Leeds Asylum Seekers Support Network (LASSN)
Leeds Asylum Seekers’ Support Network was set up in 1999 in response to the pressing unmet needs of refugees and asylum seekers living in Leeds.
Most of the people we work with have experienced acute isolation, mental health issues, language difficulties and immense uncertainty over their asylum claim. Our volunteers offer friendship and practical help, and the hope that this confusing new environment will eventually feel like home.
LASSN aims to meet the needs of refugees and asylum seekers in Leeds and raise awareness of issues facing refugees and asylum seekers.
LASSN wants asylum seekers and refugees to be:
· Supported and relieved from hardship and distress by local people
· Empowered to rebuild their lives, to fulfil their potential and to take control of their lives
· Integrated settled and safe. LASSN wants Leeds to be a place of welcome and understanding; and for the general public, organisations, politicians and policy makers to understand the needs of asylum seekers
Year(s): 1999 - Present
Target group(s): Asylum seekers, Refugees
Befriending, English at Home and Grace Hosting are vital to what we do, but LASSN’s work is much much more than the projects they deliver.
At its heart, LASSN is about the relationships and the connections we nurture between the people of Leeds: between people who are settled, and people who have just arrived.
LASSN's work is about sharing a welcome, and extending kindness and care to people who are having a tough time. They create opportunities for people to show friendship and solidarity, to challenge the myths and the stereotypes that surround them; and hold on to the hope that tomorrow can be different from today.
Type of product
LASSN provides the following services and programmes:
· Connecting Opportunities: Befriending for Integration & Employment
· English Language Programme
· Hosting Project
· Information and Awareness Raising
Brief description of the product / outcome / method
The befriending service enables Refugees and Asylum seekers to feel more settled in Leeds and to become part of the community.
This could be someone who has recently arrived in the city and needs help to find services and to make links with their community. It could be someone who has lived in Leeds for a long time and is very isolated because of their previous trauma.
The role of befriender is to walk alongside a refugee or asylum seeker and to enable them to find their feet and gradually build up networks of support and friendships by meeting up weekly for a few hours. A befriending match can last anything from 6 weeks to 1 year
Connecting Opportunities: Befriending for Integration & Employment
Refugees and other migrants sometimes struggle to find work in the UK.
Integration and Employment Befriending offers people who are thinking about work the chance to build their confidence, improve their English, and to making contacts and friends in their local community, finding out about the help and services available to them.
LASSN’s volunteers help with these issues, by meeting up with someone for a couple of hours each week, building a relationship with them, and encouraging them to try new new things.
Volunteers receive training tailored to their role and receive on-going support from the Volunteers Manager.
English Language Programme
English at Home helps people to learn a skill that is vital for everyday life.
LASSN support refugees and asylum seekers who, for reasons of caring, health etc. are currently unable to attend classes. We develops students’ language skills so that they can cope with everyday life and become more independent.
LASSN are committed to promoting cross-cultural friendship and enabling participation in the wider community.
LASSN support our students to move on to other learning opportunities eg English classes or vocational qualifications.
The Grace Hosting project links volunteers who have a spare room in their house, with asylum seekers and refugees who have nowhere to stay.
Grace Hosting volunteers provide a hot meal and a safe place to sleep for people who have nowhere else to go.
Guests may spend a few nights, a few weeks, or (in a few very particular circumstances) may go on to stay longer than this.
Information and Awareness Raising
LASSN is committed to providing information on and raising awareness of asylum issues to the wider public.
LASSN believe in the power of stories to make sense of an unsettling and frightening world, to change people’s minds, and to make the impact of complex global issues real and accessible.
This work can take many forms – but here are some examples from 2016/17
· LASSN lobby Government and submit evidence to help improve the situation of refugee and asylum seekers
· LASSN appear in the local and international media, commenting on issues, and trying to make sure voices of experience are part of the discussion
· LASSN give talks and host discussions of asylum and migration issues, at community groups, places of worship and in schools and colleges – here’s the presentation on Migrant Families Under Pressure that we we did for social care students at Leeds Trinity in May 2017
· LASSN collaborate with Journalism and Media students, to help broaden their understanding of the issues, and challenge misconceptions – here’s the presentation we delivered to journalism Students at Leeds Beckett University in March 2017 on Media Bias in the reporting of Asylum and Migration issues
· LASSN produced a page of resources aimed at young people, to enable them to better understand issues around asylum and refuge
· LASSN spoke at Political party meetings and conferences – here’s what we talked about the Liberal Democrat Spring Conference fringe in March 2017
· LASSN run a website called oneworldleeds.org, a multi-author blog, where people who live or find themselves in Leeds talk about issues of migration and immigration
· LASSN help to organise and co-ordinate refugee and asylum work across the sector by supporting the website of the Leeds Migration Partnership and running a newsletter/blog of local information relating to asylum and migration
· LASSN are really active on Facebook – sharing stories of what we do, and more importantly, trying to provide a balance to the nonsense we often here in the media
· LASSN run helpinleeds.com – a directory of free services for asylum seekers and refugees in Leeds
Impact on target groups / Transferability potential
Impact of LASSN's Work
LASSN is committed to demonstrating the impact we have, and how our beneficiaries and funders can see the difference we make to people’s lives.
LASSN want to be judged against how well we measure up against their three key objectives.
LASSN wants refugees and asylum seekers to be supported & relieved from hardship & distress by local people
· 306 asylum seekers and refugees received one to one support from LASSN. If we count the total number of children and dependents in these households, LASSN supported a further 684 people (a total of 990)
· 4,278 nights of accommodation were provided by Grace Hosts to 89 guests
· 275 people volunteered with LASSN
· £6,415 was distributed in hardship grants to 85 households
LASSN wants refugees and asylum seekers to be empowered to rebuild their lives, to fulfil their potential & to take control of their lives
· Befriending meant that this year, 56 people were able to improve their social connections and their overall health and well-being.
· 8 English at Home students successfully enrolled on a college ESOL course, and 15 now attend weekly free classes outside their homes
· 15 refugees and asylum seekers volunteered with LASSN in a variety of roles, from assisting with recruitment and selection, training volunteers, public speaking, translating, organising trips and socials and making films, and developing a photo-library of positive images of asylum seekers and refugees
LASSN wants refugees and asylum seekers to be integrated settled & safe. LASSN wants Leeds to be a place of welcome & understanding & for the general public, organisations, politicians & policy makers to understand the needs of asylum seekers
· More than 200 asylum seekers and refugees were supported to improve their confidence in speaking and writing English, through our befriending and English at Home projects.
· All of the people we work alongside were encouraged to find out more about life in the UK, as volunteers helped them to find their feet in Leeds, and to understand more about where they lived, and how Leeds works.
· 384 posts on leedsmultiagency.org.uk helped keep 8,500 people abreast of the changing face of asylum services in Leeds and beyond
· The lassn.org.uk website had more than 14,700 visitors, LASSN’s Facebook page has over 1,100 likes and the LASSN twitter account has 1,200 followers.
Promoter of the initiative
Name of organization / individual: Leeds Asylum Seekers Support Network
Country: United Kingdom