Refugee Action Bradford explained the work they've kicked off with partners to create a Single Point of Access in the area.
The idea behind a ‘Single Point of Access’ is that every asylum seeker and refugee would have a consistent pathway to access support provided by Bradford VCS and statutory services.
Local VCS would have a shared understanding of the journey of refugees and asylum seekers accessing services in Bradford, from new arrivals to transition services once status is obtained. This would involve services understanding who provides what services at what point in the journey, and also service eligibility criteria across the city.
An asylum seeker or refugee would approach an initial point of entry into local VCS services and be holistically triaged for all their needs - not just the presenting need. This would reduce the need for asylum seekers to visit different services in multiple locations on arrival in an attempt to find the right support for them.
Initial conversations with the existing network at Destitution Concern Bradford revealed real interest in exploring new ways of working to better meet the needs of asylum seekers and refugees in Bradford.
We all recognise that when delivering a really busy service and working with people in crisis, the tendency is to meet the presenting need and not respond to other needs. If we all agree to be more coordinated and share resources around a referral model, we think people’s needs will be identified at the first port of call. We’ll be better able to prevent crisis for asylum seekers and refugees.
We wrote a one-pager proposing the initiative and sent this to more key organisations and statutory partners working with refugees and asylum seekers.
In July, we asked Tom from Sheffield City of Sanctuary to meet with us online to talk us through the Sheffield model. This was a really important step, there’s something about the power of seeing something working well elsewhere that inspires and informs action. We have now formed a working group with those interested to help progress this.
“We've set up a steering group. I just think it's a no brainer in making life easier for asylum seekers and it would be great if we could get something up and running in Bradford!” - Katie, Beacon
It could work in lots of ways! We have to find the solution that works for Bradford.
First and foremost the Single Point of Access would be an agreement between local organisations that would formalise referral and signposting pathways. It could also have an expectation of the type of service someone would expect (eg. a common welcome, a common assessment each client gets etc).
The idea is that if someone first enters any of those organisations, each organisation would be able to assess that client and refer to other organisations in a consistent and thorough way. This systemised approach will also help to reveal capacity issues, lack of available information, and where referrals aren’t happening.
Building on that foundation, there could be a single drop-in where people are triaged holistically and referrals are made to the appropriate organisations for their needs. There could be a mixture of organisations being present or not (depending on capacity), but referrals are made and essential information is provided to the person presenting. They could then be contacted directly by the organisations not present and begin receiving their service.
Alternatively, there could be a single physical drop-in that all new arrivals or referrals visit and representatives of each organisation attend. An asylum seeker could be triaged centrally by one organisation and then be referred to multiple services at one location at one time (e.g. the Sheffield model). Our meeting with Tom from Sheffield sparked so many ideas, but there is common agreement that the establishment of a shared physical space is a much longer-term aspiration.
We will start small, with a commitment to working on this with a small core group of organisations. We will then look to expand and develop the model. The first task will be mapping who is doing what and what each organisation would be responsible for in the process (e.g. food parcels from the faith centre, wellbeing and immigration advice from Refugee Action, English support and hosting BEACON etc). This needs to correspond to the asylum journey so we can identify gaps and plug holes in provision collectively.
We also want to do a needs assessment for each organisation, to identify any gaps in resources needed to participate and how sustainable participation is. We then plan to design a common agreement between organisations defining the mechanism for triage and referral. A robust plan to review how the system is working, deal with any issues, and identify what works locally will inform the next stage of development. This will help us gain a deeper understanding of all the organisations that play a role in the asylum journey.
We require additional funding through a partnership bid between the organisations to coordinate and develop the SPA. We also need an understanding of joint leadership to move the system forward.
We are in the very early stages of exploring what will work for Bradford. Challenges will be keeping up the momentum around this, carving out protected time to work on it alongside the pressures of running our individual services, and securing funding to develop this work.