As we enter a second lockdown in England, many churches are asking whether their activities for refugees and asylum seekers can continue in some small way. Emily has looked through the government guidelines in order to help you as you make decisions as a church over what support you can provide to refugees and asylum seekers in the coming month.
The government guidelines state that you can leave home in order to provide ‘voluntary or charitable services, where you cannot do this from home.’ Your activities for refugees and asylum seekers may fall into this category and we would encourage your church to be thinking about how you can continue to connect with isolated refugees and asylum seekers who are unlikely to have the same access to online communities.
Do the risk assessment
It is important that you have carried out a fresh risk assessment for any organised activities you are doing. This includes any doorstep visiting you are doing to refugees and asylum seekers in a formal capacity. The government guidelines do not mention doorstep visiting in a specific way. Therefore it is vital to write a risk assessment for this activity.
For Welcome Boxes projects, we provided a draft risk assessment to help you plan your activities back in July. This is now available under the ‘Welcome Boxes’ section of the online Welcome Network.
Stay in touch over the phone
It sounds simple but proactively keeping in touch with refugees and asylum seekers that you know over the phone is so important. Stay connected as much as possible over the coming weeks, it doesn’t need to be a long conversation but by phoning and saying ‘hello’ you are reminding your refugee friend that they are not alone.
We will be working hard to connect isolated refugees and asylum seekers with their local church over the next few weeks through our online Welcome Network. Make sure that your church is signed up so that we can point refugees in your community to you.
Meet outside if you can
As much as possible, meet outside in a public place. Individuals are able to meet one other person outside for a walk. This is a very safe way to meet up, particularly with refugees and asylum seekers who may not have other people to meet with.
The government guidelines state:
‘You should minimise time spent outside your home. When around other people, stay 2 metres apart from anyone not in your household – meaning the people you live with – or your support bubble. Where this is not possible, stay 1 metre apart with extra precautions (e.g. wearing a face covering).’
‘When on your own, you can exercise or visit outdoor public places with 1 person from another household. Children under 5, as well as disabled people dependent on round-the-clock care are not counted towards the limit on two people meeting outside.’
Outdoor public places include:
- neighbourhood streets, parks, beaches, and the countryside
- public gardens and grounds (whether or not you pay to enter them)
- outdoor playgrounds
You cannot meet people in a private garden, unless you live with them or have formed a support bubble with them.
Where and when you can meet in larger groups
There are still circumstances in which you are allowed to meet others from outside your household or support bubble in larger support groups – for up to 15 people. Support groups of this nature should follow the following guidelines:
The gathering should:
- be for a support group only
- consist of no more than 15 people
- take place at premises other than a private dwelling. Places of worship and community centres are allowed to be used for such groups.
- be reasonably necessary for members of the group to be physically present at the gathering.
Parent and child groups can also continue where they provide support to parent and/or child, and children under 5 will not be counted within the 15 person limit – meaning parents and carers can attend such groups in larger numbers.
Are they vulnerable?
If the refugee or asylum seeker is vulnerable, then you are able to meet with them to provide care or assistance. This would include accompanying someone to a medical appointment. Remember, not all refugees and asylum seekers are classed as vulnerable and supporting vulnerable people should come under the safeguarding policies of your church. Churches signed up to our Welcome Network can find out more about this in our Safeguarding guidelines, available to download from the online Welcome Network.
THANK YOU SO MUCH for choosing to stay connected with refugees and asylum seekers in the coming weeks. It is great to see so many churches across the UK continuing to support the most isolated in their communities during these challenging times. We are praying for you as you serve refugees and asylum seekers near you, demonstrating that they are still welcome in our neighbourhoods.