plus all their advice staff and volunteers have completed OISC training, ranging from OISC Levels 1-3. They help asylum seekers with health, housing and asylum issues which are recorded into their database system by caseworkers. The volunteers beamed with pride at being involved in the project, some of them having worked with BRR since they began 13 years ago.

Looking to the future

The team especially liked the idea of the regular team meetings BRR hold just before the Drop-in starts with volunteers and staff members facilitated by the Drop-in manager. This meeting usually involves volunteers introducing themselves and giving them the chance to chat about any concerns, issues or developments concerning people seeking asylum. This is followed by a debriefing at the end of the Drop-in session.

Action Foundation's Drop-in Manager Kate Townsend said:

"It was incredibly insightful and we all learned a lot, especially thinking to the future of how our Drop-ins could look further down the line."

Action points

The team were really impressed with what they saw in Bristol and are going to implement the wrap-around team meetings before and after each Drop-in session with the volunteers, create a separate form for interpreters and ensure asylum seekers under the age of 18 sign consent forms.

Then going forward the team will consider translating registration forms into five different languages, setting up a computerised sign-in and registration, run case work and advice services, provide haircuts and lunch.

This trip was possible thanks to funding from St Martin in the Fields Frontline Network 'Shadowing Fund'

Click here to find out more about our InterAction Drop-in service