A small charity that helps refugees from war-torn countries to find a temporary place to stay in the UK needs new nurse volunteers to assess potential hosts.


The charity says once asylum seekers are granted refugee status, they face new challenges, such as finding accommodation. Picture: Getty

Refugees at Home (RAH) matches people who have a spare room with those in dire need of accommodation who have arrived from countries such as Syria and Afghanistan.

‘Over 80% of recent refugees are destitute’

Co-founder Sara Nathan said all those they house with host families come from war zones, but they arrive in different ways.

‘Over 80% of recent refugees are destitute,’ Ms Nathan said, adding that many cannot speak English or have experienced trafficking or exploitation and need help understanding UK systems.

Once an asylum seeker is granted refugee status – legal right to remain in the UK for five years – new challenges arise, she said, including having to leave their temporary accommodation, and not having a bank account or National Insurance number.

Visiting potential hosts

RAH has made about 800 placements since 2015, but needs more volunteers to visit potential hosts, especially in UK cities.

Ms Nathan appealed for nurses with professional experience of assessing people in their homes to consider joining its home visitor team, which also includes social workers and doctors. In particlular, the charity needs help from:

  • District and community nurses.
  • Health visitors.
  • Midwives.
  • Other community practitioners, such as mental health nurses.

Retired Kent-based health visitor Diane Corderoy, who is also a registrant member of the Nursing and Midwifery Council fitness to practise committee, said nurses need not be wary of volunteering.

‘At first I wondered how volunteering to assess people in their homes might fit in with the code of practice and if there were any concerns around governance. I’ve ironed that out – I’ve developed a set of questions to ask for references and have put together a short feedback questionnaire to send to families afterwards on how they felt the visit went.

‘The skills I am using when visiting families are very much aligned to skills I use as a health visitor,’ she said.

Helping where you can

King’s College London senior lecturer in adult nursing Gerry Lee is a Cambridge-based home visitor for RAH. She said she was moved to help after seeing the BBC documentary series Exodus: Our Journey, in which cameras were given to asylum seekers smuggling themselves into Europe.

Dr Lee, a cardiac advanced practice nurse, has previous experience assessing patients in their homes in remote areas of Australia.

‘When I saw the programme, I had to do something,’ Dr Lee said.

‘It comes back to contributing to the greater good: there are a lot of bad things happening out there in the world.’

London midwife Xim Phu, another RAH home visitor, said volunteering is about being able to help ‘in the way you can’.

‘It doesn’t take much time and it reaffirms your sense of what humanity is by helping people when you can.’