Member Spotlight: ‘We desperately need policy change’ – Boaz Trust on the importance of gathering information on refugee homelessness

The Boaz Trust have been running a night shelter in Manchester for ten years now as part of their work to end destitution amongst people seeking sanctuary in the UK. As well as directly delivering life saving accommodation and support, in 2017-18 they worked with other NACCOM members to gather more detailed evidence about the number, and experiences, of refugees using shelters over the winter. This information contributed to a NACCOM report and joint advocacy work on the move on period for newly recognised refugees.

Since October 2018, volunteers and staff at the Boaz night shelter – like many other organisations in our network – have opened their doors again for the winter season. And as we start the process of collecting evidence again on the issues facing refugees after move on, it seemed a good opportunity to ask the team in Manchester how they had found capturing this information last year, and what were the challenges and benefits in the process.

Katie Lifford and Ros Holland share their thoughts below;

‘When we were asked to collect and share data as part of the research behind NACCOM’s ‘Mind the Gap’ report, we had two initial thoughts. Firstly, ‘is this going to mean lots of extra work?’ and secondly, ‘is this an opportunity for Boaz and our clients to influence the policy debate, leading to genuine positive outcomes for people seeking asylum in the UK?’

The reality it is that it did create some extra work, for example we had to change our online referral process to ensure we were able to capture and share the right kind of information in a timely way.

But looking back, there were many benefits and even now there are positive signs that, as the conversation continues, we will see change as a direct result of this work:

– We recorded new information that we hadn’t previously thought about or been able to capture. We have since been able to use this data in reports and meetings with voluntary and statutory organisations and funders locally.

– We have been able to develop a relationship with one of our local MPs, who used the report (and subsequent information from Boaz) to shape a debate in Parliament and follow up meetings with significant stakeholders .

– The experiences and testimony of people who have sought asylum and been accommodated by Boaz have been highlighted. Interviews and case studies from Boaz clients were referenced and quoted in Parliament and provided a helpful qualitative snapshot of real life, alongside the numbers. The fact Lucy from NACCOM was able to interview clients and then liaise directly with them when it came to media requests and any other queries helped us a lot and also gave a greater sense of legitimacy and purpose to the interviews (i.e. not just another Boaz thing!)

– We have wanted to strengthen our advocacy and campaign work for a long time, but simply not had capacity to do so. Through partnering with NACCOM, people who have sought asylum have been able to share their experiences of destitution with a wide audience, and we’ve been able to challenge policy makers in a way we couldn’t have managed on our own.

Is it worth the extra work? We would say yes. We desperately need policy change alongside the immediate practical support for people who face destitution, and for smaller grass roots organisations, working in partnership like this is the most effective way to help bring about that change.’

Find out more about the work of the Boaz Trust here.

Members, do you want to contribute to our advocacy work in the year ahead? Get in touch with Lucy to find out more.

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