You will need to obtain accommodation that is of a good and adequate standard and available at a sustainable cost for the family. The Home Office will need to be satisfied that it is suitable, and your Local Authority may wish to inspect it before they give their consent to your application.
You will have carried out a huge amount of work to find appropriate accommodation for a family. However, there is always the possibility that once refugees arrive, they may not be happy with aspects of the accommodation and may ask for changes to be made. Some of these issues may be due to cultural differences, some may be due to having high expectations of accommodation in the UK, and some may simply be personal preference. As a group, you should be prepared to answer questions or concerns that the family raise, but it’s worth keeping in mind that they are unlikely to understand the work that has taken place to find the property and you should try not to take criticism or concern personally.
Changes to Accommodation
If you own the property, it is up to you as a group to decide which changes you are willing to make. If the property is rented privately or via a Housing Association, then it will be for the landlord to decide, you may need to work with refugees to manage their expectations around this, making it clear what is and isn’t possible.
The exception to this is that if a member of the family has a physical or mental health condition that requires adaptations to the property, you may be legally required to make them. The precise nature of adaptations will depend on their needs. The Home Office can agree funding for making property adaptations.
Listed below are some common housing issues that can arise with resettled refugees. Remember that not all refugees will be concerned with these issues. As always, it is best to speak directly to the family you are supporting and be guided by them, but you may find it helpful to consider the following points.
Women who wear a headscarf for reasons of religion or modesty may not be comfortable removing this inside their home if they feel people can see them from outside. Also, some women who dress modestly or conservatively outside the home may prefer to dress differently when they are at home with their family, so long as they cannot be seen from outside. For this reason, many women request net curtains, blinds, or frosted windows so that they can dress how they wish whilst in their own home.
This is a relatively easy problem to solve; many landlords may be willing to install net curtains, and if not, they may be willing for the group or the refugees to purchase and install them themselves.
Refugees may request carpets in the property if it does not already have them. There may be various reasons for this, and refugees can explain these themselves better than we can, but our experience is that they prefer carpets because they are warmer and these are more common in the Middle East.
This is a more difficult request, and ultimately it will be the landlord’s decision whether they are willing to install carpets. Many will not, and they are entitled to make that decision (unless any family members have physical or mental health conditions that require them, again if you are in this situation then do contact us for support). If the landlord is not willing to install carpets, then you or the refugees could consider purchasing rugs instead.
In our experience, we’ve found that discussing this issue can take up a considerable amount of time in the early days and weeks after arrival. We would advise that, wherever possible, any requests are directed to the landlord, and once they have made a final decision that all group members share this message consistently to the refugees, and explain what options are available to them.
Many refugees will request a hose attachment fitted to the toilet, used for washing in a similar way as a bidet, as this is common in Middle Eastern households.
Again, it will be the landlord’s decision whether they are willing to install this. In some cases, they may not be willing to pay for it but allow it to be installed by a qualified plumber if the group or the refugees are willing to pay for this. You can also suggest to families that they could instead use jugs for this function.
Setting up utilities
As part of house preparations, you will need to make sure that there are credit and not top up utility meters. You can read this resource to find out the best way to do that and learn more about empowering approach to managing utility bills.
In the future, the refugees you are supporting may choose to move to new accommodation. If you, or the landlord, have agreed to some of their requests to change aspects of the property you should make them aware if this is unusual and they may not receive this from other landlords. Otherwise, they could move to unsuitable accommodation in future with the mistaken belief that they can ask the landlord to make the changes they require. Equally, if the landlord is unable to make the requested changes, you can explain that this is a common response in the UK.
You may also find it useful to look at our advice on the household items to provide in the property.
Welcoming families who will self-isolate on arrival
For families welcomed to the UK in 2021, they must self-isolate for a 10 day period on arrival. Your Group will need to prepare their accommodation, assist in shopping and helping the family to get settled within this time.
What to provide in the accommodation
You'll need to make sure there’s enough food, toiletries and groceries for the first few days. In ordinary times, you’d be planning shopping trips with the family to introduce them to the area, but you can still develop your empowerment approach with the family even in these times.
Your Welcome Pack
You will have been preparing a welcome pack for the family that will be in the property. Read our guidance on what to include. For those welcoming in Covid restrictions, groups have found it useful to provide
- Guidance on Covid restrictions - we highly recommend that you explain to the family that for everyone travelling into the UK, they may receive a visit from the Police to check that they are self-isolating. These can be carried out for anyone. For someone who has fled their home, the arrival of a police officer could be distressing. Make sure you explain the role of the police in the UK - to keep us safe, the Welcome to the UK Booklet (page 29) may assist here. Make sure the family can contact you to ask questions should the police visit.
- Instructions on how to use Zoom and Google Classroom
- Guidance on what self-isolation is and what the guidelines are.
Book in time with the family members and ask them what supplies they would like for you to shop for, you could use the supermarkets online grocery stores to demonstrate what is available for the family, or you might be able to organise a supermarket delivery direct to them. Ask if there’s anything specific they need, and do not judge what they would like or assume what they would like to order. Ensure you ask women if they need sanitary products. This may feel awkward, but is necessary.
If the family keep halal, explain the stores or services that are available. We know that many groups in more rural areas have worked with families who organise their own deliveries through halal delivery companies – many of which deliver across the UK, these include clickhalal.co.uk, haloodies.com, www.hbhonline.co.uk
The family will not have access to their own bank account or debit card at this stage, so it is something that you as a group will need to provide support with to help the family to understand this, as well as talking through the differences in cost of groceries, use our price guide to assist you.
You could consider shopping for them, returning a receipt and asking for cash for this from the initial cash payment you provide to them.