Referrer Guide

Refugees at Home matches people who have a spare room with refugees and asylum seekers in need of temporary accommodation. 

We call an organisation who is supporting someone in aspects of their status in the UK a ‘referrer’.  We work with many different organisations who have caseworkers assigned to supporting our guests. If you have not worked with us a referrer before, we’d be happy to talk to you further about how we can work with you. 

Here, you will find information on who we help, how, and what we need to know from organisations who refer to us so that the hosting experience is as positive as possible – most importantly for the guest. We ask all referrers to read this guide prior to referring guests to us. 

If you have questions about who can be a referrer, or would like to speak to our Senior Team directly, please contact us on info@refugeesathome.org 

Information for referrers

Who we can support:

  • Refugees with Leave to Remain
  • Ukrainians under the Ukraine Sponsorship scheme and Family visa scheme
  • Asylum seekers awaiting an initial intake appointment
  • Refused Asylum Seekers: whether appealing, preparing a fresh claim, or planning for voluntary return.
  • We also support a small number of people who have ‘other’ statuses e.g. those who have right to remain through a family member and whose relationship has broken down, or those who have been identified as victims of human trafficking. We will always consider these referrals on a case-by-case basis so please contact us to discuss before making a referral.

Who we can’t support:

  • Unaccompanied minors (people under the age of 18)
  • Ukrainian sponsorship rematch requests for placements made outside of us. You can read our statement on this here
  • Those eligible for statutory support either via the Home Office or their Local Authority
  • People with severe mental health issues
  • Anyone with drink or drug abuse problems
  • Those with serious convictions (including convictions for violence and fraud)
  • Anyone not engaged with the asylum system

Please note: RaH do not provide other casework, e.g. legal or housing advice. We rely on our referrers to provide this or signpost their clients accordingly.

We call an organisation who is supporting someone in aspects of their status in the UK a ‘referrer’.  We work with many different organisations who have caseworkers assigned to supporting our guests. If you have not worked with us a referrer before, we’d be happy to talk to you further about how we can work with you. 

We need referrers to be available during working hours, so we will ask you to tell us who we can contact if you are on leave or unavailable.  As part of your agreement with us, you will communicate with the guest, and we will communicate with the host only, so it’s really important that we are able to get hold of you or your organisation quickly. 

We and our hosts are not trained or resourced to take on the challenges of asylum cases or benefits claims. We need you to help the guest with whatever they need to move on from hosting.

As well as actively working towards a move on plan:

  • We expect that you will explain to the guest you support that they must move on when they are offered accommodation – those who are in the asylum system are expected to move to NASS, if this is possible, while those who are offered a room or hostel place need to be willing to accept any reasonable offer, even if it is not their ideal place to live.
  • If the guest has refugee status we assume that they will be working towards being able to manage on their own – learning English, developing their skills and looking for work.
  • Guests who are working should be encouraged to save up for a deposit for a rental or building some financial reserves.

Hosting is a temporary, interim solution for refugees and asylum seekers who are in need of accommodation and not eligible for statutory support yet. Our volunteer hosts offer their spare room or sometimes in emergencies, sofa beds, to people who would otherwise be destitute or in unsuitable accommodation.

Here at RaH we are working on matching Ukrainian guests with hosts in the UK under the Homes for Ukraine scheme.  The majority of Ukrainian guests do not have referring organisations working with them, and some of the information contained here may not apply in these cases.  

How long will hosting last for?

Who a host welcomes into their home and for how long is entirely at their discretion. Hosting can be for 1-2 nights or for longer periods. Stays of over 6 months are uncommon and generally we do not encourage these. In most cases, 3-6 months is plenty of time to make other arrangements.

Individual placement lengths will vary:

  • Many guests will have to move between hosts during the period they are being hosted because of the hosts’ personal commitments. While we do what we can to keep this disruption to a minimum, please explain to your client that this does sometimes happen, and it is not their fault when it does.
  • At the point of referral, we ask referrers for a realistic idea of how long a guest needs to be hosted – we know this is not an exact science, but we do need referrers to keep us updated.
  • Some hosts commit to a short period of hosting and are more willing to extend when they get to know the guest.
  • When considering whether to accept a short initial placement, it is worth remembering that once someone has been hosted once, it’s much easier to find a follow-on host as we ask for a reference from hosts at the end of a placement.

Can a guest request a specific location?

We will always try to place people in the area they request but we are limited by host availability.

The more flexible a guest can be on location, the more likely it is we can offer a stable, longer term hosting arrangement. This is especially true for people seeking asylum as experienced hosts know these can be longer-term requests.

Our hosts are all assessed by a home visitor; a volunteer or member of the RaH team with a professional background which allows them to assess people in their own homes – social workers, health visitors or GPs for example. Home Visitors check that everyone in the household is happy about the prospect of hosting and that there is an understanding of what hosting involves, including practical issues such as home insurance.

Our hosts are all different:  

  • Some hosts are busy working and can spend little time with their guest, others can include the guest in family meals and family life.
  • Some are single people, others have families, some are retired people or those whose children have left home recently and a number are older people.
  • Some hosts have masses of space and a separate bathroom for the guest’s use, others offer a sofa bed or a blow-up mattress for use in an emergency for a few days only.

What they have in common is their generosity and a willingness to open their door to a stranger and invite them to stay.

Do you pay your hosts?

Hosting is entirely altruistic. RaH do not provide payment for hosting – in cash or in kind. Guests can help round the house (and should clear up after themselves) just as you would in any other guest/host arrangement but there should be no expectation of the guest doing any sort of work in return for being hosted.

What a guest can expect from a host

Our hosts provide a clean, safe and private place to sleep, and access to the kitchen and bathroom.

Hosts may provide meals or access to the fridge/cupboards for a guest to cook for themselves.

Some hosts will also provide things like English practice, assistance with accessing local services and offer friendship.

Others get on with their busy lives and expect their guest to do the same. Some hosts will give the guest a key immediately, others may do so only when they feel they know them a little. But they will always do the best they can to make their guest feel welcome.

Note: Our Hosts are not trained in mental health support or casework and do not necessarily understand the immigration, benefits or housing system. We make it clear to hosts that they should not provide any advice or comment on legal matters however it should also be made clear to guests that should rely on their caseworkers for professional advice and support.

Consent for a referral

Referrals are made through our referral form on our website. 

We ask that whoever completes the form confirms that the data they have provided is accurate and that the person the information belongs to has both understood our privacy policy and given their permission for that data to be stored and used for the purposes of arranging hosting.

Some of the information we ask for is sensitive, the country of origin of the guest for example.

  • Guests need to actively consent to Refugees at Home holding this sensitive information. If you submit a referral and tick the consent box on the referral form, you are confirming you have received this.

Our privacy policy is available on our website and pages on our website can be translated by using the tool at the bottom of the page. Please let us know if you would like a copy in a particular language.

At the point of referral, we expect the referrer to provide details of a realistic plan and time-frame for how and when the guest will be moving on from hosting. Referrers should use the period of hosting to work on progressing this plan in order for the guest to move on to longer term accommodation in a timely manner.

The role of the referrer will vary depending on the level of support the guest needs and the complexity of the immigration or housing issues the guest is working through whatever the situation, all referrers must commit to staying engaged and working actively with the guest for the duration of the hosting.

If casework is withdrawn, we may have to ask the guest to leave, so it is vital that the referring organisation stays engaged and works with us.

People who have refugee status and a good standard of English can refer themselves for accommodation.  We also offer the self-referral process for those arriving through the Homes for Ukraine scheme. 

They will need to provide details of two people who can vouch for them. These need to be people who we have known the prospective guest while they have been in the UK and who know the guest well enough to be able to answer questions about who they are and what their plans are. Hosts may ask to speak to them.

We may ask a guest who has self-referred to find a referring organisation if we feel unable to support them as a self-referred guest.   

As part of the referral process, we will ask you to sign a referral agreement with us, confirming that active case work is in place and the timelines for next steps.

Successful hosting arrangements depend on trust, and a clear understanding of everyone’s role.

We do not meet and assess guests – we trust you to do that. We agree that everyone has the right to safe accommodation, but hosting is a specific option, it is not the same as a hostel and so it will not be suitable for everyone. Try to imagine that you or a member of your family were about to ask someone they didn’t know to come and stay – what would you want to know about that person? If you would hesitate to invite this person to live with you, then they are probably not suitable for hosting.

  • Please complete all fields in as much detail as possible- if there is information missing, we will come back to you to fill in the gaps and this can slow down the process of finding a host.
  • The information you give us on this form is the information we will provide hosts if we ask them to welcome that guest into their home – we are always completely open with them.
  • The more details you can give us, the easier it will be to find a match for your client. Knowing they support a particular football team or love gardening might be the detail that helps a host decide to offer that guest a room.
  • Please don’t conceal anything. A guest with specific needs or issues can often be hosted, but a host who discovers them later can feel manipulated and the relationship may quickly break down. They may even refuse to host someone else in the future. Please be as open with us as you can.

If you have only been working with the guest for a short period (6 months or less) they will also need a character reference from someone who knows them well.

We can only offer temporary, interim accommodation, so we need you and the guest to have a clear understanding of how you will solve the problems preventing them from being independent, with time scales and details of who will take this forward. Keep us updated if plans or dates change, too.

Don’t forget to include your contact details on the form! We do need mobile numbers as well as office ones.

 Transparency 

We are completely open with hosts about any guest we ask them to invite into their home.

  • All the information you give us about a prospective guest will be shared sensitively and confidentially with the hosts when we approach them to ask if they will help.
  • Anything we discover while hosting a guest will be shared with future hosts, including reasons for the end of a hosting arrangement.
  • We will not conceal information from hosts.

Hosts know that they need to treat this personal information with care and respect.

Communication

Your referral will be assigned to a Placement Coordinator. This person will be your point of contact at RaH for the duration of that guest’s hosting. Please only contact the Placement Coordinator with questions and not the host. This communication route ensures that we can successfully manage the placement and any issues that may arise.

We need to be able to reach you or someone who can contact the client between 9 and 5 on weekdays, as a minimum. If you move jobs or are absent, please arrange a handover.

You will be the link between RaH and the guest. You will need to help the guest understand what is being offered, how to get there and to sort out any problems which arise.

RaH provide all of the host support and will liaise with hosts on time-frames and requests to extend placements. Referrers should not be contacting hosts with these requests. We find it places hosts in a difficult position and we are much better placed to support hosts to make these decisions and ultimately continue hosting in the longer term.

When we find a host, we will need you to contact the guest and explain this to them – guests do not know us or the hosts and direct arrangements are, in our experience, rarely successful. They trust and know you and will rely on you to give them the confidence to turn up at the front door of a stranger.

In advance of a placement, please explain to guests that they are joining a household.

  • We ask hosts to explain how their home works, but all guests should be careful not to disturb their host at night, to clear up after themselves and keep the home secure, closing doors and windows when they go out etc.
  • Almost all hosts have a ‘no smoking’ rule and those who smoke need to check if it is OK to smoke in the garden.
  • We advise hosts not to quiz their guests about their journey to the UK or the experiences which led them to leave their home country; and not to give advice on immigration or legal issues (even if they are qualified to) as multiple opinions and directions can be confusing for guests. If your guest has any concerns at all they should share these with you and we can then work together to address these.
  • We have a guide for guests which explains more about this.  We expect that referrers will go through this with their client and explain what they can expect from hosting but also what is expected of them.

When your guest has been matched with a host according to the information provided during the triage process, the Placement Coordinator will then be in touch with you to confirm the host’s offer. You will need to communicate this to your guest and check that they are happy to go ahead.

At this point, the Placement Coordinator will introduce you to the hosts and provide relevant contact details. It is your responsibility to confirm travel arrangements with the guest to ensure they can reach the host’s home at the agreed upon time. This is the only time that we ask referrers to liaise with hosts.

During the placement, the Placement Coordinator will check in with you regularly to request updates on the guest’s move on plan that was shared at the point of referral. We rely on our referrers to be timely in their response and to also be checking in with the guest to ensure that they are happy and comfortable in the placement. Should there be any concerns, please raise them with the Placement Coordinator as soon as possible.

When the placement is coming to an end, we will be in touch to discuss next steps. If another placement is required and we have the available hosts, that will be set up and the guest supported to move to the new placement. If the guest must move from hosting, the Placement Coordinator will work with you to ensure that a clear plan is in place and that the host and guest are aware of what is happening.

Respect between hosts and guests 

Some guests come from cultures where a woman living alone and inviting a man into the house would be viewed with suspicion or as immoral. That is not the case in the UK, of course, and it may help to explain that if a male guest is placed with a female host, he should always treat her respectfully – as if she were a family member. The same respect must be shown to every person in the house of a host family including any employees such as a cleaner or an au pair.

Guest preferences

We have some hosts who have asked us to explain certain aspects of their identity to any prospective guests. We do not ask anyone about their religious beliefs or sexual orientation but will ask you to discuss issues like this if the hosts have requested us to do so.

We assume that our hosts and guests will be tolerant of differences but if you feel that your client might have a serious issue in a household because of their background or experiences, please let us know. That might be a guest who would be unhappy about being hosted in a house with pets, for example, or a guest who has experienced gender-based violence and feels unsafe in some environments.

Please bear in mind that while we will do our best, it may not be possible to host a guest if they have restrictions and we have no hosts who meet their preferences.

For guests who are destitute and not receiving other financial support, we offer a small bursary of £30 a week to support things like travel and basic essentials. This is paid directly to the host to pass on to their guest. We do not make these payments as routine as we have limited funds, so please use other funds if they are available. We ask the hosts to contact us about this but if you feel your client may need this sort of support, let us know.

Sometimes hosting arrangements don’t work out. As the guest’s referrer you will need to support the guest to move on should that occur. When possible we will find a new host but should it prove that further hosting is not possible, you will be responsible for providing an alternative move on plan.

It’s rare but it happens – a host may become ill or have a family crisis, a guest may not get on with the family or find the journey to their college or work too onerous.

When we become aware of a problem we will act quickly to resolve things but this may mean asking the guest to move to a new host.

We take complaints and concerns from guests and hosts seriously. If your client ever feels uncomfortable in a hosting situation, please tell us immediately so that we can work quickly to find a solution.

In very unusual circumstances, after hearing from all parties, we may take the view that the guest is not suitable to be hosted again. We do not take this decision lightly and will always explain this to the referrer, and to the guest if that is appropriate.

Sexual or romantic relationships between hosts and guest are never appropriate. This is made clear to our hosts. Referrers should ensure their client understands the boundaries of hosting and that if anything makes them uncomfortable, they should speak to their referrer.

The only reason for asking a guest to leave and then not being able to host them again would be if we felt this was not safe for our hosts. Similarly, should a safeguarding incident occur with a host, we will not place with them again.

Most problems can be resolved – our hosts are supported by us and their home visitors, and we need you to support the guests so we can reach a positive outcome.

You can read our Safeguarding Policy on our website and contact us via email if you would like to speak with us further on how we work with referrers.  

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