The housing action charity
Building the capacity of housing providers and refugee communities: an evaluation of the Reach In project
The University of Birmingham’s role as evaluators of the Reach In project was to assess that the outcomes set by the project were achieved, to demonstrate ‘what worked’, identify good practice and to identify the learning derived throughout the life of project so that it can be shared with the wider housing, the refugee and employment sectors and other relevant stakeholders nationally. The Institute of Applied Social Studies, which is based within the School of Social Policy, at the University of Birmingham, has developed a reputation for delivering high quality teaching and learning which enables students to develop into reflective and research-informed professionals. Research in the Institute of Applied Social Studies covers a range of issues including, poverty and social exclusion; social care and mental health; families, children and communities; global communities; new migration and superdiversity, housing; and wealth and wellbeing. We seek to to carry out research that is: • Applied: in particular research that seeks to evaluate the effects and impacts of developments in policy and practice; • Relevant: we are committed to research that is both meaningful and useful to policy makers and practitioners, and that leads to positive change for those experiencing the outcomes of policies and services;
• Intellectually rigorous: we aim to conduct applied research that is theoretically and methodologically robust and appropriate, and that maintains high standards of independence and objectivity (a principle that is especially important given the substantial volume of commissioned research that we undertake); • Ethical: our research is carried out in accordance with established ethical frameworks and processes of validation, both internal (for example, the University’s own procedures for ethical approval) and external (for example, research governance processes in the health and social care sector; and the Social Policy Association guidelines).
The authors would like to thank the community researchers, Marcianne Uwimana, James Omunson and Jayne Thornhill for their contribution to the evaluation. Thanks are also due to the housing providers and volunteers who generously gave up time to be interviewed or participate in focus groups. Many made repeated contributions to the evaluation through participating in the longitudinal element.
Dr Chris Allen and Dr Jenny Phillimore Institute of Applied Social Studies, The University of Birmingham
HACT is a national charity that works with the housing sector, government, civil society and communities to develop and share innovative approaches to meeting changing housing need.
The housing action charity
HACT believes that the provision of housing must be about more than just bricks and mortar – that housing providers are at their most successful when they value and engage with their communities and actively seek to identify and meet the needs of those at the margins.
Reach In funders Part funded by the European Refugee Fund
Content 1 Introduction
JP Getty Jnr Charitable Trust Trust for London The Goldsmithsâ€™ Company The Beatrice Laing Trust
Organisational change & legacy
Amicus Horizon Arhag HA BCHS / Accord Blue Mountain HA /Staffordshire HA Bolton at Home Bolton Community Homes Broxbourne HA East Thames Group Family Housing Association Great Places/Ashiana In Communities South Essex Homes Unity Housing Association
4 | HACT
1 Introduction The Reach In project developed by HACT – the housing action charity, had a number of goals: to improve refugee employment prospects, to address the skills gap within housing, to improve housing services for migrants and to help housing providers create cohesive communities.
To achieve this, HACT developed an innovative volunteer placement project that, over a three year period, involved 82 refugees having up to six-month volunteer placements with housing providers across England. Of these refugees, 76 were eligible for support through the European Refugee Fund. There were three waves of placements over this period. In addition all volunteers could participate in a training module, that resulted in a Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) accredited certificate (Level 3) for each successful participant.
Photograph: Derek Brown
Funding was provided by the European Refugee Fund III administered by the UK Borders Agency and matched by financial support from 13 funding partners all of whom were housing providers, as well as a number of Charitable Trusts and from HACT’s own reserves. The Chartered Institute of Housing acted as a delivery partner developing and delivering the accredited training programme. Funding partners and an additional 12 housing providers offered supported volunteer places to refugees. The Institute of Applied Social Studies at the University of Birmingham was appointed to evaluate the project and sought to undertake a formative evaluation monitoring the progress of volunteers and housing providers from the completion of Phase 1 to the end of the project. This report sets out the methods used for the evaluation and outlines the key findings and recommendations from across the three phases.
Housing, employment and integration Access to appropriate housing and employment have long been viewed as fundamental to refugee integration (see Bloch 2002; Phillimore & Goodson 2006). The Home Office acknowledge, in their refugee integration strategies (Home Office 2002; 2005, 2009), that employment and housing are the two main social policy areas that are fundamental to integration. At the same time studies have indicated that the lack of stable, affordable housing and employment continue to facilitate against refugee integration. Studies in the
West Midlands have recorded unemployment rates as high as 70% (Phillimore et al. 2004) whilst rates approaching this have been recorded throughout the UK (Bloch 2002). Refugees experience higher levels of unemployment and under-employment than all ethnic groups in the UK (Phillimore & Goodson 2006). The UK’s affordable housing crisis has acted as a barrier to refugee employment and wider integration. The Government’s 2005 report (Causes of Ethnic Minority Homelessness, ODPM) found that loss of UKBA accommodation was one of the main causes of refugee homelessness. Research has indicated that even several years after gaining leave to remain in the UK, refugees struggle to locate settled, good quality housing (Phillimore et al. 2008). While the Refugee Integration and Employment Service (RIES) was established to improve refugees’ access to housing providers and support to find employment, little action has been taken to establish specialist refugee housing or employment schemes that can provide refugees with the skills and knowledge they need to access jobs and homes. Much of the emphasis of integration initiatives has been on facilitating refugees’ access to language learning or on signposting refugees to existing housing or employment services. Yet many commentators have argued that integration is a twoway process, requiring institutional adaptation as well as newcomer adaptation (Phillimore & Goodson 2009; Berry 1997). There has been a dearth of initiatives that have sought to help institutions to develop the skills and knowledge they need to better help refugees to access employment and housing. A small number of volunteering projects have been established around the UK including Building Bridges (in Glasgow), EQUAL (in the West Midlands) and projects run by the Refugee Council (in London) (Phillimore et al. 2006). These initiatives demonstrated some degree
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of success in enhancing refugee employability but they focused on locally based activities in a range of fields and were aimed primarily at producing outcomes for refugees. HACT’s approach was innovative in that it used the volunteering project to meet a wider range of aims and objectives.
Aims and objectives The Reach In project sought to support both refugees and housing providers to facilitate integration through bringing them together to enable them to learn from each other. Reach In project aimed to: • stimulate and support partnerships between local RIES, housing providers, local authorities and RCOs in the pilot areas; • develop and provide structured and supported work experience placement opportunities for 60 refugees within housing organisations; • work with that Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) to scope, develop and deliver advanced training modules alongside the work placements, accredited to Level 3; • work with the trainees, the placement providers and RIES to develop new housing resources of benefit to RIES and new refugees, such as nomination agreements, hosting schemes, specific private rented schemes, better advice, advocacy and support for the vulnerable, etc.; • disseminate nationally the models and resources that are developed to encourage wider adoption. Through the adoption of largely qualitative focus, the evaluation aimed to assess the effectiveness of the Reach In project in helping refugees to become more employable, to develop relationships between housing providers and refugee organisations, to help housing providers better meet the needs of their refugee communities and to develop good practice around using partnerships to facilitate institutional changes. This report describes the Reach In project and uses data collected throughout its duration to examine its effectiveness in meeting the above aims and objectives.
6 | HACT
Report structure Chapter 2 sets out the methods utilised in the evaluation. Chapter 3 provides details about the project, how it worked and the expectations of participants. Chapter 4 examines the outcomes of the project for providers and volunteers. Chapter 5 outlines the organisational changes that resulted from the project and considers issues around legacy and sustainability. Chapter 6 offers some concluding comments around the project and its future and Chapter seven sets out recommendations for the future.
2 Research methodology The evaluation aimed to evaluate the effectiveness of the programme in helping refugees to become more employable and housing providers to better meet the needs of their refugee communities. See Table 1 (on page 8) for a summary of the methods used and number of interviews or questionnaires achieved.
The research team asked a series of questions which sought to: • explore the experiences of volunteers in and after their placements including how the placements have helped increase employability; • explore the experiences of housing providers in supporting volunteers as well as setting up and running the project; • investigate the benefits and challenges of working with refugee volunteers to examine which approaches can be most successful; • examine the ways in which the project has helped providers meet the needs of refugee communities; • consider the legacy of the project and the recommendations that can be made to practitioners and policymakers. Using a combination of quantitative and qualitative approaches, the research team employed different methodologies throughout. These included a longitudinal approach constituted of: • entry questionnaires for all volunteers completed with the aid of their housing provider in the first week on placement; • exit questionnaires for all volunteers completed with the aid of their housing provider in the last week on placement; • follow-up interviews with a sample of respondents undertaken six months after completion of the project.
the volunteers had gained employment or entered education and the ways in which they used the skills and knowledge acquired through the project. We also undertook: • a series of interviews and focus groups with both volunteers and providers; • in-depth entry and exit interviews with a sample of volunteers; • a focus group with volunteers who participated in Phase 2; • focus groups with providers who had participated in either Phase 1 or 2; • interviews with providers from across the project; • interviews with the project management team. These methods were largely qualitative and enabled us to examine in-depth experiences of the project from the perspectives of project managers, volunteers and providers. The entry/exit interviews were analysed in SPSS and the qualitative data was analysed using a systematic thematic approach.
These entry/exit questionnaires contained largely quantifiable information that enabled a collection of baseline information about volunteer hopes, expectations and aspirations which could later be compared to their actual experiences. While it proved difficult to collect the questionnaires from volunteers, we were able to quantify the data and to draw some conclusions about the extent to which expectations had been met. The follow-up interviews enabled us to examine the longer term impacts of the project on volunteers’ lives, by examining whether
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Table 1: Research methods Phase 1
Longitudinal study Entry interviews Exit interviews
Follow on phone interviews
Volunteer focus group
Project managers Project management interviews
Providers Provider focus group
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3 The project During the last five to ten years HACT’s approach has fundamentally changed. HACT previously operated primarily as a grant giver. More recently, the organisation has been involved in the delivery of learning programmes with housing associations and other housing providers, training programmes with refugee community organisations (RCOs) and facilitating opportunities for mainstream providers to get closer to the voluntary and community sector and to begin to form practical working relationships.
Whilst previous training programmes had included sessions on welfare benefits, housing rights and entitlements etc. and produced very interesting results, they were not accredited. There was a request from associations and providers involved to identify a wider housing training course that would lead to accreditation. HACT wanted to support housing providers in practical solutions and provide opportunities at work for refugee volunteers, and go beyond this in looking at ways of capacity building the housing providers to be receptive to the needs of their new communities. Three needs were identified to: • capacity build the housing providers; • capacity build the communities themselves; • fit with the strategic framework where housing associations are expected to tackle worklessness as part of their agenda. HACT were opportunistic in looking at the funding available at this time and sought to create a qualification opportunity that helped housing associations tackle worklessness as part of their agenda. HACT was successful in accessing £337,191 over three years from the UKBA administered European Refugee Fund (ERF). The funding came with a strict criterion: individuals on volunteers placement must not be a British citizen, but needed to have refugee status, humanitarian protection or discretionary leave, although a later decision removed those with discretionary leave from eligibility. The ERF focus was on employment and skills in the housing sector. The funding had three main outcomes: • building local partnerships between RCOs, HAs, LAs, and RIES; • delivering structured work placements for 60 refugees in HAs; • delivering introductory and advanced training for those on work placements.
The intention was for a minimum of 60 refugees to be matched with housing providers across England over three phases spanning three years. Each placement ran for approximately three months and included accredited training delivered by the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH). The first of these placement phases ran from April 2009. Phase 2 began in January 2010 with the first volunteers beginning Phase 3 in late 2010/ early 2011. Reach In sought to provide voluntary work experience to refugees who were interested in finding out more about working in housing and who wished to improve their employability by gaining relevant experience and undertaking training. Host housing providers would also hope to benefit by gaining an additional resource as well as having direct input from someone with experience of the refugee community. In the wider sector, it was the intention that this scheme would increase the numbers of refugees applying for jobs within housing and thus help to reduce the housing skills shortage. The placements were flexible in content and structure, designed to meet the needs of the provider organisation and the volunteer. Each placement lasted a minimum of three months on a full-time basis. The minimum commitment was 20 hours per week. Housing providers were also encouraged to offer volunteers shadowing opportunities within the wider organisation to enrich the participant’s understanding of the housing sector: “I was given the opportunity to shadow, was given training in customer services, to get a better understanding of how housing works, get a different perspective.”
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Reach In process flowchart
Reach In publicity for volunteers & housing providers
Set application deadline. Applications to be processed
If no, email the applicant
If no, explain ineligibility
Is the paperwork complete?
Is the applicant eligible?
Contact housing provider and reserve days for interviews
Match volunteers and housing providers
Inform the applicant why unsuccessful Paperwork complete + eligibility conﬁrmed, book applicant onto an information day
Set up interviews: each volunteer should have 2-3 interviews
Has the applicant been shortlisted?
Inform the applicant why unsuccessful
Volunteer decides which placement
Has the applicant been oﬀered a placement?
Has the applicant been oﬀered more than one placement?
Start process again
Do we have enough volunteers?
Volunteer assigned a tutor and residential training group
10 | HACT
Oﬀer made to volunteer
Have documents been returned? Arrange start dates with housing providers
Pre-placement arrangements: expenses, childcare costs, CRB checks, etc
Placement documents sent to volunteer: key dates circulated
Volunteer / housing provider agreement signed. Mentor allocated
List of volunteers sent to CIH
Placements and residential training begin. Ongoing support to volunteers Course work administered by CIH Ends with celebration event
Roles and responsibilities Organisation
Project Manager, Resource, Network Manager, (motivating, inspiring, change management). Point of contact for all volunteers. Liaison with CIH re training days.
Housing Associations - funders only
Match funder with no placement
Housing Associations - funder and host
match funder, host volunteer placements, provided mentors, engaged with RCO’s TSO’s and communities.
LAs (2 locations Norwich and Bolton)
Host volunteer placements, engaged with RCOs, TSOs (and JobCentre Norwich), facilitated regional/local meetings and sharing good practice/ knowledge. (Bolton area created unique regional network with hosts/ jobcentre plus)
RCO, TSO engagement, volunteer recruitment, shaping the project. Mentoring and recruiting HAs. Facilitated HA’s engagement with RCOs, TSOs and support for partnerships. Part of the project team.
Developed Level 3 CIH distance learning module, and training days.
Volunteer recruitment - support HA engagement with local communities
Housing associations ERFIII makes 50% of project costs available subject to the remaining 50% being match funded from elsewhere. HACT approached a number of housing associations and requested pledges of £5,000 each year for the three year period. All host organisations were asked to provide volunteer placements with some expenses for lunch, travel costs, etc. Eventually a total of thirteen associations pledged an average of £5,000 per year. Many providers already had a role around community engagement and were motivated to be involved by their social responsibility as inclusive organisations. Some housing associations additionally put their own criteria to their funding, which in instances required that the volunteer placement be from their own local community, or representative of their service user
ethnicities, in order for them to gain insight into these communities and to share community information. The match funding requirement, combined with the need to offer a placement, created a challenge as some housing associations were willing to host a volunteer placement but were unable to pledge funds, whilst other organisations were willing to pledge funds but unable to offer a placement. To acknowledge the financial contributions from host funder organisations HACT created a two-tier system and added an element to the project which was about developing a partnership strand with RCOs. A small seed grant was offered to host funder organisations to develop some solid partnership with the wider volunteer and community partners on the ground.1 1 This scheme was not included in the evaluation
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Some housing providers and third sector organisations were keen to have more than one volunteer in order to maximise their use of the project. Others were more focussed on the quality of the placement and sought to use their volunteer in their community engagement activities including development, and regeneration work to develop that strong link with the communities.
Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) During the development of the project HACT approached CIH, who were eager to work with HACT and give support for the application to the UKBA for ERF funding. Although the CIH policy and practice team had previous experience of working with HACT, the Reach In project enabled the distance learning team at CIH to work with refugees for the first time. A programme was put together based on an element of CIH level 3 certificate in housing, and a module was identified that would help volunteers to get to grips with the organisations and sector where they were placed and hopefully act as a springboard to future studies. The module chosen was from the mandatory core of the qualification entitled CIH Level 3 Award in Housing – Social factors affecting housing in the UK, and comprised assignments which were supported by three training days to support the content of the module and to give beneficiaries the opportunity to meet together and build up a bond between them. The standard CIH module was developed to include information on the UK jobs market to support volunteers looking for employment once the placement had finished. CIH acted as a partner throughout the project even though their services had been purchased by HACT.
Local authorities Two local authorities also asked to join the project. In Bolton, the LA had a long standing relationship with HACT as both delivery partner and funder and was a major supporter and pioneer of the Gateway programme. In Norfolk the LA came into the project after seeing the publicity. Their head of worklessness officer actively engaged in the process.
12 | HACT
Recruiting the volunteers During the first wave HACT used their own contacts to attract volunteers, a process which was very labour intensive. HACT had a long standing experience of working with RCOs but had limited experience of using RCOs as paid nominators and referral agencies for volunteers. During waves two and three HACT used the services of associate consultants as a resource to contact a network of RCO organisations who acted as change agents recruiting refugees, providing them with work placements in the housing sector, and creating permanent links between refugees and the housing world. The recruitment of the refugees was the most difficult part of the project, because it needed to meet both the funder’s requirements and HACT’s own criteria. To be successful applicants must have and demonstrate: Essential requirements: 1. Good written and spoken English – it was essential that candidates could communicate in English both verbally and in writing, so they could produce written work as part of their training assignments 2. Good IT skills (including Outlook, Word and Excel) 3. Positive “can do” approach 4. Ability and willingness to work in a team 5. Evidence of on-going learning and development 6. A commitment to take part in the placement and the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) residentials Desirable requirements: 1. Keen interest in developing a career in housing or related sector 2. Knowledge of specific community groups 3. Other languages 4. Experience or interest in youth and/or refugee work
Refugees were placed with host organisations for a period of three to six months, and had the support of a mentor. A bursary of £500 was given to each volunteer in the first two waves.
Network management The relationship between the CIH, housing associations, and providers was held together by HACT who acted as a network manager. HACT also employed a project support officer who was the main contact with the volunteers during the recruitment, and helped set up the information days, and liaised with CIH and housing providers. The focus and motivation was always to solve and help refugee housing conditions and for providers to understand the housing needs of refugees. The funding enabled HACT to meet the practical needs of providing some knowledge for people, while at the same time having an accredited qualification through that process.
The volunteers Some 82 refugees participated in the project across the three phases. Socio demographic profiles are illustrated in Appendix 1. Volunteers were almost equally divided by gender (42 female/40 male). Volunteers originated from 24 different countries with the majority coming from Africa, and Zimbabwe (25), Congo (10) and Ethiopia (8) most frequently occurring. Most (54) were aged between 25 and 45. Some 42 volunteers had some kind of higher education qualification. The largest proportion of volunteers located a placement in London (27) with 19 being located in the North West and 15 in the West Midlands. Ten volunteers were placed in Norwich. Volunteers found out about the project via a range of sources. These included RCOs (31), friends (8), RIES (6), housing association support workers (4), HACT mailing (3) and the wider voluntary sector (2). Volunteer expectations included gaining work experience, new skills and qualifications and improving their understanding of the housing system (see Figure 1). Whilst expectations were broad, just under a third of volunteers (29%) stated that the gaining of employment was the most important to them.
this of being of importance to them. To achieve these, volunteers expected the project to offer them training, mentoring and help with travel and other costs. Most volunteers expected to be given the opportunity to gain the skills, experience they saw as being important. The majority of volunteers expected to be volunteering for over 16 hours per week for a period of between 13 and 24 hours with a significant number expecting to be volunteering for more than 24 weeks in total. There was some confusion about how much time would be required of them in terms of studying for CIH qualifications, with volunteers suggesting that this could have been anything from between 3-5 hours per week through to more than 10 hours.
Expectations at the beginning of volunteering placement
Gain work experience
Gain new skills
14.29% A job 12.7%
Improve understanding of the housing system
11.11% Meet new people 11.11% Get an employer’s reference
Linked to this was the importance attributed to increasing the volunteer’s employability, with around 15% stating
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The housing providers Twenty five housing providers had a role in the project. Thirteen of them provided match funding and offered a placement while the remaining 12 offered a placement.
Full information about the providers is set out in the following table:
Partner name Organisation type
Number of managed houses
Funder and host partner, or only host
Phoenix Community Housing
Newlon HA Housing Trust
East Thames Group
HA (charity and social)
Stoke on Trent
Blue Mountain HA /Staffords HA
600 (specific for refugees)
East of England - Norwich
Norwich City Council
East of England - Norwich
East of England - Norwich
Broadland HA HA
North West - Manchester & St Vincentâ€™s Blackburn HA
North West -Bolton
25,000+ (with partners)
14 | HACT
Bolton Community Homes
Partner name Organisation type
Number of managed houses
Funder and host partner, or only host
North West - Manchester and Blackburn
Great Places/ Ashiana
North West - Bolton
Bolton at Home
South Yorkshire HA
Southend on Sea
South Essex Homes
South East - Hertfordshire
South Yorkshire â€“ Bradford
Y & H - Leeds
Unity Housing HA Association
Y & H - Leeds
East North East Homes Leeds
HA (Leeds City Council owned)
West Midlands Birmingham
Family Housing Association
West Midlands Birmingham
363 flats/ bedsits
West Midlands Birmingham
BCHS / Accord
West Midlands Birmingham
* These organisations had good previous community development skills in general, although not specific to BME /refugees. **Although no previous experience, this provider had a fantastic approach towards community development and was creative in terms of linking with communities. For all organisations: Whilst all the above organisations may have had BME and Refugee volunteer experience, none of them had structured volunteering programs for refugees. Approximately a third of the organisations had previous BME, Refugee, volunteer experience as indicated in the table above.
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Most housing providers’ expectations were linked to the aims of the project: to a recognition by the provider of being able to gain knowledge about refugees and their experiences, diversity more generally, or because its staff and/or client group were changing. As one provider explained: “We work in an area with quite a low BME population...so our resident base is quite a low BME population...part of it is opening people’s eyes to different communities and we felt that if we can start to do that through this programme, so that staff are working amongst people and picking up different backgrounds and getting on with people in an office setting, then they will be more likely to be able to do that when they have to go out and about knocking doors and deal with our customers”.
16 | HACT
4 The outcomes
Expectations and achievements The data on expectations and achievements is not comprehensive because exit questionnaires were not routinely completed by volunteers on departure from their placement. Thus the statistics discussed here must be viewed as offering a flavour of achievements, rather than a definitive picture.
Expectations and achievements
Gained work experience Gained new skills
On leaving the project, most of the volunteer expectations had been met or exceeded. Figure 2 (right) illustrates the extent to which expectations were met in nine areas. Volunteers gained more work experience, skills and understanding of housing than they expected. They also met more new people and achieved their expectations in relation to language development. The majority had been able to volunteer for more than 20 weeks each week. Fewer expectations were not met. Some volunteers were disappointed that they were unable to find suitable employment. Another was the gaining of relevant qualifications, where two respondents felt their goals had not been achieved. The more comprehensive picture offered by CIH completion data indicates that only seven out of the 83 volunteers did not complete the training and 64 passed.
Got a job Gained qualiﬁcations Improved language Improved understanding of housing Met new people Got an employer’s reference Entry interview Exit interview
Outcomes The following section explores in-depth the gains that both providers and volunteers achieved throughout the project using insight provided through in depth interviews and focus group discussions.
Working relationships Most volunteers stated that they soon felt a part of the team. Housing providers worked closely with them to establish good relationships and to build a rapport from the outset. Integral to the success of this was high level interaction between provider and volunteer which for most providers included facilitating daily one-to-one
meetings. The value of this approach was highlighted by one volunteer: “I felt as part of the team and everybody really respected me. I participated in team meetings and I was consulted daily by my manager.”
Improving skills Volunteers gained a range of new skills. Some were gained through interaction with people from different communities and backgrounds. Face-to-face and telephone-based communication supported volunteers to
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Case study 1: Mary Mary was placed with a Birmingham housing provider and had a background in community research. The organisation immediately recognised that she had a good understanding of inclusiveness and vulnerable people in relation to housing management. As a volunteer she undertook a tangible piece of research work on behalf of the provider into how housing providers engage with their most marginalised clients. Mary designed the topic guide and arranged to meet with residents and staff in total of twelve housing providers in the Birmingham area. A research document is being produced that will give the organisation insight into how these providers consult with and involve their most marginalised clients. The provider states that the research is “good hard evidence and demonstrates good practice in inclusiveness”. The provider is currently looking for other ways to roll out the Reach In volunteering model with different communities and service areas.
improve team-working skills and an understanding of the UK housing sector: “I learnt some good things, this is something that I can tell my people…good opportunity to help, improved skills in housing, learnt about my neighbourhood, learn a lot to assist clients, learn about different cultures, experience with housing and housing sector”. Understanding of a range of social issues was also increased especially those relating to integration and exclusion, and the problems encountered by different communities. As well as improving the skills of the individual, many of these skills have a wider community impact also.
18 | HACT
Benefitting from the ‘back to work’ routine, volunteers also gained from undertaking office management, as well as taking on more housing, and provider specific responsibilities and opportunities including case and tenant management, client assessments, work-related problem solving, interpreting and translating, developing organisational strategy, and supporting community engagement. “It has given me experience of working in a UK work environment and was interesting to work in housing. I was able to build a relationship with housing associations, there were gains. I am now working for a charity, but I think because I got a good reference from the housing organisation.” They were able to gain administrative skills by undertaking basic office-based tasks such as data input, filing, reception work and office management. Housing and provider specific skills were gained through working in different departments or at the front desk. Through these activities volunteers learned about case and tenant management, client assessments, work-related problem solving, interpreting and translating, developing organisational strategy, and supporting community engagement. “I have gained leadership, organisational, planning, recording keeping, and information technology skills. Also, I passed chartered housing training with merit. It was so surprising to me. I am more confident than I have even been. I am doing a very nice and well paid Job. I got many friends during my placement and I am still in touch with them.” As well as helping volunteers gain vital work experience in the UK context the project also supported volunteers to improve and gain a wide range of transferable skills. This was further enhanced by the opportunity to gain professional qualifications, improve language and communication skills, and gain a better understanding of the UK housing sector. “I have now known many things about social housing – the issues regarding criteria for eligibility, the process for applying for social housing, the people entitled to receive housing support, how to complete
Case study 2: Fred Fred joined a housing provider in Hertfordshire with no prior experience of working in a housing environment. He adapted quickly, worked hard to understand the computerised housing management system, and soon was able to give advice to tenants on the phone relating to their rent account or tenancy. Fred also assisted with investigating cases of subletting using information from the National Fraud Initiative database and Experian. In conjunction with information from the providers’ house files and their housing management system the information was used to establish if the case needed further investigation. Fred has also been using his knowledge of the providers housing management system to work on a large data transfer project, liaising closely with the IT department. Fred has given assistance to the Tenancy Support Workers, written up case notes, and contacted support agencies with information. He has now started working with the anti-social behaviour team taking part in the providers trainee programme. This growing general housing knowledge is said to put Fred in an excellent position for a future career within housing management.
an application for housing, how to assess a client before giving them a house or putting them on the register or queue system, and the various criteria for housing providers too.”
Sharing experience Many volunteers had existing skills, knowledge and experience. For them, the project provided opportunities to hone these skills as well as acquire new ones. Housing providers benefitted directly tapping into volunteers’ skills. For example one provider supported its volunteer
to use their understanding of refugee and diverse communities to help develop an anti social behaviour strategy. For the housing provider, this was a completely new and valuable experience. Volunteers gained significantly from being presented with issues and challenges that helped them better understand the problems experienced by people from different backgrounds and the difficulties presented to housing providers as a result. Volunteers particularly gained through engaging in partnership work as a means of understanding the way in which the housing sector was supported by and interacted with other institutions and services. Of note were relationships with local authorities, social services and the police through which volunteers gained valuable new knowledge: “I was given information, learnt certain knowledge, leant about laws, tenancy agreements, where to go for help…When you come to a country you don’t know where to get help, you don’t know where you are going – with this you can then show your friends the right way to do things. Can give friends advice…”
Gaining CIH qualifications Almost all volunteers ended the project having achieved a unit of the Level 3 diploma in housing practice with 14 gaining merits and one volunteer a distinction. This qualification was viewed as useful because it was transferable and enhanced their CV and contributed towards their greater employability. For many it would have been the first professional qualification they had gained in the UK. One volunteer subsequently raised the funds to go on and study for their CIH Level 3 qualification. Improving employability The project improved the employability of volunteers. Volunteers recognised the tangible benefits of the project, recognising how the placement, including the key workrelated and transferable skills and qualifications referred to previously, enhanced their CVs and so improved their chances of gaining suitable employment. The placement experience helped volunteers to better target their job applications with many seeing the experience as giving them valuable
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Case study 3: Aisha Aisha moved to the UK from Mozambique where she had previously studied international law but had always been interested in working in the housing sector. However when she arrived in the UK she didn’t have any records of her previous qualifications or work experience. Aisha joined the Reach In project and was placed with a housing provider in the Norwich area. Engagement with the project was said to help her overcome the barriers that most refugees have to face in order to take the first steps on the employment ladder. The project gave her on the job training and after successfully completing the voluntary placement Aisha is now employed by Norwich City Council as a Private Sector Leasing Assistant. “Not only have I got a full time job but I have been able to study too. I’m really proud of what I have done and I’m very happy here in Norwich.”
insight into the housing sector. Many used this to apply for vacancies with housing associations, as support workers within housing-related projects, as well as other organisations/companies that deal with housing-related or social issues more widely.
Finding employment and entering education As well as securing suitable employment, the project acted as a springboard for some volunteers who have gone on to further education and study for additional qualifications, including those relevant to the housing sector. “I intend to pursue a course in events management at Derby University. This course will enhance my interest to work with and for refugees, asylum seekers and migrants to help them with their integration into the wider community”.
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Three volunteers had success when placed with a housing provider in the Norfolk area. One volunteer with a legal background undertook a tenancy audit on behalf of the provider. The placement worked part time four days a week but was able to undertake a tenancy audit on a residential estate collating data from residents and looking at a range of functions including cleaning services, antisocial behaviour and other services and entered the data on a spread sheet. The audit provided very important information to the organisation on how their services could be improved. A second volunteer supported the organisation in organising and engaging the community in Refugee week and was able to link the organisation to other RCO’s and stakeholders that the organisation was unaware of and would have struggled to access. While a third volunteer who work shadowed officers in the organisation went on to gain a well-paid job with the DWP supporting people back into employment.
Building confidence The project also supported volunteers to make gains at a personal level. Being embedded in a working environment, and feeling respected by their colleagues, relationships of trust and the benefits of these had a positive impact on volunteers. Volunteers routinely voiced how at the end of the project they emerged with a greater sense of confidence and felt that their selfesteem was improved. This led to feelings of increased self-esteem: “I have gained the confidence and self esteem of standing in front of people to speak about issues, and that is a big achievement for me.” “I was able to build up skills and confidence, as a refugee you can be lacking in confidence.”
Enhancing integration As they developed confidence volunteers were able to engage more widely. They were able not only interact with work colleagues but also with people beyond the placement itself and beyond the provider organisation. Volunteers gained from being in diverse settings where they were able to meet new people and learn more about British life and society, at times challenging the views that some refugees have:
“British society is very open and welcoming, we sometimes think they are not, it is very give and take – willing to exchange something from different countries and cultures, able to learn and share my thoughts and listen from others, the way the law works.” The project widened the knowledge of the volunteers, promoted new and alternative thinking, and supported them to feel a part of society through the gaining of new friends and engaging in different networks. Volunteers placed significant importance on these. As a volunteer perfectly explained: “When I finished my placement, my friends asked me if I found a job etc but I am still looking for a job with them. If I can’t find job with them…I am still have gains.”
Sharing networks Many volunteers spoke about how the programme had given them new information or insights that they had then been able to pass on or ‘cascade’ to their communities and organisations. Whilst this was clear in relation to housing, especially around entitlements to a property and the processes of registering, applying and support available, but so too the barriers and obstacles that refugees might encounter. Volunteers also acquired knowledge and understanding beyond housing, of a wide range of other statutory bodies and agencies that they routinely suggested they would pass on through their networks to support others who had similar experiences: “I learnt to be open and share information, I was able to advise others and friends which steps I know what will benefit them…we know what friends can do in preparation to be a success to take to help develop in UK.” Housing provider gains As well as seeing the gains as personal to themselves, volunteers also felt that many of their gains benefitted their provider. They believed they contributed knowledge and understanding to providers about refugees, asylum seekers and other vulnerable people, about the key issues and challenges faced by displaced people and their communities, and about how this impacts on the
housing sector, as well as other sectors and sector-specific providers more widely. Housing providers gained from volunteers being able to provide specific practical support by helping fellow refugees and asylum seekers especially translating and interpreting. In a few examples provided, volunteers were able to facilitate direct provider contact with migrant and refugee organisations and networks in their respective locality. Other specific gains for housing providers included having volunteers placed with them who had specialist knowledge of journalism, law, risk assessment and IT. For the housing providers themselves, most were in agreement with volunteers and recognised the clear sharing of gains. What was of benefit to volunteers for the most part also seemed to be of benefit to the providers: “It’s a good chance to give people a work placement but also get something back.”
Understanding diversity and difference Similar to volunteers, housing providers gained from having a volunteer around who was “an extra pair of hands”. Volunteers helped with a range of activities including basic office and administrative tasks through to home visits and undertaking risk assessments. But as one provider put it: “These people are capable of doing very valuable tasks, not just the filing or photocopying, that kind of thing. If you give them real work to do, they take in board and it saves you time.” Providers spoke of gains around increasing knowledge and understanding about engaging with BME and displaced communities and making changes to the organisations and/or the services they provide (see following chapter). Providers identified the role of the volunteer as being integral to gaining and establishing relationships between minority groups and communities and housing associations; where the volunteer became a “bridge” between them. The direct gain for providers here was in being able to see how their services looked from a BME and/or migrant perspective, something that was a significant benefit.
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Providers also gained from the additional insights that some of the volunteers were able to provide. One example was in relation to risk assessments: “when we talk with [volunteer] about risk assessment, he is very aware, having come from a war zone he knows how to risk assess so he’s been a great asset really in terms of his presence and the fact that he might make female members of staff feel safe, and also ask him if he’s noticed for example, a whole is punched in the door or whether there is a potential weapon there, that has been very good.”
Areas for improvement There was evidence that a handful of providers and volunteers were mismatched. Volunteers had hoped to be able to work more independently. Improved base-lining of volunteer skills and provider needs could minimise any discrepancy between the two. Better matching of the volunteer to the housing provider might enable a better fit. Some volunteers had expected more support in finding suitable employment at the end of the project, both from HACT and their provider. Some volunteers hoped to use their existing skills more appropriately used during their placements, have their day-to-day activities aligned to the CIH qualification, and receive better mentoring support. Where placements were in one role or area of housing only, volunteers would have preferred some wider training. Providers felt that a broader overview of the volunteer prior to the placement would have improved the project and ensured expectations were met. There was also the recognition of the need to provide volunteers with greater clarity about what the placement would involve and to potentially link this to a training plan developed from initial assessments about the volunteers existing skills and qualities. It was felt that this would also support the retention of the enthusiasm and attention of the volunteer across the placement. There was also the need to ensure that the provider communicated the project fully to its own staff also.
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External agencies Some problems emerged from relationships with external agencies, particularly where there was a lack of understanding about the project. CRB checks were problematic: “I was very new into the UK, only five months here, so harder for the police to track the information for CRB.” Aside from the problem of new arrivals being cleared, there were also some delays that one volunteer took direct action to resolve: “I can’t support any client until I get a CRB check, things need to be done at the very beginning so there are not gaps…I went directly to the police station gave them £10 and they did it in two days.” The project needed to be better explained to Job Centre Plus (JCP). A number of housing providers noted how JCP’s lack of understanding about the project meant that some volunteers were informed that they were no longer eligible for their benefits. This caused distress for volunteers at the same time as becoming a drain on resources for the providers who had to send letters, make telephone calls and more to resolve the situation. A letter was provided to housing providers and volunteers by HACT to explain the project. Despite this, problems continued to ensue as a result of the views of JCP in relation to volunteering and how refugees are supported to represent these kinds of projects to JCP staff. The learning gained for the future is that housing providers who want to host volunteers, particularly those who are claiming JSA, will need to be aware of other agencies such as JCP and the potential obstacles that they may encounter. Providers will also need to better support their volunteers when issues are arise.
5 Organisational change and legacy In addition to the outcomes discussed in the previous chapter the programme also prompted long term changes for individual refugees, RCOs, housing providers and the housing sector more widely.
Impact on refugee communities and RCOs Refugees noted permanent changes in their sense of wellbeing which occurred as a result of being valued, making new friends, feeling useful and contributing to society: “it does make you feel good, that you are not being paid for something, as you are serving the community. We wanted to contribute something to society.” One provider observed: “the improvement in refugees’ mental health is massive. They feel accepted and part of the team and community. It means more to them than having a job. They feel they are part of where they live.” The new skills and knowledge gained by refugees continued to serve them beyond their time as a volunteer. Volunteers highlighted the usefulness of a range of skills from knowledge of how to do day to day tasks, and speak on the telephone, as well as IT skills, people skills and enhanced knowledge of UK culture and language. Once gained these skills were shared with friends to help ease settlement “when you come to a country you don’t know where to get help, you don’t know where you going – you can then show your friends the right way to do things, can give friends advice”. As we noted earlier a number of respondents gained employment as a result of the project. Reach In was seen as a critical step in enhancing long term employability. Volunteers who had previously felt disillusioned with job seeking felt a new commitment to employment and study. Reach In felt like a new start. It also provided new job skills, an improved CV and UK employer references that would serve the volunteer long after the placement ended: “I was able to build a relationship with housing associations, there were gains. I am now working for
a charity, but I think because I got a good reference from the housing organisation.” Providers felt many of the skills learned in the placement were transferable to a wide range of employment settings: “whatever they’ve learned from here they have taken it with them and were able to use it to gain employment.” Participating in Reach In also enabled refugees to take the housing and employment knowledge they had acquired and roll it out throughout their communities: “I can tell them to go to places to get help, help them in filling forms, in application forms, telling the way which might be better to put on their application forms and get short list, advise them where to go to search for jobs, help them to search for jobs. I have also been planning to run training days for my friends and (the provider) are still hoping to run this.” They helped friends and peers in an informal way with their housing problems. The general housing knowledge gained was seen as helpful to the wider refugee community: “I learnt certain knowledge, learnt about laws, tenancy agreements, where to go for help. This made a difference to my friends.” Volunteers were able to dispel myths about refugees and housing, for example by explaining the points system to their peers, helping refugees to understand that the reason their applications were unsuccessful was their lack of points rather than discrimination against refugee applicants. Volunteers also linked their providers to RCOs and other third sector organisations and provided an opportunity for information to be fed directly into wider communities.
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Volunteers were keen to highlight that learning was a two way process and felt that they had further supported their communities by taking the opportunity of their placement to encourage a change in attitudes to refugees within their provider organisation. In the words of a one volunteer: “the new knowledge that the placement agency will have gained from working with a refugee volunteer are the myth, stigma and stereotype they hold against refugees in general. The placement agency has now known that refugees are people with skills, knowledge and experience and should be treated equally with other people. They should not be labelled as scroungers and people who lack the skills, but are professionals who can contribute to the economy of the UK.” As we will see in the discussion below, this change in attitudes within their organisation, was much valued by providers.
New and improved skills Several providers noted how having a refugee on their staff has enabled their knowledge about refugees as a client group to expand in a number of ways providing: • new knowledge about refugee status and entitlements; • increased awareness about refugees, and the employment and housing barriers they face; • learning about different cultures and traditions “enriches the culture within our team”, “really changed the team’s outlook and brought in a nice experience”; • greater understanding of language issues and the need to provide information in new languages. In some cases staff learned directly from the different way that their volunteer worked. Several organisations noted that their staff had become more person centred “staff now add the personal touch when dealing with refugee clients” and “helped staff to be more person centred in their practice”. These new approaches were often directed at all vulnerable clients rather than just refugees.
Impact upon providers While almost every participating organisation benefited from the “extra pair of hands”, those providers who had previously worked with refugees experienced the least change in organisational culture. These more experienced organisations viewed their participation in Reach In as a consolidation of existing work. Similarly those with regular volunteering projects made fewer gains. Organisations with little experience of volunteering and/or working with refugees generally noted more radical, long term benefits that impacted upon the way they worked and their plans for the future. Change could be identified in a number of key areas. These are discussed below.
Systems Providers noted that the project had either helped them to develop a volunteering policy or enhance their existing policies. These changes then benefitted all volunteers working within their organisation. Some noted that their volunteer enabled them to access new knowledge, ideas and connections that had led to “a new way of working with these communities” which again was adopted across their organisation.
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Some volunteers actively taught staff new skills that they then applied to their wider work. Examples included staff learning what to expect from interpreters, and how to work with them more effectively, and developing new ways to assess risk on home visits from a refugee who had worked in a war zone. In addition staff developed an expanded skills set around mentoring and line management, through the roles they adopted in Reach In: “staff gave up a lot of time but found it useful to their personal development.”
Re-evaluation and reflexivity The Reach In project prompted some organisations to re-evaluate the way they worked more generally. One provider noted after finding out from their volunteer how services were not reaching refugees “we realised that it could be that the services we are providing aren’t suitable for everyone”. Others found the experience prompted them to “look outside the box and take a wider view of how we do things” and seek new ideas. Some providers allocated their volunteer specific projects aimed at researching needs in refugee communities and making suggestions about how needs could be met more
effectively. Others independently revisited customer profiles and reassessed needs across the board. Providers pointed to examples where the presence of a refugee volunteer had enhanced staff morale and enabled them to look at their work from a different perspective: “it really boosted our morale in the team because you know you get a bit complacent and comfortable and demanding and unhappy about things at times and he really made me look at things from a different way and opened our eyes up”. In two providers the working environment became more positive and staff apparently worked harder as they became encouraged by the enthusiasm of their volunteer.
Broadened horizons and new relationships Possibly the most frequently discussed long term outcome of Reach In, particularly for organisations with predominantly white staff, was the development of ability to work with minority ethnic groups: “the barrier has been broken now that we have a workforce who have been able to improve with the minority ethnic group through the volunteers. That has been translated into how much staff can actually engage with customers from the same ethnic background. I know staff are feeling more confident”. Organisations built connections with refugee communities and staff provided a better service: “before the volunteers came to the organisation we had that fear when customers of different groups come into the office, we had that fear of how do we talk to these customers. Now that difference is celebrated”. Providers spoke of new relationships and sometimes partnerships being developed with RCOs. They also found that they better understood the benefits of working with the wider third sector. For those experienced with working with BME or refugee groups the presence of a volunteer enabled them to expand their reach: “our volunteer was able to link us up to other refugee organisations that we were not aware of.”
Others outlined how working with RCOs and community groups was now embedded in their organisational culture. Several organisations noted that the experience of Reach In had prompted them to expand their services even wider than refugee communities: “biggest impact was how services as a landlord have an impact on non-mainstream tenants. It was useful for pulling back our focus and asking why we are doing things in a certain way.” Housing options talks were provided to a wider range of communities and services reached out to other vulnerable groups such as the elderly, A8 migrants, British minorities or young people.
Wider benefits There were a number of outcomes that impacted more widely on providers’ clients or the communities they operated in. One provider was more prepared to spend time with volunteers after participating because they realised that high levels of input in the early stages brought rewards in the longer term. Others increased the number of volunteering opportunities within their organisation. New services were developed, for example a new service around neighbourhood safety, and an initiative to try and help refugees to enter the private sector. Existing mechanisms such as customer forums were expanded to become more inclusive. A small number of providers spoke of their participation in the project helping to give them a business advantage by pushing them into new areas. One respondent’s organisation was described as an organisation “that has the upper hand with this client group”. Respondents felt that at local level their experience of Reach In had shown other providers, and the wider housing sector, that refugees are a resource and not a problem. Reach In had enabled them to demonstrate what is possible.
Different outlooks and priorities Some providers reported a complete change of approach as a result of participation. They argued they were more customer focused and now viewed their primary role as resident involvement. One provider stated they had adopted more of a Housing Plus type approach as
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they saw their role expanded to include community development. Another argued that they now treated the community as a partner. Attitudes to language provision also changed in some instances. Translation of information into community languages became more of a priority. The range of languages was expanded and one provider highlighted the importance of language by creating a section detailing provision in their annual report.
Sustainability A small number of organisations planned to keep the placements going after Reach In had finished, while others were exploring ways of rolling out the model to other locations or community groups. There were two notable successes where the approach had been expanded. One organisation developed a spin off project “Woven together” and applied to use the funding in other areas and with other groups: “we know that the model works and is good for the housing sector – we can promote this to young people – helps to inject young people into the organisation”. Another explained how as a result of the project and the link to refugee households ‘Fresh Vision’ (youth work) had agreed to sustain the funding for another year. The provider was able to link refugees into a personal development programme with six months mentoring and a general employment project linked to the 2012 games Olympic Games. This meant they had the potential to support 250 people into volunteering and 120 into employment in the Games. This provider had 94 job starts in the last year alone. Beyond the volunteering project, the changes in relationships, systems, outlook and approaches outlined above were viewed by respondents as permanent. New volunteering systems had replaced old and new approaches adopted strategically: “it has certainly moulded the way the organisation deals with vulnerability across the organisation. All the work with refugees has fed into protocols
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signed up with the local authority. We now work strategically as well as operationally”. Working with refugee communities had become part of mainstream activity for Reach In providers.
6 Conclusions The processes and relationships discussed here were developed specifically for the Reach In programme. It is important to note that innovation through the development of new approaches was a key aim of the programme. Learning has accumulated throughout the three phases.
Nonetheless, Reach In has been effective in meeting the expectations of both volunteers and housing providers, and became more effective as the project continued. We have identified that at least 17 refugees gained employment in the toughest job market for decades, as a result of their participation.2 Knowledge about housing was cascaded out into the wider refugee community and most importantly the project had a significant impact on the culture of participating housing providers. Its legacy remains within individual refugees, their communities and the housing sector. In this section we revisit the original aims of the Reach In project to discuss the ways in which they have been met and to outline how Reach Inâ€™s work might continue.
Developing structured work experience placements Reach In succeeding in setting up 82 work placements which resulted in 17 refugees gaining employment. Refugees gained new skills and knowledge. They gained the confidence they needed to play a valuable role in their provider organisation and to seek employment. Volunteers enhanced their employability in the long term through improved CVs able to demonstrate UK work experience and a UK employer reference and in many cases a professional qualification. Stimulating local partnerships As a result of their participation in Reach In housing providers developed new relationships with RCOs and BME organisations. They developed new ways of working with third sector organisations. Significantly there was a shift in thinking from communities being viewed as clients to being seen as partners. The new skills and knowledge gained through hosting a refugee volunteer empowered provider staff to enhance their levels of service and to reach out to vulnerable communities more widely. It also led to the provision of more volunteering places available to a range of vulnerable groups.
Developing accredited training The training project developed enabled 58 volunteers to gain an accredited qualification and led some to go on to wider studies. For the most part the CIH qualification fitted well within the placement activities although more work is needed to enable tutors and line managers to work together so that there is greater synergy between placement and training. Further funds are needed to support future training and advancement to higher levels. Developing new housing resources A number of new resources were developed by providers participating in the project. These included volunteering policies and approaches to interpretation and language. Critically housing providers reported that the insight gained through the project enabled them to re-evaluate their work and adopt different working practices that prioritised improved front-line services for vulnerable clients and outreach to vulnerable communities. Volunteers reported taking the knowledge and skills they gained and sharing it with RCOs and individual refugees. Disseminating good practice The good practice accumulated through the development and operation of the Reach In project has been compiled by HACT and is available on the Reach In micro-site (www.reachin-hact.org.uk). This includes materials such as volunteering policies, guidelines, role descriptions and checklists. The final word Providers and volunteers have made a compelling case for the continuation of the Reach In project. Reach In differed significantly from other refugee volunteering projects in that it led to the two way changes needed for integration to occur. Refugees gained employment and their ability to address housing problems and need improved, thereby enhancing integration at a functional level. They built new
2 It is important to note that we were unable to follow up all volunteers, others may well have gained employment following their departure from the Reach In programme.
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relationships, and developed knowledge of a wide range of UK institutional cultures and insight into cultural norms becoming more integrated at cultural, social and civic levels. Critically, providers changed their approaches to service delivery as a result of the insight and understanding they gained from the project. Such changes in organisational culture and approach are critical if integration is to be achieved at institutional level and in wider society. Some providers are continuing their work or rolling it out more widely. The majority expressed the need for HACT to continue its role as a strong lead organisation with expertise working with refugees, if the project is to continue. In addition there is a need for funds to support HACTâ€™s work in this area, to provide expenses for volunteers and to cover the costs of provider networking. Any future project should focus on involving as wide a range of housing providers and possibly other agencies as possible; to ensure that the two way adaptation needed to facilitate integration can continue.
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7 Recommendations Many volunteer and provider respondents were keen to see the project either continued or expanded: “this is one of the better projects and it needs to be mainstreamed. It was a very positive experience and we would like it to continue” (provider).
• volunteers wanted to be clear what role(s) they will be taking on before they start in a placement; • providers suggested that each organisation should have an external mentor to help them develop to optimise their approach.
They also offered a range of ideas around the ways in which the project might be improved, most of which were implemented as part of the evolution of the project as each wave was delivered. In this section those ideas are outlined.
Systems Over the duration of the project systems were developed both by HACT and providers themselves to ensure the smooth running of the project. Some suggestions were made about improvements and consolidation of systems: • CRB check could be undertaken at the very beginning of each phase before volunteers start their placement activities; • all HACT’s systems could be pulled together into one package easily accessible to providers and other interested organisations; • HACT could provide a checklist to help providers ensure they provide everything necessary to make their placement work; • housing providers to construct a workplan for the volunteer which is regularly reviewed; • greater clarity is needed around expenses and the bursary, i.e. what is covered; • providers could be encouraged to plan activities for their volunteers in a staged fashion so that there is clear progression over the duration of the placement; • guidelines are needed about the different roles i.e. supervisor, mentor, and responsibilities, within provider organisations; • aims and objectives agreed with providers and volunteers so that each have some goals to strive for.
Recruitment Volunteers and providers felt the recruitment process could be improved so that there was a better match between volunteer and host organisation. Suggestions included: • making sure that providers participate in interviews; • providing a short biography of each volunteer containing information about their expectations, language and culture. Roles and responsibilities Providers felt that the project needed an experienced lead organisation to be successful. They were clear that HACT should continue to play this role: “There is no time capacity for us to broker this ourselves.” “Organisations would not participate without HACT (as network manager) as it is too labour intensive.” HACT’s involvement was essential for brokering access to refugee communities: “Housing associations have a vested interest in diversity but how can we get access to the volunteers.” Other suggestions included: • there was a need for clarity about roles and responsibilities of staff at HACT so providers and volunteers knew who to contact for help; • volunteers felt HACT should check that each volunteer is getting the support they need within their placement;
Enhancing employability In the challenging economic environment any additional support to help volunteers access employment would be useful. Suggestions included: • additional training around interviews, CVs etc. embedded within the placement; • working with the HR agencies or departments who support recruitment in housing to try to encourage them to consider employing Reach In graduates; • working with DWP to mainstream the project and gain support with job search: “HACT should be in discussion with Jobcentre Plus and other work projects”.
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Networking Providers found that they benefited from being part of a network of housing organisations supporting the Reach In project. These benefits could be expanded through a range of approaches: • employing a regional facilitator, perhaps one of the more experienced providers, who brings providers and volunteers together from across the region to learn from each other; • local network events wherein housing providers can come together to share knowledge; • continued national meetings to share good practice; • the development of a consortia type approach wherein smaller organisations come together to share a volunteer and maximise the range of opportunities available to volunteers; • networking with a wider range of local agencies and placements extended to these agencies; • proactive work with Job Centre Plus at local level to enable them to understand the project and allow Job Seekers’ Allowance clients to participate. Resources Providers and volunteers noted the need for additional funds and training to help them get the most from the project. These included: • additional funds to help volunteers gain the full CIH qualification; • additional language support for those with poor written English; • a community development budget for providers to help them take the project forward; • providers should also be aware of how resource intensive volunteering projects are. Without sufficient resources, networks or expertise, providers could end up damaging their relations with refugees and communities; • when considering funding, providers and other should consider any restrictions that might be relevant. ERF funding required a number of restrictions to be in place that limited the number and type of volunteer that could participate in the project. This is a learning outcome for any similar future projects and relates to the preceding point about ensuring adequate resources.
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Promotion There was a feeling amongst a number of provider respondents that more could be done to highlight the successes of the project and to gain support in taking it forward. Ideas included: • greater publicity about the project at conferences and events – “HACT should rub shoulders with the right people”; • active engagement with policymakers to help gain support – “HACT need to get closer to all the high profile people... and be involved in high level discussions and with the people writing worklessness policy”; • case studies on successes to share knowledge and promote the project; • road shows with information and success stories; • good practice being placed on the website CIH course While the majority of students passed the CIH course some suggestions were made about how volunteers’ experience of the training project might be improved. These included: • briefing volunteers about what the course entails before they start the placement; • allowing more time for the assignments; • giving providers details of the CIH course and assignments so they can tailor support and work experiences; • outlining the expectations of provider role in supporting volunteers with their CIH qualification; • providing volunteers with support to know where to go next after the training if they would like to continue.
Appendix 1: references Berry, J.W. (1997), Immigration, Acculturation and Adaptation, in Applied Psychology: An International Review, Vol. 46, No. 1, pp. 5-68. Bloch, A. (2002), Refugeesâ€™ opportunities and barriers in employment and training, Department for Work and Pensions Research Report 179. Leeds: Corporate Document Services. Home Office (2002), Secure Borders Safe Haven: Integration with diversity in modern Britain, London: HMSO. Home Office (2005), Integration Matters: National Strategy for Integration, London: Home Office. Home Office (2009), Movingon together: Governmentâ€™s recommitment to supporting refugees, London: Home Office ODPM (2005), Causes of Homelessness in Ethnic Minority Communities, London: ODPM. Phillimore, J. Goodson, L., Beebeejaun, Y., Ferrari, E. (2004), The Access, Learning and Employment Needs of Newcomers from Abroad and The Capacity of Existing Provision to Meet those Needs, LSC Birmingham and Solihull, The University of Birmingham, CURS, School of Public Policy. Phillimore, J., Goodson L. (2006), Problem or Opportunity? Asylum Seekers, Refugees, Employment and Social Exclusion in Deprived Urban Areas, Urban Studies, 43, 10, 1-22. Phillimore, J., Goodson, L., Hennessy, D. & Thornhill, J. (2008), The Neighbourhood Needs of New Migrants, University of Birmingham for Birmingham City Council Phillimore, J., Craig, L., Goodson, L. (2006), Employability Initiatives for Refugees in Europe: looking at, and learning from, good practice, EQUAL and the Home Office.
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Appendix 2: beneficiaries profile Total beneficiaries
West Midlands 16
Yorks/ Humber 6
Immigration status Refugee status
Discretionary Leave to Remain
Indefinite Leave to Remain
Education level GCSE or equivalent
A level or equivalent
Degree or equivalent
No info/not answered
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For more information about the Reach In project: www.reachin-hact.org.uk Published in 2011 by HACT. Copyright © 2011 HACT. ISBN: 978-0-9561369-8-5 Any part of this report may be reproduced, provided the source is acknowledged. HACT is a national charity that works with the housing sector, government, civil society and communities to develop and share innovative approaches to meeting changing housing need. HACT believes that the provision of housing must be about more than just bricks and mortar – that housing providers are at their most successful when they value and engage with their communities and actively seek to identify and meet the needs of those at the margins. For further information about HACT: 50 Banner Street London, EC1Y 8ST t: 020 7247 7800 f: 020 7247 2212 w: www.hact.org.uk Registered charity number 1096829 Part funded by the European Refugee Fund
Also funded by:
JP Getty Jnr Charitable Trust Trust for London The Goldsmiths’ Company The Beatrice Laing Trust
Company number 04560091