England & Wales, Global Communities and society, Welfare and equalities

Use your home check skills to help refugees

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So many of us want to do something. Local government officers (and others) who have home visiting experience and skills are needed urgently to vet homes to welcome refugees. Find out how you can help.

Home visitors urgently required as unprecedented numbers of hosts step forward to welcome refugees

The charity Refugees at Home has issued an urgent call for volunteer home visitors as the number of people offering rooms to those fleeing the Russian invasion of Ukraine reaches unprecedented levels.

While details of the Homes for Ukraine scheme are being finalised, generous hosts are being signposted towards smaller charities like Refugees at Home. They are struggling to process the number of people stepping forward, largely because of a lack of experienced home visitors who are needed to assess placements.

The charity has been matching hosts with guests since 2015. It has made over 2500 placements from refugees and asylum seekers from 65 different countries, and is already in the process of finding homes for Ukrainian families.  All of the hosts volunteering for Refugees at Home are assessed by experienced home visitors prior to any placements being made.

Lauren Scott, Executive Director of Refugees at Home, explained: “We think it is absolutely essential that hosts offering rooms to vulnerable people are properly assessed.  Hosts are wonderful, generous and warm hearted – but that does not mean that things can’t go wrong. We need to make sure that the accommodation is as the host describes it: safe and dry with at least a bed and a closeable door and access to kitchen and bathroom.

“There should be no misunderstanding over issues such as rent being paid, or guests expected to do chores or ‘duties’ in lieu of rent. Because there is an imbalance of power, boundaries are important.

“And, of course, the whole household needs to be signed up to hosting – you would be surprised how many hosts stepping forward have not even discussed it with other members of their family.”

Where you can help

Home visitors are particularly needed in London and other major cities. The role is open to anyone who has the relevant home checking skills and experience, even if they are no longer in that position. These might be probation officers, social workers, GPs or district nurses.

“There are three things I look for,” said home visitor Judith McCann, “friendly and welcoming hosts, suitable accommodation, and realistic expectations.”

A home visit will last from forty minutes to an hour and will cover who lives in the home, house rules, expectations, the reality of hosting, and a look at the offered accommodation. “It’s a very informal, shared discussion,” McCann, a social worker who has made some 20 home visits over the past few years, said. “I ask to meet all household members to check that everyone feels ok about hosting. If there are young children I’ll chat with the parents about what the children understand about having a guest to stay.” The home visitor also takes up references and files a report.

Home visiting is a rewarding and fulfilling experience. “I love it,” McCann says. “I’ve met lots of different people living in different ways who all recognise that the world is better when we share what we have, and acknowledge our good fortune.

“Feeling helpless is disempowering and doing something, whether it is home visiting or hosting, brings genuine joy. Guests, hosts and home visitors give as much as they receive.”

Anyone with home checking skills interested in applying to be a home visitor should visit www.refugeesathome.org/hv-application or call 0300 365 4724.

Support for local government


Local government is sometimes the last line of defence in Ukraine and a key part of the response in other nations. See our support to local government in response to the invasion.
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