Why we’re making changes to Scottish Refugee Council

John Wilkes
Our chief executive John Wilkes c. Angela Catlin

Like many charities Scottish Refugee Council has had to deal with funding reductions due to the general economic situation and squeeze on public finances.

Some of these cuts have been significant. Over the last three months we have been responding by restructuring our services and organisation so that we can continue to support refugees and people in the asylum system in Scotland within our reduced resources.

We know that the need for good quality independent advice will remain as great as ever and we don’t expect that demand to decrease.

Other areas of our funding have remained stable and secure. Overall Scottish Refugee Council has seen funding reductions going into the new financial year 2011/12 of around 30%.

These cuts have been targeted by the UK Border Agency on three of our most-used services – our One Stop advice service, our Scottish Induction Service and the Refugee Integration and Employment Service.

Similar cuts have been made to our sister organisations across the UK, the British Refugee Council, the Welsh Refugee Council, Refugee Action and the North of England Refugee Service. As a result we have had to change how our entire organisation works.

Reshaping our organisation to get the most out of smaller resources

In dealing with these cuts we have minimised the impact on our front line staff and services where we can and streamlined our back office and management structures. Regrettably this has meant the loss of staff through a mixture of voluntary and compulsory redundancies.

Our restructuring and streamlining is now complete. Our budget and funding for the rest of the year, and in a number of cases over a couple of years, is confirmed.

We’re confident in our future and in our ability to carry out our strategic priorities, recognising that in some areas we will be doing this with reduced resources and in new ways. You can view our strategic priorities here. Inevitably in some areas we are not able to offer the same service levels as before.

Read more about the changes to our advice services

Scottish Refugee Council will continue to provide:

We will continue to work closely with our key partners in Scotland and the UK and look to forge new partnerships with other organisations and stakeholders who are interested and committed to these issues.

Thank you for your support so far

Scottish Refugee Council would like to take this opportunity to thank all our members, supporters and stakeholders who have expressed support over the challenges we have had to deal with in the last few months.

Your lobbying and campaigning has been really helpful, enabling us to secure some concessions from the UK Government which have helped to mitigate the impact of some of these funding cuts.

We are also very proud of the professional and committed way our staff, volunteers and board have responded to these significant challenges. We pay tribute to the contribution of the staff members that have left as a result of these cuts and their passion and dedication to helping refugees in Scotland.

The new way forward

In the following sections you will find further details of the new organisation structure and our services and policy portfolios.

I will be assisted to manage the new structure by a new Senior Management Team: Teresa Gallagher, Deputy Chief Executive; Gary Christie, Head of Policy & Communications, Flutura Shala, Head of Asylum Services and Joe Brady, Head of Refugee Integration Services. This team will be joined by a Head of Funding Development and a Head of Finance and Corporate Services.

Take a look at this chart, which shows how Scottish Refugee Council is made up as of April 2011

Continuing to give advice on asylum

We’re committed to offering as much advice and support as we possibly can within our tightened resources. We’ve thought hard about how we can do this. Both our One Stop and Scottish Induction Services will remain open Monday to Friday, providing a mix of drop-in and advice-by-appointment services.

We know we won’t be able to offer as much one-to-one advice to people as we have done in the past, and that is something we regret. We have negotiated with UKBA that they need to do more to resolve some of the common problems that our clients face with their accommodation and financial support, so that we are able to target our limited resources in helping the most vulnerable.

Our Asylum Services will be led by Flutura Shala.

We will continue to build partnerships we already have with other organisations, particularly to ensure that we can continue to provide much needed vital advice and help to people granted protection in Scotland.

Access our client information leaflet about our new opening hours in different languages

Continuing to support refugees and integration

We continue to see integration as vital and will continue to work with refugees and wider stakeholders to enable this. Our new Refugee Integration Services Team will continue to provide one-to-one and group advice sessions in housing, benefits, employment, and financial literacy to enable refugees to realise their rights and entitlements and build a new life in Scotland.

We will also continue to promote opportunities for refugees’ to participate in the communities where the live through our community engagement and arts and cultural development work. The work of the Refugee Integration Services Team will be led by Joe Brady.

Continuing to advocate and campaign

We remain committed as ever to refugees’ rights and will continue to advocate for fair and just legislation and polices. In the last year alone we produced seven research reports which we have used to lobby government for better treatment of refugees and people seeking asylum.

For example, our report into family reunion led the UK Border Agency to conduct a review of its policy and procedures in this area.

We are also continuing to work on increasing media and public understanding of refugees.

For example, we have teamed up with media co-op and with a group of men and women from refugee backgrounds to create a very special film, which will be shown across Scotland on World Refugee Day, June 20, as well as throughout Refugee Week. The work of our Policy & Communications Team will be led by Gary Christie.

Continuing to innovate

We are continuing to strive for new ways to improve the lives of refugees and people seeking asylum in Scotland.  

Our groundbreaking Big Lottery-funded guardianship pilot project for separated children which we launched last summer in partnership with Aberlour Child Care Trust is already having a positive impact on the lives of unaccompanied children in Scotland.

In February we launched a new project to empower refugee and women seeking asylum in Scotland to influence the policy and practices that impact so profoundly on their lives. 

Other changes to our organisation

We’re also providing office space for other organisations working with refugees and people seeking asylum. Refugee Action will be basing their new Choices Assisted Voluntary Return Service in Scotland from our Cadogan Square office. Refugee Action is a UK-wide charity, and their caseworker will be providing confidential advice and information to people who are thinking about returning home voluntarily.

You can contact them on 0808 800 0007.

Investing for the future

We are also investing for the future. Our board have agreed a new funding development strategy which will see our new Head of Funding Development, Chi My Ta, join us at the beginning of May.

And we’ve created a new post of Trust and Supporters Officer to build on our relationships with trusts and recruit new members and supporters.   We will also build on the invaluable support of our volunteers as we move forward. Keep an eye on our Support Us section for more ways to help us help refugees and people seeking asylum in the future.

Scotland must continue to be a welcoming place for refugees

Scottish Refugee Council has been working to help refugees and people seeking asylum since 1985, but this has most definitely been one of our toughest challenges yet.

We exist to help people who have fled from some of the most awful experiences of persecution, war and torture. Despite these cuts, we will carry on doing the best we can to be a place for help, support and advice for those who need us most.

This year, we also mark 60 years since the UN Convention on Refugees was signed – it’s absolutely vital that Scotland and the UK can keep providing a safe haven for refugees now and in the future. As a place where people come for much-needed support, advice and an independent listening ear we hope the changes we have made will make us strong for the future too.

John Wilkes, Chief Executive

Read more about our new opening hours and types of services 

Access our client information leaflet on our new opening hours in different languages

Find out how to contact us

Find answers to common questions on the asylum process in our How We Can Help section

Find out about ways you can help us keep working for refugees

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