How services coordinate across the Tees Valley

Hilary tells us about the Adriane project & collaborating effectively across multiple organisations in a region.

Organisation Profile

Tell us about the Ariadne project in Tees Valley

The idea was to work in partnership to deliver services which provide end-to-end holistic support for asylum seekers and refugees coming to the Tees Valley. Everyone arriving in the region is plugged into consistent support that preempts their needs at each stage of the asylum journey. 

The project followed a needs-led design. Refugees and asylum seekers are registered via drop-ins at service ‘hubs’ and at venues known to the community. On the day they are registered they receive information, needs assessment and triage, signposting and referrals for casework to the appropriate partner. There’s been a big focus ensuring women receive equal access to support with women-only drop-ins. 

The model of support is delivered by a range of partners, the main ones being Open Door North East, Justice First, Methodist Asylum Project (MAP) and British Red Cross. The partnership is funded by the National Lottery Community Fund.

Why was this project needed?

A needs assessment identified that Tees Valley was an area where a partnership project could really improve the experience of asylum seekers and refugees seeking assistance. There has always been support for asylum seekers in the region, but the work wasn’t joined up previously and people were falling through the gaps. We were working with these partners but there was no clear or systematic referral pathway into each other’s services. It was felt that places with lots of smaller charities needed more structure to bring them together and to improve communication and coordination.

The name Ariadne is taken from Greek mythology and is associated with mazes. Ariadne's Thread refers to the string she gave Theseus to escape the labyrinth. This speaks to the challenge asylum seekers face trying to navigate the asylum process and the sources of support available

How does it work?

The original idea was to have a central hub in each area through which people could access a range of services. This worked in Stockton and Middlesbrough but we struggled to establish a hub in Hartlepool, so had to find different ways of maintaining a presence there. Originally the project focused on Middlesbrough, Stockton and Hartlepool, but over time responded to need and evolved to include work in Redcar, Cleveland and Darlington. 

In Middlesbrough, we have the main hub run by Open-Door (MAP) linked to other multi-agency drop-ins. New arrivals are directed to MAP who run welcome sessions for Middlesbrough, Cleveland and Redcar. In Stockton we run a hub and have also set-up women-only sessions. There is a dedicated GP surgery for asylum seekers so having a presence there also helps us register new arrivals. 

We also created satellite hubs in Cleveland and Darlington to prevent people from travelling so far to access services. We are usually informed about new arrivals in outlying areas by the housing provider. Once consent has been provided for their information to be passed on, we can link them into support. 

What have you learnt about collaboration and the value of partnership?

The needs assessment identified potential partners who we shared our area-wide needs assessment findings with. Delivering existing services in the area meant there were existing relationships, but through this process we gained a deeper understanding of each other’s work and the opportunities and scope for delivering in partnership. 

There are different ways of working across organisations. Relationship building and good diplomacy are important, and you have to keep chipping away to align practice. 

We’ve worked well with statutory partners, speaking to the Home Office about dispersals into the area and piloting new areas of work for the local authorities through the Migration Partnership. As a partnership, we can provide an in-depth level of information and data across the region which has fed into the Stockton and Middlesbrough strategic plans. On a national level, because of where we sit and how many people the British Red Cross see, we can identify trends and patterns, and highlight issues coming up in this region.

What challenges have you faced?

Getting everyone to see the benefit of referrals and sharing the duty of care. It’s harder for smaller organisations who’ve traditionally supported their clients with everything. 

Creating a model that provides consistent access and support across a large geographic area with multiple distinct areas within it. On top of that, dispersal patterns changed dramatically during the project as people were moved into areas further north. We had to adapt the project design and create satellite hubs to give access to services and prevent long journeys.

Connecting the residents of hotels into support services and providing essential items has been crucial during COVID-19. Many people have been in the hotels for up to 5 months without any communication from the Home Office. We’ve managed to work well with Mears the accommodation provider who shares people’s details with us, with consent. We’ve set up a weekly welfare meeting with their manager to discuss support for the ladies in the hotel. With Lottery money we’re now doing welcome packs based on what women told us they need: underwear, sanitary products, towels and flip flops. We are currently working on ways we can maintain better contact with people during COVID-19 as it's harder to follow where and when people are being moved around. 

What is next for coordinated service provision in Tees Valley? 

The current funding ends in September but we will continue operating using the model that is now established as much as we can. We have managed to secure funding for our staff but we are keen to sustain this partnership and model. We have been looking at securing joint funding and sharing funding opportunities our partners could go for. 

We would like to improve how we collect data on individuals across the partnership. We would need a shared system where all partners could input data. We’ve worked with thousands of people but on the ground, it’s hard to know if someone has already registered into another service, so we have to do more work later to remove duplicates.  

Regular partnership meetings have been useful, but it would be great to establish a space for frontline caseworkers and others working on the ground to meet to discuss cases and trends.