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Refugee Support in Braintree District


Submitted by: David Dickens, Secretary, Braintree District Interfaith Forum (B-Diff)

Case study title: Refugee Support in Braintree District – Family Resettlement


Case study synopsis

In 2017 the Executive Group of Braintree District Interfaith Forum investigated what support for refugees was available in Braintree District. One area of support not available was the provision of resettlement for families under the UK Government’s Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VRPS).


The challenge

To establish, with the approval of Braintree District Council (BDC), a Community Group which would bring together representatives of B-Diff and of churches, as well as other concerned people. The aims of the Community Group would be to identify rentable housing within the District suitable for refugee families, to establish funds for supporting the families and to provide ongoing support for families.


The solution

With advice from the Maldon Refugee Response Group, which had already undertaken similar resettlement, contact was made with Essex Integration (EI), based in Colchester. EI has been contracted by Essex County Council to oversee such projects across Essex. BDC agreed that support for up to two families could be undertaken. A Community Group now known as Refugee Support in Braintree District (RSBD) was established in October 2018, and a Steering Group appointed.


The impact

In January 2019 the Steering Group received an offer of a two-bedroom property in one of the District’s larger villages. EI approved the property and the adequacy of public transport, medical and education facilities. Sufficient funds having been raised by RSBD, approval was given by BDC and ECC. A group of community volunteer befrienders was formed, to receive training by EI. A family (father, mother and two primary-age children) arrived in the UK at the end of May 2019.

In November 2019 a second property was offered, nearer to one of the District’s towns. After the necessary approvals, a second family was identified (father, mother, one pre-school child). Another group of community befrienders was established. The second family arrived in the UK at the end of March 2020. 


How is the new approach being sustained?

EI provides Support Workers with appropriate language skills (in both cases Arabic). The families can contact their support worker as needed. The befriender volunteers would normally be able to arrange visits to the homes, and outings for pleasure and shopping, but most personal contact at present requires virtual platforms. Zoom is currently being used for language development and children’s education. To enable all this to take place, the Steering Group has provided laptops and internet connection in both properties. When needed, EI arranges 3-way phone translation. Braintree Mosque has been very supportive.


Lessons learned

Family Resettlement requires a significant number of community volunteers ready to support the families as needed, but not to the extent that a family feels pressurized or unable to take initiatives. The personal and financial commitment has to be considered in terms of a few years, not months or weeks. The Steering Group and the befrienders have been very dependent on the experience, knowledge, and commitment of Essex Integration staff, who go well beyond the “extra mile”.