A refugee charity providing crisis support to Ukrainian refugees trying to make a new life in Wales has received a helping hand from big hearted carers to meet soaring demand.
The Welsh Refugee Council supports asylum seekers and refugees at a critical point of their lives, helping them to find a place to stay, work to support themselves, access to English classes, legal advice and support networks to help them start a fresh life.
Since Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine a year ago, the charity’s caseload has spiralled as hundreds of displaced Ukrainians arrived in Wales to make a new life.
Since last August alone, the charity’s Ukraine Team has held 214 face-to-face sessions with clients, received 801 phone calls from individuals requiring support, received 408 referrals from local authorities to support Ukrainian constituents and responded to 961 emails from clients seeking support from its caseworkers.
In recognition of the charity’s vital work, social care champions Care Forum Wales – which represents 450 care and nursing homes across Wales – handed over a donation worth £1,522 following fundraising efforts at the organisation’s Wales Care Awards celebration in Cardiff.
The donation will help boost the charity’s Hardship Fund and other work supporting Ukrainian refugees and asylum seekers/refugees from other countries who desperately need support and protection to find their feet and fully contribute to Welsh society.
Keri Llewellyn, Care Forum Wales Council Member, said: “The Welsh Refugee Council does a fantastic job protecting the rights of vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers across Wales and we are proud to be contributing to the vital support they provide.
“We have all watched with horror the events unfolding in Ukraine over the past year and have been touched by the compassion and generosity shown by host families across Wales who have welcomed refugees at a time of desperate need.
“Without charities like the Welsh Refugee Council, who provide a lifeline for those who have escaped conflict zones or human rights abuses, many more vulnerable people would fall into destitution and struggle to survive. They deserve every penny of the support they raise to change lives and make a difference and we are pleased to be playing our part in this small way.”
A spokesman from the Welsh Refugee Council said: “We want to thank Care Forum Wales for their generous donation. Every penny donated to the Welsh Refugee Council enables us to do our essential work and supports asylum-seekers and refugees rebuild their lives in Wales.
“The asylum system is incredibly complex, and we help people navigate that extremely difficult journey. Some people fall through the cracks of the asylum system and turn to us for support. As such, some of our donations go to our Hardship Fund providing short-term support preventing people from becoming destitute or homeless. It is only thanks to the generous donations of our supporters that we can provide this invaluable support.”
The Welsh Refugee Council receives funding by the Welsh Government to deliver specialist Ukraine support services for Ukrainian refugees including help applying for a Bank Account, Universal Credit, Child Benefits and Pension Credit, employment and education advice, help registering with a GP or local schools, housing advice and help with accommodation paperwork and ESOL classes.
Among those offered help was Mariana* who arrived in Swansea in April with her elderly father and two children. Due to not being on the Homes for Ukraine Scheme, there were not able to seek housing or financial support.
“When we met Mariana, she was tearful and felt lost at their desperate situation; living in a one bed apartment with her aunt who was trying to support them all on a minimum wage,” said the spokesman.
“We awarded them a £300 hardship fund, using donations from our supporters. Our expert case worker Lina supported them with different housing applications and put them in touch with people in the community who were happy to provide rooms for her and her family.
“We further supported Mariana, securing local school placements for her two children. This was ensured the children had limited disruption to their education as well as offering a safe space to learn and make friends.”
In addition to Ukrainian Crisis Support, the charity also operates a Move On Service for asylum seekers from any country who are granted refugee status. In these circumstances, refugees are given just 28 days to leave asylum accommodation, find housing, employment and the means to support themselves. Many require critical support to avoid homelessness.
Between October and December 2022, the charity’s Move-On team saw 500 clients from almost 50 different countries. The support offered ranged from health and adult education through to financial assistance and employment assistance as well as referrals to other agencies.
The Welsh Refugee Council’s successful partnership with furniture brand Ikea is one of the many ways the charity is helping refugees secure employment.
The Uppna progamme identifies individuals interested working in customer service to embark on a 16-week placement with Ikea to help them increase their skills and knowledge with a view to them securing employment.
*Name has been changed to protect anonymity.