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Early Action: A new approach for asylum support

The Asylum Early Action partnership are exploring new ways of providing support for people in the asylum system, to help prevent them reaching crisis point. If you are involved in a group or organisation working with people during their asylum journey, join us and learn about designing activities with users, that empower people and prevent crisis.

Organisations and community groups all over the UK do incredible work welcoming sanctuary seekers and providing vital practical support.

And yet, anyone with experience of welcoming sanctuary seekers will know that too often, people who have escaped violence and persecution are forced into poverty and homelessness and denied access to justice; they live precarious lives, vulnerable to exploitation, health problems and mental health issues.

Often they enter a complex legal process, and are not told how to navigate it. They lack basic knowledge about legal rights, accessing lawyers or negotiating applications and interviews. They are often left isolated and become marginalised, without access to key services and support, and physical and mental health problems become exacerbated. The impact of these crises on people who have already experienced trauma is deeply harmful.

Whilst we cannot predict the crises an individual may encounter; we believe we can do more to prepare them; to help them understand the complex systems they encounter, navigate key decision points and avoid or exit crisis through receiving timely, holistic support.

The Asylum Early Action partnership: PAFRASRefugee Women ConnectBristol Refugee RightsAction FoundationSouthwark Day Centre for Asylum SeekersNottingham and Nottinghamshire Refugee ForumBrushstrokes and Refugee Action formed to design and evaluate new ways of delivering preventative services. We aim to help people avoid problems and provide help that can de-escalate them promptly, if they do arise.

We are looking to re-balance our efforts towards giving asylum seekers early attention, information, and timely help and to do so in ways designed by them, not just for them.

We have developed a set of Principles that we believe will help guide all groups and organisations working with sanctuary seekers to strengthen the support they provide.

As a partnership, we are reviewing our provision by prioritising prevention and de-escalation. Several partners have joined the Asylum Guides movement; others are strengthening their provision of tiered advice-work; delivering casework that focuses on presenting cases to the Home Office; and experimenting with new outreach and drop-in models to better meet users’ social and well-being needs. You can read more about the partnership organisations and the changes we are making here.

We are looking for partners to join us by becoming signatories to the Asylum Early Action Principles. We recognise there are barriers to overcome, so we will be sharing experiences, resources and best practice; as well as offering meet-ups and learning events to help about a step-change in the way that support for sanctuary seekers is designed, delivered and funded.

“Being part of the Asylum Early Action partnership has given us time to step back and think about a more proactive way of working. It has given us the opportunity to meet with other partners and compare approaches. It is also useful to know how the rest of the sector is working in such challenging times and know we are not alone” Jill Jefferies, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Refugee Forum

We also know that if we want to tackle root causes, the system also needs to change. We will use the broad evidence base we create, to influence the Home Office and local authorities to change policies and design humane systems that prevent crises rather than creating and sustaining them.

If you would like to find out more visit or email [email protected]

Asylum Early Action is coordinated by Refugee Action and supported by the National Lottery Community Fund.