The Home Visit

Prior to attending a visit we advise that each Home visitor lets a friend or family member know about the time and place of your home visit and when you expect the visit to be completed. 

Should I take anything with me to the Home Visit?

 

It helps to take a copy of the Home Visit checklist with you to the visit.  Before the visit you might want to reread the host application form so you can highlight any areas you think might be issues of concern. 

What should I do when I arrive at a host’s home? 

 

When you arrive, you need to create a relaxed, informal atmosphere in which the potential host feels able to open up to you to discuss any concerns or anxieties about taking in a refugee guest. Once you have introduced yourself, a good way of starting the visit is to ask to be shown around the home.  The host is leading you and therefore this is a good way of enabling them to feel relaxed in your company.  You will also need to enter details of the accommodation in your report. After this, you can begin your conversation which covers the checklist questions.  Often you will be asked if you would like a cup of tea and accepting can be helpful to create rapport and a relaxed atmosphere.  If, however, the potential hosts appear to be in a rush, it may be better to start the checklist as soon as possible. 

Helping the host prepare their Welcome Pack 

 

We recommend using our Welcome Pack Template during a home visit to prompt discussion around house rules. This is a visual guide which helps guests understand the house rules and whether they are allowed to use things like the cooker or washing machine. Hosts often say they have no house rules and this is a way to explore with them their own expectations, and to help them make these clear to guests.  Guests often won’t automatically assume they can use facilities within the home. Hosts should be encouraged to complete a Welcome Pack for their own home which they can share with newly arrived guests – clear communication at the beginning really promotes smooth placements.  

What kind of placement is the host offering?

If a host has preferences in terms of what kind of placement would suit their household best, please do include this in your report.  Equally, if you as Home Visitor feel that certain limitations are appropriate, please also include this.  Below are some questions that often come up:

Does the host have any limitations on the type of placement they would welcome?

When it comes to making a placement, it is entirely up to the host to decide if they want to make an offer. Hosts may ask if they can specify what sort of guest they would prefer. Please let us know what thoughts the host has about this and we will try to fit in with that. As Home Visitor you can help by exploring whether a potential host’s ideas about this are realistic. Some hosts have very specific requirements and we have to explain that this will make a placement less likely. If your hosts say they haven’t had a placement, their restrictions will almost always be the reason – unless they live somewhere really rural or remote. The majority of the guests referred to us for hosting are single men. Some are very young, others are older and are awaiting reunification with their families. We are asked to help single women, sometimes pregnant or with a baby and this is usually while they wait for Social Services to meet the needs of the child by housing both. Rarely, we are asked to help a whole family but this is usually for a short period only. We do have hosts who have specified that they would prefer a guest from a particular part of the world or of a specific religion. We try to accommodate this where we can. Again, it limits the likelihood of a placement, particularly outside London and it limits the amount of people that can be hosted.

Does the host only want to consider female guests?

It is not unusual for a host at this stage to express a preference for hosting women. Some hosts express anxiety about hosting a single man but can be reassured if they speak to a more experienced host in similar circumstances. Please let us know if you think your host needs to be linked up with another host. It is also worth a gentle reminder that most of our guests are men, and that the need for hosts for female guests is simply not as great. If a host is clear that they only want to host a woman, please let us know, we will not suggest male guests for them to consider. However you could suggest to them that they leave their restrictions open at this stage, as they will always be in control of what placements they say yes to after seeing the details.

Does the host want to make potential guests aware of anything?

Occasionally, hosts will mention issues which they would like potential guests to be made aware of. For example, that the host is LGBT+ or in a same sex partnership or that they are Jewish, practicing Christians or Muslim. We will always do this when asked to as we recognize that the hosts wish to protect their guests and themselves from any feelings of discomfort.

How long can the host offer a placement?

Some hosts will offer only emergency/short term placements. Where the host is offering a sofa bed, this makes good sense and we do need such emergency options, especially when we’re asked to help someone who is on the streets or sleeping on the night buses. However, we do not have requests for emergency placements outside the large cities and our real need is for longer-term placements. We do understand why some hosts want to put their toes in the water with very short placements, and we will respect that. It is, however, much more work for us. It would help if you could possibly talk to new hosts about offering say, a month (on the understanding that we will always move someone if things are not working out) it would allow us more breathing space to find additional placements. It would also be far better for the majority of our guests who are quite stressed about the amount of moving they have done and would love to be able to draw breath for a decent length of time. You may be able to help overcome fears about longer placements by referring potential hosts to the testimonies from people who have hosted which are on our website. It is also important to emphasize that we are respondent to the needs of our hosts and guests, and will end a placement that is really not working. Any other thoughts on how to do this are most welcome.

Key points to cover in my conversation with the host

Is everyone in the household happy to host?

They don't have to be equally keen but it’s important that no one is opposed to the idea. This is why it’s crucial to talk to everyone. It can sometimes happen that the applicant’s partner for example is against the idea. Sometimes this person’s concerns can be addressed during the visit, but sometimes they won’t go away and will resurface when a potential guest is suggested - or even later. It’s better to get the worries into the open if you can. Some HVs like to meet everyone, including young children and even pets, as this can give a better idea of what the environment will be like- i.e. is it noisy and chaotic with normal child noise and sibling squabbles over the breakfast table, and therefore not ideal for a sensitive or shy guest; or is it a calmer environment with one quiet, friendly child, for example. You can probably make that judgement without meeting a young child, and the parents’ view of their child’s reaction to guests is fine if they are happy to give that instead.

Is the accommodation fit for purpose?

A sofa bed is no problem for emergencies, but not for a guest to stay for months. Basically, would you want anyone to live in these circumstances (given the alternative may be the street or a very basic hostel)?

Is it possible that a host may exploit a guest?

This can be either by charging rent, enforcing labor or other and worse things. Here we ask you to draw on your professional background in home assessment or safeguarding. It can be useful to think about keeping the chat informal, and touching on a host’s motivation for applying during your chat.

Does the host have realistic expectations of hosting?

This is an area where you can really help to prepare the host for the realities of sharing their homes with a guest. Have they considered such things as laundry, keys and access, insurance, house rules, food, costs, and their own personal boundaries? Some people may be more prepared for this than others. Perhaps they are used to housemates, lodgers, Airbnb guests or hosting foreign students. However some hosts may not have much similar experience and you can help by prompting them to think about their household from a newcomer’s perspective. They will also need to consider that their guest may come from a totally different cultural background, that guests’ English language abilities vary, and that guests’ experience of the asylum system is inevitably stressful and they may also be suffering the effects of previous traumatic experience. The period of time in which a guest needs hosting often exceeds the period that one host can offer - meaning it is unlikely that a guest will leave a host’s home and move into their own accommodation directly. We will share relevant information that we have about individual guests when it comes to making a placement, and try to help hosts understand the likely outcomes, which differ in each case.
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