For refugees arriving in the UK, integrating into society is often a challenge. Language barriers and a complex system mean those needing help often do not receive it. To help tackle this, Big Issue Invest – the investment arm of the Big Issue – is backing a multi-million pound scheme to help improve the lives of asylum seekers in Greater Manchester and the West Midlands
Big Issue Invest’s Outcomes Investment Fund (OIF) has invested into two Refugee Transitions Outcomes Fund (RTOF) contracts, awarded by the Home Office and providing over £5m of outcome payments to help refugees. Big Issue Invest hopes to aid the integration of nearly 1,000 refugees across the two areas.
Loans from the Outcomes Investment Fund will work their way to local authority, accommodation, employment and other partners to support refugees. With a focus on integrating support and evidencing a sustainable approach on the basis of this pilot, this is one of the largest investments from BII’s Outcome Investment Fund.
Refugees are entitled to use services in the UK but many don’t, and sometimes end up disengaging completely. Poor language skills and a lack of digital literacy can make things more difficult, as well as the challenges of demonstrating pre-existing qualifications.
These barriers also make getting a job that bit harder. During the pandemic, unemployment among refugees rose. Mental health problems and social isolation have also become more prominent – driven in part by a lack of face-to-face contact.
All of the above are challenges that the RTOF aims to tackle, focusing on adult refugees who have recently been granted status, the program will help with employment and housing, alongside integration. In the West Midlands, where nearly 5,000 asylum seekers are accommodated, refugees will work with case workers with the goal of becoming self-sufficient.
The network of public services available to refugees is complex to navigate. In Greater Manchester, key workers from local authorities will provide a single point of contact to make this simpler. The programme not only aims to help current refugees, but make life better for future refugees.
It is a pioneering form of resettlement policy in the country, with the goal of informing future policy – and helping the UK deal with future crises better.
In the 12 months running up to March 2022 there had been 55,146 applications made for asylum in the UK, which related to 65,008 people.
The results of the programme, which will run until March 2024, will help contribute to further government programmes supporting refugees fleeing from conflict zones.
Sergio Sanchez, Investment Director at Big Issue Invest, said: “We’re delighted to be investors in the RTOF and to be supporting refugees in the UK through this innovative programme along with our Local Partners and the Home Office, all of whom have worked incredibly hard to launch this Social Outcomes Contract.
“The cross-sector and cross-departmental efforts have been very inspiring, as are the opportunities that the RTOF will bring to the people it supports.”
To find out more about Big Issue Invest, or how you or your organisation could access BII’s services, please visit: https://www.bigissue.com/invest/