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Please revisit this page which is under regular review. Please contact us if you have anything to add or wish to see other topics covered. 

Creative Ways to continue working with people seeking sanctuary.

As face to face services are closed down our primary concern is that people seeking sanctuary do not become isolated. Many will not have family support and long term isolation can damage wellbeing and mental health.  We are guided by our network principles – we can be leaders and movers behind networks across a city or borough to ensure support is coordinated with other voluntary organisations and local authorities.

Three of our key network principles are:

  • Create opportunities for relationships of friendship and solidarity between local people and those seeking sanctuary
  • Recognise and encourage partnership working and network development across localities;
  • Identify opportunities for working on common cause issues within and across communities

Connect and Create is a 6 weeks about building connections with others and celebrating what is important about being part of a community of sanctuary.

So for example see how Bradford CoS has responded here. Swansea CoS also set up a cross sector meeting to talk about pooling resources on maintaining service provision for people seeking sanctuary.  In Bristol, the refugee sector came together to ensure that no-one falls through the gaps created by the suspension of face to face services. See their article City of Hope: Bristol’s refugee sector response to Covid-19. 

Sheffield City of Sanctuary have created a Virtual Sanctuary – check it out on their website. They also have a comprehensive information page on  Covid-19 on their brilliant collaborative Asylum Journey Sheffield website including emergency services available, health advice and HO updates.  Their multi-agency Covid-19 Support Services Sheffield leaflet (now in 5 languages) has gone out to everyone seeking sanctuary via the asylum support accommodation provider.  

If your local City of Sanctuary group have any suggestions or examples to add to the following sections, please let us know.

See also Refugee Women Connect‘s June 2020 report Gendered Considerations in the Asylum System during Covid-19 – Guidance for organisations supporting asylum-seeking and refugee women.

Please note, we are working to restore the section on Meeting Basic Needs. 

Many face to face activities are being restored as restrictions and risk assessments allow. Here are some useful links provided by Tudor Trust: 

Government advice on the safe use of multi-purpose community facilities.

Advice sheet on returning to your premises from the Ethical Property Foundation.

The Cranfield Trust offer a range of advice, webinars and one to one support on all areas of charity management including finance, communication and business planning. Give them a call on 01794 830338 more information available on their website. 

• For legal advice and support Bates Wells offer blogs, webinars and a free 30 minute call for charities. 

The Small Charity Coalition supports small charities to access the skills, tools and information they need. There is a wealth of information on their website, including webinars and support from their team over the phone: 

The Institute for Voluntary Action Research (IVAR) has recently added more slots for voluntary sector leaders to join their peer support sessions. Sign up here:

Tudor Trust continues to share the latest opportunities on their resources page on our website.  


Tips for staying in touch from home:

One of North East Sanctuary Ambassador’s, Shams, told us:

“We are trying to create online groups, due to the social distancing rules, where once or twice a week over Zoom, social media like WhatsApp groups, we can have an exchange of ideas, talk about the advocacy we are doing and how we can continue that virtually, on social media. We have also being using Zoom to host improvised comedy, sharing jokes and stories to lift people’s morale. People can come up with uplifting videos for us and for the wider British public”

You can read more about positive examples from the North East here.

See also useful tips on use of mobile phones for video calls and data from The Leeds Migration Partnership here.  Please share ways which groups might enable access to data for people seeking sanctuary.

  • Schedule meetings via Zoom (City of Sanctuary have an upgraded account, with unlimited time. Click here for more information and to book a time slot).
  • Set up WhatsApp groups to keep in touch with people. Remember to be responsible with the use of this group.
  • Phone call befrienders’ – if it is suitable to do so, why not pair up people in your group to have a weekly phone chat.  See the Remote Befrienders Project from Swindon CoS.
  • Online training session over Zoom. Perhaps there’s someone in your group who has skills in IT or how to use online software to keep connected?
  • Why not make a video? Remember to seek permission from anyone in the video, with their full knowledge and consent of where it might end up (i.e. on social media). Contact [email protected] if you want to help make videos for City of Sanctuary advocacy, awareness raising and information purposes.
  • Virtual eventsMaison Foo – a Theatre Company of Sanctuary have replaced their Meet Your Neighbour events with encouragement to
  • virtually “boogie” together to their playlist on Facebook/Twitter. See the Hello Neighbour video.
  • join Ray playing a mini santur concert from his lounge to yours
  • join Nasrin to drink Persian tea and have a dance in her lovely garden
  • Set up Slack Communities – for information sharing and bringing together people seeking sanctuary with local people, hosting conversational English,  book clubs etc.  See the fabulous TimePeace example. CoS UK now has a Network Slack Workspace to keep groups connected.

Northumberland County of Sanctuary have developed a variety of ways to keep in touch with nearly 300 people during lockdown working in partnership with the Red Cross and other charities. They have language support groups, distribution of food and other necessities, ESOL etc. Check out how they have organised and their list of activities here for inspiration. 

Keeping up with classes

Coronavirus vocabulary – ABC education have posted a list of vocabulary used on the Coronavirus pandemic which can be used to support English lessons. Click here to access or here to access all of ABC’s resources.

Opportunity for online learning resources for unaccompanied children seeking asylum – Big Leaf Foundation have launched a new project ‘Keep Talking’ to respond to the needs of young people during this time of isolation by putting together a collection of online activities and challenges to help improve English, be creative, stay connected and ask questions.

Lancaster and Morecambe CoS have outlined how they are continuing with ESOL classes going during lockdown. See their guidance here

There is also this page on our website for ESOL resources for students.  Check it out for lots of ideas including a list of family learning links. 
Free online ESOL resources have been helpfully collated in a post at Leeds Migration Partnership blog for students of a range of levels who are keen to continue their studies (where possible).

Leicester University of Sanctuary have continued ESOL classes from beginners to advanced on line and here are two blogs worth reading:

A ‘safe space’ in ‘cyberspace’? Refugee students in synchronous online EAP classes which discusses trauma informed pedagogy and  important safeguarding issues

Online Classes as a Remedy for Loneliness and Isolation during COVID-19

RefuNet connects refugees and volunteers who would like to teach them, matching according to needs and experience. They also have teaching resources. It is really worth signposting students and volunteers to this if you are unable to continue English classes. 

Check out the Staying in Touch section for ideas on using Zoom, WhatsApp and Slack for English conversation sessions and of course there is also checking in regularly by phone  allowing opportunities for continued conversations in English. 

Southampton City of Sanctuary Sewing group have continued via Zoom and everyone is making face masks. Other groups ( eg Wolverhampton CoS) have also developed mask making projects in their efforts to keep people connected and occupied. 

Flintshire City of Sanctuary are developing exercise to music and dance classes on line for local people resettled through the Syrian Resettlement Scheme.

Doctors of the World

has launched a report on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on excluded people in England.

The Children’s Society

The interesting if painful read from their report A Lifeline for All highlights how the NRPF (No Recourse to Public Funds) condition plunges thousands of children in migrant families into abject, long-term poverty and calls on the government to suspend the NRPF condition during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Contributing to Research

CoS UK hope to contribute to the Social Integration APPG via British Futures. Please let us know if you have anything to offer in response to the following questions:

  • What issues has the COVID-19 crisis raised for socially isolated

·         How are you/your organisation responding to these challenges
to reach these groups?
·         What barriers and challenges have you encountered in your
work to reach and support socially isolated groups? How have you
responded to these barriers and solved such problems?
·         Is there best practice you would like to share with others
working in similar situations? What doesn’t work in these situations?
·         What should the Government be doing to support you in your
work to reach and support socially isolated groups? What support
would be useful from other relevant groups such as councils, the NHS
and other civil society bodies?