Refugees at Home was born in response to the many refugees and asylum seekers who have come to the UK in search of safety and a better life, and have found themselves facing homelessness and destitution.
This doesn’t happen to all refugees or asylum seekers, but unfortunately many do find themselves without statutory support for long periods, or needing some additional help to build new lives in the UK.
We match generous hosts with a spare room with asylum seekers and refugees in need of emergency and temporary accommodation. We continue to keep our processes as simple and immediate as possible so that we can respond quickly to those in need. By early 2021 we had arranged over 170,000 individual placement nights, up and down the country and, bar a few relatively minor issues, this has been largely trouble-free.
Refugees at Home is a community comprising our guests, our hosts, the home visitors who support them, our placement team, admin volunteers and our support teams (IT, media, fund-raising, governance etc.). We work closely with referrers such as the Refugee Council, British Red Cross, and many other local and national organisations around the country.
We hope you will find in this guide all that you need to start your hosting journey fully informed and with confidence. You will have a chance to talk things through with your home visitor when they arrange to see you. Please do get in touch with us on firstname.lastname@example.org if you still have any questions, or anything you would like to share.
Refugees at Home will match generous hosts with guests who are asylum-seekers or refugees. We will arrange a home visit of hosts, make relevant checks on guests and may arrange follow-up visits and provide other limited forms of support for hosts and guests. We do not provide social work services or other regulated services (including care, medical or legal services) to guests, hosts or anybody else. We do not expect hosts to provide these either.
Refugees at Home will not be responsible for verifying the accuracy of information provided by hosts or guests or managing the continuing relationship between hosts and guests. It will not pay hosts (apart from the £25 weekly bursary if needed); hosting is an altruistic relationship where no rent or services in lieu are due in exchange for the hosting.
Refugees at Home does not host unaccompanied children or guests with severe mental health issues, convictions for dishonesty or violence, or substance abuse problems. It matches adults who take responsibility for their own actions.
Our hosts are people with space in their homes and a willingness to open their doors to an asylum seeker or refugee in need. Some hosts have a sofa bed and can offer emergency hosting only, others have a spare room (and sometimes two) and are able to host for longer periods. Some provide a bed and share their bathroom and kitchen. Others cook meals for their guests. All that we expect is a bed, access to the kitchen and bathroom and a welcoming smile.
The work of Refugees at Home is supported by a full time Placement Team with frontline experience of working with vulnerable adults and young adults and refugees. The Placement Team coordinates all the referrals and organizes placements. Most people communicate with us through email and we enter all details into the database.
This is what allows us to respond to requests quickly and is the core of how we work. You may get emails from different members of the team depending on who is doing placement check-ins and who is working with a particular guest. However if you have a guest staying with you, you will have been given the name and number of the Placement Coordinator responsible for your placement. You can contact this person in case of any issues or for advice.
The Placement Team is assisted by admin volunteers. Everyone is carefully vetted, references are taken up, they are asked to sign a confidentiality agreement and then trained to use our database and to understand our procedures and policies. We keep in touch using email and WhatsApp groups. The Admin Team volunteers help with processing host and home visitor applications and managing home visits.
We have a small IT team which helps us run the database and email system. We have 11 Board members who are responsible for the overall governance of the charity and it’s direction. They also support with social media, media requests, fundraising and new initiatives.
Our Home Visitors are volunteers who have professional experience which means that they are able to assess people in their homes: for example, social workers, health visitors, district nurses, mental health practitioners or General Practitioners. We ask for details of their professional background, whether they have done home assessments before or worked with refugees or asylum seekers and take up references. Everyone who applies to host with us will have a home visitor assigned to them to come and look at the offered accommodation and talk the household through hosting to make sure it is right for them. They will also check in to ask if things are going well at the beginning of a placement, and be available should their host have questions or need additional support.
Our guests are usually referred from agencies such as the Red Cross or Refugee Council. There will often be a caseworker from this organization who knows the guest well. They will be able to support the guest with many aspects of the placement, for example explaining the house rules in their own language to ensure they understand. There may also be other parties involved in supporting the guest as well - often a law firm, for instance. However there will be one referrer who will coordinate support for guests with their asylum applications, or towards achieving independence - as well as supporting them with the placement. You will see that during a placement, a referrer will often be copied into or interacting in emails to you, about your guest.
We ask referrers to agree to remain actively involved with their client for the duration of hosting, pursue alternative accommodation options, and provide us with regular updates. We also ask them to explain hosting to their clients and help with any misunderstandings and with managing expectations.
Referrers are an essential part of a placement. However, Refugees at Home are here to support our hosts, while the referrer is there to support the guests. You can come to Refugees at Home with any problems or any questions you have about your placement. We will stay in communication with referrers to make sure that cases are progressing, and communicate these updates to the host.
Our guests have different levels of English but we will always let you know what level of fluency they have. Some of our hosts and guests are able to communicate in another common language, whereas others find Google Translate a helpful tool. Some of our guests may have difficulty communicating for various reasons and so visual aids and body language can be very helpful. Refugees at Home will guide you through this when we make initial placements and where necessary additional support may be provided by the referrer. Most of our guests and hosts are able to communicate well. Exposure to and opportunity to practice English can be extremely beneficial for some guests.
Some hosts cook a lot at home and let their guests know that they are welcome to join for meals. Some don’t and make sure that there is food in the house that a guest knows that they have access to. You could ask your guest if there are any particular foods that they would like you to add to the shopping list, or perhaps if they have no income, give them some money to go shopping.
Most guests will want the space to be able to do some cooking for themselves, which might mean letting your guest know when they can use the kitchen. Many of our guests love to cook and we often hear of guests who are very keen to share their cooking or dishes from home with their host household. Many of our hosts and guests have reported that the opportunity to share food and experience each other’s culture through this is one of the real pleasures of hosting!
We will inform you of any specific dietary requirements your guest has before they arrive.
Most of our guests have some belongings. On occasion someone being hosted after a period of street homelessness may have very little with them. On these occasions a spare toothbrush and toiletries are likely to be welcomed – some of our hosts have these items waiting for a guest in their room.
Some guests may seem to be in need of certain items of clothing for example. Certainly not all of our guests will need anything like this. A guest could experience shame around needing additional items. If you feel that you would like to offer items such as clothing, you will need to consider how you can do this sensitively to avoid embarrassment to your guest.
We have in the past been able to source items from our network to support guests with specific needs – for example equipment for babies. Please let us know if you think we could help.
Most guests will be completely without income. This would include asylum seekers; those making a renewed claim and those who have just received their refugee status. Occasionally a guest might be in receipt of a bursary from another charity.
In time, refugee guests will be able to claim benefits. Some who have had status for a time may be already working. We will tell you what a guest’s situation is.
Some hosts provide travel cards/Oysters. This helps a guest to maintain contacts, to get to appointments and not to be isolated.
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.
It is very important that hosts 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 a 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. This is also important to ensure the proper boundaries between guest and host remain in place.
A guest who is earning may want to contribute – and doing some household shopping, for example, may be wholly appropriate. Paying money into their host’s bank account is not a good idea.
We can offer a bursary of £25 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 rural location or has to attend multiple appointments.
The bursary is set up via our Treasurer. We will introduce you to him over email and ask you to send your bank details and on a monthly basis confirm that your guest is still with you. The bursary can also be set up on a weekly basis for short term hosting.
Should you forget to claim the bursary, we can backdate it to up to 8 weeks but not beyond that.
All formal letters should be written by the R@H team. These letters could be to support legal aid, home office accommodation or council applications. Referrers have been known to ask hosts directly – please redirect to the placement team in this case.
Guests may need to use your postal address for things like correspondence from the Home Office or to register with a GP.
If a guest is in need of primary health care they are entitled to register with a GP and access this. Some guests may not wish to do this and they should not feel pressured. If you have concerns please let us know and we will discuss any concerns discreetly with the referrer. Usually support is in place already but it is always helpful to know.
Care should be taken by hosts when encouraging guests to access different types of healthcare. Depending on the medical issue and the provider, asylum seekers may be billed large sums of money. Please seek advice when needed.
Answers to other Frequently Asked Questions can be found on our website – please follow the link below:
This is not an exhaustive list of abbreviations but will help you understand some of the terminology that you may see us or guests using about the asylum process.
Refugee: a person who has fled their country of origin and is unable or unwilling to return because of a well-founded fear of being persecuted because of their race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion. In the UK, refugees have been granted some form of leave to remain.
Asylum Seeker: a person who has fled their country of origin and is seeking international protection. In the UK, an asylum seeker is someone whose claim for asylum has not yet been finally decided on by the Home Office. Not every asylum seeker will ultimately be recognized as a refugee by the Home Office, but every refugee is initially an asylum seeker.
Refused Asylum Seeker: A person whose asylum application has been unsuccessful and who has no other claim for protection awaiting a decision.
Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Child (UASC): a person who has made a claim for asylum in their own right while they were under 18 years of age, and who is not lawfully being cared for by an adult. We do not host people under the age of 18 unless they are engaged in an age assessment, however, we do host former UASC so you may see reference to this.
Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR): permission to stay in the UK without any time limit
Leave to Remain (LR): permission to stay in the UK for a specific period of time, for refugees that would be 5 years.
Humanitarian Protection (HP): permission to stay in the UK, if a person does not meet criteria to be granted refugee status, but face serious risk if they return to their home country they will be issued with Leave to Remain for a limited period, usually 5 years.
Discretionary Leave (DL): permission to remain in the UK granted by the UK government and bypassing standard immigration laws. Granted in situations where it would be unreasonable to expect a person to leave their family or personal life.
Appeals Rights Exhausted (ARE): a person whose request for asylum or immigration application was refused, and who has made all of the appeals that they are allowed to make, without any success. Someone who is ARE can make a fresh claim if they have further evidence to submit.
National Asylum Support Service (NASS): a section of the Home Office, responsible for accommodating people seeking asylum while their cases are being dealt with.
Section 95 Support (S95): Home Office support in the form of housing and/or basic living expenses for asylum seekers whose claims are ongoing, and who are destitute or about to become destitute. This is usually in shared housing accommodation.
Section 98 Support (S98): Home Office support for people seeking asylum, often referred to as initial accommodation. Generally full-board accommodation in Home Office hostels and meant to be emergency and short-term. Most people will then move onto Section 95 Support as above, which is more permanent.
Section 4 Support (S4): Home Office support in the form of accommodation and a payment card for people who are refused asylum seekers facing destitution. To receive this support people must demonstrate that they fit the narrow eligibility criteria, for example that they are not currently able to return to their country of origin or that they have been granted a judicial review of the decision on their asylum claim.
Schedule 10: This applies to an individual who is subject to immigration bail for example, their claim for asylum has been withdrawn, they have overstayed their visa or they have not made an asylum claim. The Home Office can provide accommodation and financial support temporarily either within the community or in immigration detention.
Home Office (HO): Ministerial department of the UK government responsible for immigration.
Screening Interview: First interview by the Home Office to take place when a person claims asylum.
Substantive interview: Interview by the Home Office when a person will be asked in detail why they are claiming asylum – often the most pivotal stage of a person’s asylum claim.
Fresh claim (FC): An asylum seeker who is appeals rights exhausted may be able to submit further evidence to the Home Office, who will then make a decision as to whether they consider that this evidence merits that they consider the person’s asylum claim again.
Further Submissions: Additional evidence and information submitted to the Home Office after a refusal of an immigration claim, upon which basis the Home Office will decide whether to consider a person’s Fresh Claim.
Witness Statement: Statements from other individuals submitted in support of an aspect of a person’s claim for asylum.
Appeal: If the Home Office refuses an application for asylum, a person may have the right to appeal this decision in court.
Judicial Review (JR): A review by a judge of the lawfulness of a decision or action made by the Home Office or other public body. Refused asylum seekers may use this to challenge the way a decision was made about their case.
Reporting: Asylum seekers awaiting a decision on their application to remain in the UK are required to regularly report to the UK Visas and Immigration Agency (UKVI; a division of the Home Office) in person. Also known as ‘signing’.
Dispersal: The process by which the Home Office moves destitute asylum seekers to different areas across the UK to stay in supported accommodation while their claims are considered. People generally have no influence over where they are sent. Requests may be made but the threshold is exceptionally high.
Subject Access Request (SAR ): Request that the Home Office sends a person a copy of all the documents, information, records, decisions and notes which the Home Office holds about this individual in their database.
Reasonable Grounds (RG): A decision made by the Competent Authority, the Home Office, the someone is a potential victim of modern slavery and trafficking.
Conclusive Grounds (CG): A decision made by the Competent Authority, the Home Office, that someone is a victim of modern slavery and trafficking. There are support services and accommodation available to individuals with either RG or CG..
MH: You may see this abbreviation for Mental Health often in Refugees at Home correspondence
Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC): Government body which regulates provision of immigration advice and services throughout the UK. Only someone qualified can provide legal advice.
Community Care Solicitor: Solicitors who challenge decisions made by public bodies. For example local authority housing decisions.
Immigration Solicitor: Solicitors that represent individuals on their immigration matters. Some of these solicitors will be under the Legal Aid Agency, which helps people with little or no income to pay for the cost of receiving legal advice.