Some refugees and asylum seekers may have less than conversational English.
This can be distressing and disempowering. Supporting them to get their most pressing practical needs met can be critical to improving their mental and psychological wellbeing. This can also create the necessary space to help them focus on learning a new language.
We were pleased to have played a positive role in the life of one such Individual.
Last Summer we became aware of an extremely vulnerable Service User (SU). We followed up initially with a wellbeing call made through a SIS Bilingual Community Navigator (BCN). We established he had complex issues and health needs due to trauma suffered while applying for asylum in the UK. The SU expressed his distress at having left his wife and children back home, and the loneliness and challenges experienced in his shared accommodation that housed 8 other residents.
He was struggling with the heatwave, and only left his room to get food. He told us that food available through a local charity was often gone by the time he was able to collect. What food he did obtain was often stolen by others residents, as they shared a fridge. This left him surviving some days by eating just a few pieces of fruit.
Literacy barriers in both English and his mother tongue compounded his isolation. He spoke of his hopes and aspirations for the future, including a desire to learn English and to having a better life.
Our BCN immediately facilitated GP appointments, and encouraged him to talk frankly to the doctor about his emotional stress and physical health needs. Medications necessary to address his epilepsy were prescribed, and directions given so he could collect easily from his local Pharmacy. A referral was also made to the Wellbeing Service. The BCN also provided information updates about Covid-19, including symptoms to look out for and precautions he need take.
SIS reassured we would maintain contact and try our best to secure items he said would help him – a fan and fridge.
Over the following months we continued to support with wellbeing calls. We focused our energies to liaising with other VCS organisations in our efforts to get his essential needs met. We also enlisted the support of another resident as a helpful conduit to passing information to him. We successfully applied for discretionary funding to provide food vouchers, kitchenware and clothing. We were also able to supply a new desk, bed sheets and pillowcases through donations made.
Happily, the generosity of people who responded to our social media posts enabled SIS to provide a fan as well as a second hand fridge.
With the support of colleagues from Brighton Voices in Exile and Migrant ESOL Support Hub we have also organised for him to start taking English classes at the Metropolitan College.
The psychological support for this asylum seeker now being provided through the Wellbeing Service along with the opportunity to learn English, will be important in promoting his ongoing integration in the UK.
We continue to support and facilitate interpreting for his health and wellbeing appointments at his surgery
This SU is in a much happier place and has expressed his excitement at the opportunity to learn English. All those involved, and in particular the BCN feel greatly rewarded at such uplifting news.
We remain committed to ensuring vulnerable individuals do not fall through the cracks during this pandemic, and that SIS continues to do all we can by providing a friendly helping hand.