Step Change: National Lottery Grants Award To Manchester Charities

July 21, 2021
Louise Kinsella
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Louise Kinsella

A group of nine local charities has received National Lottery Community Fund funding to enable them to work together to transform the experience of refugees and people seeking asylum in theGreater Manchester area. The Greater Manchester Refugee Step Change Consortium launches this month (April 2021), bringing nine organisations together to break down the complex barriers that prevent refugees and people seeking asylum from being fully integrated into life in the city and surrounding areas.

The Greater Manchester Refugee Step Change Consortium launches this month (April 2021), bringing nine organisations together to break down the complex barriers that prevent refugees and people seeking asylum from being fully integrated into life in the city and surrounding areas.

The Covid-19 pandemic has increased the challenges to day to day living for refugees and people seeking asylum, but also provided an opportunity for the organisations set up to help them to work more closely together, both in practical response, and in tackling the barriers in policies and services that impact on their lives.

The Step Change Consortium will develop this collaborative approach further, and ensure that it learns from people who have lived through the immigration system, by working closely with Experts by Experience throughout. The project will focus on ensuring that refugees and people seeking asylum have their basic needs met, secure their rights, and increase their collective voice so that they understand the decisions made on their behalf. The programme will also create opportunities for other refugee and asylum support organisations in Greater Manchester to collaborate and benefit from shared solutions to commonly-faced challenges.

Refugee Action’s Good Practice and Partnerships team is providing a coordinating role as part of its remit of strengthening the refugee and asylum sector together.

"This is a really exciting opportunity for massively increased collaboration to create a seamless service offer for refugees and people seeking asylum and to amplify their voice across Greater Manchester.  We are very grateful to the National Lottery Community Fund for investing in this transformative partnership initiative and we can’t wait to get started.”

Tim Naor Hilton, RA

The partners are listed below, but include Manchester City of Sanctuary, who say:

Manchester City of Sanctuary is really excited to be part of the Step-Change Consortium. Working collaboratively is a key element of what we do and partnering with a wide range of organisations with such incredible knowledge and skills will have such a positive impact on our work. Through this, we will continue to promote and foster a movement of welcome for all those seeking sanctuary in Manchester through community connection and engagement.

The project will run for 3.5 years.A group of nine local charities has received National Lottery Community Fund funding to enable them to work together to transform the experience of refugees and people seeking asylum in the Greater Manchester area.

The partners are: 


Asylum Matters 

Asylum Matters works in partnership locally and nationally to improve the lives of refugees and people seeking asylum. Within the GM consortium, Asylum Matters will work to increase the external voice and influence of people with lived experience of the asylum system and the organisations that support them. 


Boaz Trust  

Boaz was established in 2004 with the aim of ending destitution among asylum seekers and refugees in the UK. We do this by providing safe accommodation and holistic one-to-one support to those who have become homeless following a positive or negative decision on their asylum application. We currently manage over 20 shared houses and (when not in lockdown) a hosting scheme and rolling winter night shelter. During 2019-20 we provided accommodation and support for 143 people from 32 different countries. We are proud to work in partnership with other local, regional and national organisations to provide practical solutions and to call for changes in policy, practices and systems that force people into destitution. 


British Red Cross  

British Red Cross is a volunteer-led humanitarian organisation helping people in crisis and is part of the global Red Cross and Red Crescent humanitarian network which responds to natural disaster, conflict and individual emergencies. In the UK, Red Cross assists people who face crisis on their migration by reducing the systemic destitution of the asylum system, reuniting families after loss and separation, challenging stigma and building inclusion in local communities, ensuring protection and empowering people to take positive decisions to regain control over their lives. Red Cross began offering advice and support services to refugees and people seeking asylum in Manchester in 2001, and now offers place- based support through local hubs providing a wide range of wellbeing and educational activities to tackle isolation and support integration, coupled with extensive casework support for people at all stages of the asylum journey and those newly granted refugee statuses.  In the GM Consortium Red Cross is leading on a place-based integration services for people seeking asylum and refugees with local partners, working with local partners to create and/or sustain local hubs where people can access the services they need and provide opportunities for people to acquire the skills and knowledge to integrate locally.  


Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit (GMIAU)  

GMIAU is the lead charity in the north west providing free legal immigration advice, representation and support services to people seeking asylum, refugees, children and vulnerable adults. It advises, supports and represents people subject to immigration control, and works to improve immigration policy, systems, and practice. In the GM Consortium GMIAU will lead the provision of free legal advice and representation to people seeking asylum. In the past twelve months GMIAU has supported over 7000 people to access justice. They have piloted innovative approaches to providing legal advice to particular groups of people including separated children, people who are homeless, women who are at risk of, or experiencing, violence, danger and/or exploitation. Moreover, GMIAU has 20 volunteers, many of whom have lived experience of the immigration system. GMIAU aims to sustain and strengthen the vital safety net that its services provide to people seeking asylum. It will work with partners to ensure that people gain early access to the legal information and advice that they need to understand the system and progress their asylum claim, while providing vital legal advice and representation to lift legal barriers to housing and financial support. 


Manchester Refugee Support Network (MRSN)  

Established in 1995, MRSN is a grassroots community organisation for refugees and asylum seekers. Local refugee community organisations form its membership. We are therefore run by people with lived experience of war, famine, torture, political conflict, rape etc. Their needs frame MRSN’s development of services to bring positive and lasting change as those seeking sanctuary as they resettle, integrate and embark on rebuilding their lives with dignity. MRSN works to equip this vulnerable group with the tools, skills, and resources they need to become empowered, resilient and self-reliant. Its transformational work has impacted over 40 RCOs, with the numbers growing every year. MRSN aims to strengthen the information and support available to people seeking asylum and refugees to thrive in Greater Manchester. During the past year, we supported 1200 refugees and asylum seekers, secured a Spirit of Manchester Award for the third successive year, has registered with the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner to give immigration advice, and secured housing for newly recognised refugees to prevent them becoming destitute. 


Manchester City of Sanctuary (MCoS) 

MCoS is part of a national grassroots movement that promote a positive welcome for people seeking sanctuary. It challenges the ‘hostile environment’ and negative narrative about asylum seekers and works to encourage community cohesion and connection. It enables inclusion and integration by making people feel valued and welcomed and creates opportunities for asylum seekers to thrive and enrich local communities with their skills, experiences and culture. In the last twelve months, MCoS has been a catalyst for change across Greater Manchester by supporting a growing number of schools, Universities, GP surgeries, museums, art galleries and libraries to become recognised places of sanctuary. It has led a highly successful volunteering programme and published a user-authored handbook for Sanctuary Seekers in Manchester which is used by organisations across the city. It also organises, hosts, and supports diverse activities that bring sanctuary seekers together with people from host communities to boost community cohesion and wellbeing. The charity aims to now build on this foundation in Greater Manchester, in collaboration with the coalition partners, and extend and deepen it’s work with communities across the city region. They will further grow the movement and culture of welcome through delivering and supporting good quality, sustainable place-based integration training, support and activities for community groups, anchor institutions and organisations building their capacity for welcoming and supporting people seeking asylum and refugees. 


Rainbow Haven  

Rainbow Haven is the operating arm of The East Manchester Community Association and has been running since 2003. Rainbow Haven aims to sustain and strengthen its provision of high quality, place-based, holistic support for people seeking asylum and refugees, empowering socially excluded communities, and addressing barriers to inclusion, offering a place of welcome, support and opportunity to people seeking asylum, refugees and vulnerable migrants from across Greater Manchester. Alongside this people can access communal hot lunches, social activities, employability support (English, digital skills, CV, interview skills, job searches), and wellbeing groupwork to develop support networks, manage stress, build confidence, and develop new skills. In the GM Consortium, Rainbow Haven provides an advice and support hub for people seeking asylum and refugees. It is often the first point of contact for people newly housed in the area; in the last year it supported 1000+ people. It will continue to offer its drop-in support service three days per week in East Manchester offering holistic information, advice, signposting, integration and wellbeing support. It will strengthen its partnerships with organisations across the city to offer outreach at Rainbow Haven and outward referrals to their specialist services such as Housing, Social Care Teams, Refugees & Mentors and GMIAU.  Rainbow Haven benefits from the skills and experience of 40 volunteers, 75% of whom are from refugee and migrant backgrounds, likewise over 50% its staff are from refugee backgrounds ensuring that its work is led and informed by those with lived experience, and embedded in the communities it serves.  



Founded in 2002, Revive works to promote access to rights, safety, stability, and independence for people seeking asylum and refugees living in Salford and Manchester City. It achieves this by providing high quality services, drop-in sessions three times a week offering advice, guidance and support on immigration, housing, healthcare and integration programmes and courses. It also offers emergency support, specialist casework, advocacy and volunteering for people seeking asylum and refugees, that enable refugees and people seeking asylum on their journey of recovery and growth. In the GMRSC partnership, Revive provides a place-based hub in Manchester City. As well as the Consortium partners, they work closely with Local authorities, GPs, and legal representatives to enable people to escape destitution and resolve their asylum case. Their immigration services advised 299 people and enabled almost 115 people to secure family reunion and defend their right to asylum and/or humanitarian protection. Their holistic services are delivered by skilled leaders that bring about lasting change in the lives of refugees and people seeking asylum, helping them to create connections and develop new skills through their allotment, football and social programme, community celebrations, wellbeing, employment, and women’s group arts and craft, and English classes. They have also founded Salford Housing Support in collaboration with Serco, the CAB, and Salford Council which has supported 40 newly recognised refugees to access housing and benefits.  


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