13 Apr 2023

Stepping up to the refugee crisis

Last month, the government announced it was phasing out hotel bridging accommodation, which is currently housing around 8,000 Afghan refugees. People like Javed, who had been staying in a London hotel with his heavily pregnant wife. After being told they had to leave by the end of March, Javed faced the prospect of moving his new family to a hotel in Bradford, hundreds of miles away from his job and support network.

Sadly, stories like Javed’s are becoming increasingly common. That’s why Beam has partnered with several local councils to support Afghan refugees like Javed into stable jobs and homes, so they can thrive in the UK. Here are some of our approaches and learnings from the past 12 months:

Wrap-around support is vital

When it comes to helping Afghan refugees start their new life in the UK, providing wrap-around support proves crucial to integration.

At Beam, our caseworkers specialise in supporting people into both jobs and housing. On the employment side, we do CV writing workshops, interview skills training, and provide funding where needed for training, work tools, childcare and travel costs. Meanwhile, our housing team runs bespoke budgeting with a benefits expert, and also provides training on house hunting and liaising with landlords, as well as access to guarantors and tenancy sustainment support.

We’ve also launched a new service providing refugees with 20 hours of English lessons per week to help boost their employability and in turn their housing affordability. Alongside this, we work with Dari & Pashto translators and offer tailored resources in both languages to provide extra wrap-around support.

Location, location, location

Bridging hotels were only designed to be a temporary solution, but many Afghan refugees have been living in these hotels for more than 12 months. During this time, they’ve built local ties, enrolled their kids into school and maybe even found jobs. The prospect of moving to another part of the country and uprooting their life poses many problems.

One way that Beam has been tackling this is through building relationships with local landlords who don’t already work with the council, in order to unlock access to more properties. We’ve even built an internal tool that automatically matches tenants to a suitable property when it becomes available, to help speed up the process. This has allowed us to move people into tenancies in as quickly as four days.

In the case of Javed, staying in London would enable him to complete his taxi exams and get his licence, so he could build a stable future for his wife and newborn child. Within a matter of days, our team of caseworkers found a private rented tenancy for him and his family in London before the hotel closed. We also helped him get set up with bills, Universal Credit, and provided funding support for furniture to help the family settle into their new home.

Invest early on in sustainment support

Once we’ve found a suitable property for a refugee family, we will often set up a fundraising page for them on Beam’s website to help them raise money for a rental deposit, first month’s rent, a moving can and furniture vouchers. Donations come from people in the local community who send messages of encouragement to spur them on.

However, we recognise that for the families, this is only the beginning of their journey. That’s why we provide guidance on setting up all bills, ensure they’re receiving the correct amount of Universal Credit, and troubleshoot any issues early on.

Our dedicated sustainment team also completes a 3 and 6 month check-in with the landlord or agent to ensure the tenancy is working well for both parties and has the highest chance of renewal. As a result, our 12 month tenancy sustainment is currently over 90%.

Use technology to join up support

Supporting Afghan refugees should be a collaborative effort between government, charities, employers, landlords and members of the public. However, bringing these disparate groups together has historically been challenging. At Beam, we’re using technology to empower different groups to support Afghan families in a personal way, while measuring their impact.

One way we’re doing this is through real-time reporting to all of our government partners. From an online dashboard, they can see the status of each referral, an overview of the support they’re receiving and how they’re progressing. They also receive updates each time someone starts a job or moves into a home.

Referrers receive real-time updates on the people they’ve referred via a personalised dashboard

Referrers receive real-time updates on the people they’ve referred via a personalised dashboard.

At Beam, we’re using technology to foster greater collaboration between different stakeholders and measure our collective impact - in turn, enabling hundreds more Afghan refugees to benefit from life-changing support.

Written by Seb Barker

Seb is the co-founder and COO of Beam