How a Sheffield charity has been supporting the city’s sanctuary seekers throughout the pandemic
A Sheffield charity has started a number of different projects since the start of the pandemic to ensure that people seeking sanctuary in the city are “included, connected and supported”.
City of Sanctuary Sheffield which provides support for refugees and asylum seekers throughout the region, has compiled a report detailing the projects it has been working on in the past year.
The report has been described as capturing “only a fraction of the work” the charity has done.
Director of City of Sanctuary Sheffield, Tom Martin, said: “There is still much to do and at City of Sanctuary Sheffield we will continue to work with resilience, agility and joy to strive for a city that is safe and welcoming for all.”
The Migrant Covid-19 Support Group, which has helped over 940 individuals and families, was established to provide practical assistance to those who found themselves unable to access necessities or services during the pandemic.
A volunteer of the support group described April 2020 as a “crisis period”, and there was an urgent need for food for some individuals.
She said: “The Migrant Covid-19 Support Group has established a strong sense of virtual community. It’s great that there’s a central point in the city that refugees and asylum seekers can contact on a single phone line.”
Another project has focused on providing equipment, internet access and tech support to families with school aged children.
The Homeschool Project supplied 120 laptops to over 100 households across South Yorkshire, which enabled over 400 children to access online learning.
The Information Project was set up to provide up-to-date service and public health information to people seeking sanctuary and organisations working with them across the city.
And the charity established a new project in the summer to promote mental wellbeing amongst those who may be isolated.
Connections Team pairs sanctuary seekers with trained volunteers, who provide emotional and practical support via the phone, discussing concerns in relation to health to food bank referrals.
Between June 2020 and April 2021, 563 phone calls were made to 72 individuals in Sheffield, with most calls addressing mental health and loneliness concerns.
Volunteers have played a large role in helping those seeking sanctuary throughout the pandemic and time has also been spent ensuring they are equipped with the right training.
As well as supporting the projects, they have also provided interpreting support and fundraising.
City of Sanctuary Sheffield has worked with other organisations to coordinate a response to the pandemic.
The Sheffield Project for Refugee Integration and Growth, or SPRING, is made up of six partners, including City of Sanctuary and VAS, amongst others.
Between the end of March up until the end of 2020, 129 new people were assessed and supported by City of Sanctuary Sheffield, via referrals to SPRING.
During the past year, organisations have also spent time campaigning and advocating for the rights of refugees and asylum seekers, for example, in replation to the Government’s New Plan for Immigration, which has been slammed by some as “unjust and inhumane”.
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