The Home Visitor is a vital link between Refugees at Home Placement Team and hosts – before, during and after placements.
Home Visitors conduct the initial assessment of potential hosts. We provide a checklist and request that you cover this with the host. We then ask that you complete a report commenting on your view of a host’s suitability, based solely on the conversation that you have had. You send this back to Refugees at Home through our secure communications system.
We also ask Home Visitors to follow up on two references for hosts. If you as Home Visitor have raised no concerns about the potential host, we are content to proceed with one positive reference only, so no need to chase for the second. In all cases, we will need one written reference, which is not from a family member. The second reference may be by telephone if you wish: we appreciate that this can be a valuable insight. A second reference from a family member is also acceptable.
We may chase for the return of reports and references. Please don’t be offended by this: our volunteers are ensuring that hosts can be signed off in a timely manner, and that we don’t lose track of applications. We appreciate that you are busy and volunteering your time – please just let us know in case of any issues!
Support during a placement:
When a new placement starts with one of your hosts, we will copy you into the introductory email to let you know. We would like Home Visitors to check in with a host during the first week of a placement, by emailing them and copying in Refugees at Home. We also ask that you send a text or email, or call an host with an active placement at least once a month. Refugees at Home’s placement team will actively manage placements, and check in and update hosts. However we would like hosts to have someone to turn to for more holistic support or for local information if necessary. We may also utilize your expertise and face to face contact with hosts in order to help manage more difficult situations. In these rare cases, we may ask you to communicate something to a guest, or perhaps go for a follow up visit to check on some aspect of the placement. In these cases it will be useful if you have maintained some contact with the host during their placement.
Forms of contact:
Some hosts form strong friendships with their Home Visitor, others meet them once and then exchange the occasional email or phone call. Some hosts may be busy, or feel adequately supported by the placement team’s check-ins. If things are going smoothly in the placement, hosts may be less responsive to check-ins. There is no set model and the most important thing is that hosts can access support if they need it.
Feedback to Placement Team:
It is crucial that you inform the Placement Team of any issues that you think may affect your host’s placement. Please don’t hesitate to feed back on anything that you think could be relevant, even if it seems relatively unimportant. The Home Visitor’s role is really valuable in that you are often the only person from the charity that a host will meet face-to-face. We understand that hosts may want to share things with their Home Visitor in the first instance, which can give us very valuable insight into how the placement is going or the host is feeling, or any issues which may be starting to brew and can be managed or avoided by early intervention.
It is important for HVs to discuss finance with potential hosts. Many of our guests are pretty much destitute. Refugee guests will likely have access to Universal Credit while others have no recourse to any finances.
If hosts can provide some meals, that’s really helpful. Some hosts provide travel cards/Oysters too. This helps a guest to maintain contacts, to get to appointments and not to be isolated. Hosts need to know they can apply for a bursary of up to £30 a week to help with their guests’ costs if needed. This can be backdated to a maximum of 8 weeks but ideally we prefer that it is applied for in advance.
If hosts need to access the bursary on behalf of their guest please direct them to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
One of the very difficult things for refugees and asylum seekers is the low level of income and the high level of insecurity of their situations. As such, it can be tempting to draw up an ‘agreement’ between guest and host, sometimes even with financial amounts in it for benefits purposes. While done with the best of intentions, this can create enormous problems.
We need to make clear to hosts how important it is that they neither accept money from their guests, nor sign anything that could be construed as a tenancy agreement. We are about altruistic hosting in principle – but it’s also for the protection of both guests and hosts: our guests are just that, guests, and don’t have the right to stay in a host’s home – but if the host accepts money or signs anything suggesting there is a tenancy, this can cause serious problems. It is very important that hosts are not expecting rent or services from their guests in return for their room as, due to recent changes in immigration law, guests must not make any financial contribution to the household, which could be viewed as rent.
A guest who is earning may want to contribute – and doing some household shopping, for example, may be wholly appropriate. Paying money into the host’s bank account is not a good idea, and this should be made clear to hosts. It is important to note that not all guests have the right to work.
We don’t ask about a guest’s religious or moral beliefs. Sometimes referrers give us this information and we will always share this with prospective hosts. We do not ask our guests about their story and we ask that hosts don’t either. Guests will offer this information if and when they feel comfortable to do so. Our position is that people do not leave their homes for no reason. Beyond that, we leave it to the Home Office to decide on the validity of any claim.
Refugees at Home does not give advice to guests (or to anyone else) about how to sort out immigration issues and all referrals for potential guests who do not yet have refugee status must have a case worker before we accept them for hosting. Hosts must also be careful not to give immigration advice to their guests. This is a complex area and it is illegal to offer this sort of advice without recognised qualifications. It can also be very confusing to a guest to have advice from different sources, which may seem to be conflicting. It is important that referrers are not undermined by what individual hosts may think to be another option.
During the placement, we ask that all questions come via the placement team. The placement team liaise with referrers throughout the placement and so this ensures communication is only coming from one point of contact. Our referrers are great but they are often stretched and so we want them to be able to focus on helping our guests while we are here to support our hosts.
It is vital to discuss the fact that refugees and asylum seekers are, by definition, vulnerable. That doesn’t mean they aren’t articulate, intelligent, determined human beings with personal agency; but they are also in a complicated legal and personal situation, often having endured very difficult circumstances that has left them with very complex things to work through; and all this in an alien country & culture. Hosts need to be very aware of the power differential, and consider how this might affect their relationship with the guest.
Particular care should be taken about developing any relationship beyond that of host and guest and to think through what consent might mean to the guest. This is particularly important in terms of sexual relationships, which are not appropriate.
This also extends to business relationships or any financial agreements (we believe that these are highly unlikely to be appropriate and, as noted above, there are significant legal risks if hosts accept any rent or payment which might be construed as rent from guests) or even very intense friendships. A host might be making a very genuine offer of help or friendship but the guest may well feel very powerless and obliged to agree as a result.