Ties that Bind: Community Sponsorship in the UK
From Lancashire to Devon, we met families who have been able to restart their lives thanks to the programme.
The result is this photo, text and video series, Ties that Bind. Families like the Arnouts in rural Devon and the Alchiks in West Wales were bowled over by the welcome they had received and were busy studying, training and in some cases working to bed down in their new surroundings.
And those supporting them also found the experience rewarding.
Vicky Moller, organiser of a group in Cardigan, Wales, said, “The generosity of people is both moving and breathtaking. Community sponsorship is a lovely thing to do, it’s very rewarding, it’s a little kernel of affection but it’s too small in Britain.”
Vicky Moller, organiser of the welcome group in Cardigan, Wales
Felicity Brangan inspired the Bury community.
Rosie Hall is part of the support network for the Arnouts in Devon
Felicity Brangan, in Bury, added: “Twenty people at your back, that's what it’s about.” Her sponsor group knew they had cut through when a member was asked randomly at the checkout till of a local supermarket, “‘How’s our family?”
The stories were gathered before the pandemic – and prior to UK resettlement being suspended. But all the groups have been holding up in recent months and are looking forward to picking up in-person interactions.
Under community sponsorship, volunteers provide specific support in the early days of arrival including arranging English lessons and schools, helping with access to benefits, housing, healthcare and employment or training. There are commitments for 12 months (longer for housing) and the rest is up to the supporters and the families.
The aim is for refugees to be able to stand on their own feet over time and create truly independent and anchored lives in the UK. As UNHCR found, friendships made are likely to endure, both between the refugees and their supporters and among the locals who offer their time and resources.
Rosie Hall, in Devon, said. “It’s been good for us. The town’s been really supportive and it’s actually brought the community together.”
The scheme was introduced in 2016 and developed by the Home Office in partnership with civil society and local government. So far, around 450 refugees have benefitted, but the Government hopes this will grow and is encouraging more groups to step forward once resettlement restarts.
Please read and share the stories on this site and help spread the world so that more families can benefit. For more information and to get involved directly, visit RESET, the UK's official Community Sponsorship training, support and advice provider.