Home Visitor Resources

Overview Of The Home Visitor

The Home Visitor is a vital link between Refugees at Home Placement Team and hosts – before, during and after placements.

The Visit:
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.

After The Home Visit

How Should I Return My Report?
Please enter your report into the webform, accessible via the same link that we sent to share the host’s details.  Refugees at Home will then get a notification to let us know that your report has been entered.  You will still be able to modify your report - if you do so we will receive another notification. Please include any concerns or issues that you want to draw to our attention.  Please don’t hesitate to contact us via telephone or email if you feel that any issue needs further discussion with the placement team.
Am I responsible for recommending someone for hosting?
We ask you to tell us your perception of your host’s suitability for hosting.  This will be based solely on the information provided to you, and on the limited time that you had to speak to the host during the home visit. We know that you are not able to complete a formal assessment during this time, and are not expecting you to.  Please do however give us open, honest feedback on whether, based on what you have been able to see, you would be comfortable with recommending that one of our guests is placed with this host. 
Please consider this as if it was someone that you knew and cared about that would be hosted.  Don’t hesitate to qualify this with more information - sometimes a household would suit some guests brilliantly and others not, or others might be able to host better if their circumstances or understanding changed slightly for example.   Your honest opinion as someone who has been able to meet the host is very important to us and will provide very useful context when we come to making the best placements possible, and we appreciate your professional background in home assessments or safeguarding.  If you are in any doubt please do raise this with us.
Do I need to take up my host’s references?
After you have completed your Home Visit and are happy to proceed with your host’s application, we ask that you contact both their given referees.  We will need at least one written reference from a non-family member.  As long as we have this, the second reference can be from a family member, and can be over the phone if you would prefer.  Equally, if the second referee doesn’t get back to you but there are no other issues, we will be happy to proceed. References can either be entered into our secure communication system via the web link along with the report, or sent/ forwarded separately to info@refugeesathome.org
When should I return the report and references?
Please return these within one week of the visit.  Please let us know in case of any problems or delays. We will not be able to make a placement with a host until we have received these.
Will the Host Need A DBS Check?
We don’t ask our hosts (or our guests) to complete a DBS check.  We feel that we are asking adults to meet and make a joint decision to go ahead with the arrangements.  We also do not provide the relevant care to qualify for a DBS to be needed.  We rely on referrers to conduct appropriate checks on guests (such as checking immigration documentation), and limit our role to matching up hosts and guests.
What happens when we receive the completed report and references?
The host is now marked as available on our database. We will send them an email to let them know that we have added them to our host register. We will also send you an email to confirm this and to thank you for all your help.

Important Questions To Discuss During Home Visit

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.  R@H offer a bursary of £30 a week to supplement the cost of hosting. This is to be used at the host’s discretion. Some hosts use the bursary to cover additional costs such as food. However many of our hosts feel they do not need this bursary and so can claim it and pass on to their guest for use on things like travel. This is particularly relevant if a guest is placed in a more rural location or has to attend multiple appointments. 

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.