Our Mission

At GARAS (Gloucestershire Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers) we offer support to those seeking asylum in Gloucestershire, welcoming them when they arrive, advocating for them in their daily struggles, supporting them if they face being sent back as well as helping them adjust to their long term future if they are recognised as refugees.

Contact Information

Gloucestershire Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers (GARAS)
The Trust Centre
Falkner St

Telephone: 01452 550528
General enquiries: info@garas.org.uk
Administrative enquiries: admin@garas.org.uk

Adele Owen

A Day in an Advice Room on a Drop-in day

June 19, 2018

Hannah is the member of GARAS staff who helps those who have Refugee Status or other forms of Leave to Remain in assisting them to start to rebuild their lives. Here she gives a very vivid picture of a real day in her life at GARAS.

A day in an advice room at the Drop – In

Drop in sessions take place every week on Mondays 10-am – 4pm, Wednesdays 10am – 5pm, and Fridays 10am – 4pm. As I arrive, I see a client who is living in temporary accommodation. I deal with his questions and help him apply online for social housing. He’s on edge because he doesn’t want to miss his appointment with the GP. I ask him if he’s been going along to another organisation that is set up to help with some of his specific problems and advise about changing his address on his driving licence. He wants a full licence to increase his chance of getting work.

I go and see the next refugee, who’s recently been reunited with his wife here. He’s come into finish a benefit claim claim. I suggest he brings his wife in later in the week to help her open a bank account. He says she hasn’t been feeling too well.

Two clients come in, wanting to bid – apply online for social housing. One is currently in temporary accommodation. She says she’ll do it with me three times and then do it herself. It’s hard to do it online if you’re not very computer savvy. Once you know the system, it’s not too bad, but a bit of a maze. Another client comes in. He says she’s struggling to pay his rent despite being in work. He’s brought in a Housing Benefit form from the council, but given recent benefit changes it’s no longer the correct form. Having already spent 45 minutes with one client who had already started this onerous (Universal Credit) application today, I had remembered that their social landlord also offers a service to help claim the benefit within their team. I signpost him there.

Then I help some ladies who have come in, to help fill the grammar school application for the eldest child. It’s a quagmire. You fill one form, then wait for email confirmation and are told to fill out another form. The ladies ask what resources they can use to help prepare for the test and offer some suggestions. Clients want the best future for their children, just like anyone.

I briefly meet our next social work student who’s come to visit ahead of a being on placement with us. I spot our current, excellent student, passing on some advice and information about it here. I drink some water surreptitiously (it’s Ramadan and many Muslim colleagues and clients are fasting food and drink in the daylight hours) and, out of necessity, restock the loo rolls as I begin my lunch break.

I return to a client who’s been waiting to see me. The first thing she does is make a payment towards a micro loan we gave her recently. As is usual, I help her read through letters from her son’s special needs school, and help her correspond with the school on a small level.

Then I see a client who has tried to catch me earlier on in the day. He’s moved out of his poor quality accommodation and inadvertently made himself homeless out of choice. He contests the rent charge given awful difficulties he’s experienced there, and I suggest where else he live as an alternative.

Then I see the next client who’s waiting to see me. A recognised victim of trafficking who has received leave to remain and soon has to leave their home. I discuss some sensitive aspects with a colleague. Then a client returns from earlier in the day with more papers to fill for the council, following benefit changes.

I meet a medical adviser volunteer who will come in to cover for a colleague who is on sick leave unfortunately. We often have the best people come up at the time we need them most! I chat through with her a situation about a client with various challenges, struggling to understand some of the medical things going on with them. An email came in for an offer of a donation – a crib. I forward it onto a colleague who just this morning was putting in an application to a local charity for a cot for a client in need. (Turns out the crib is too small for the age of the child- but a nice try.) Donations we’re offered and receive are much appreciated. A client rings to arrange to pick up the items of cutlery and crockery she’s chosen in our cellar- little store of non-perishables.

I sign passport photos for a client’s childrens’ British passport forms. The children were born here. I’ve known their Mum for ten years, from when I first started in the job. Whilst my back is turned, her two year old scribbles in biro on the laminate floor in my room, whist the older brother is playing and Mum is busy filling out the next form – the fourth one she’s done as they’re so easy to make mistakes on. I give the tot some paper to draw on instead and later try to scrub the biro marks off the floor.

Ten minutes to go to the end of a long and busy drop in day. I check my email to see a client’s tenancy application has been approved. Next step is a question of getting a deposit together. Ideally so the client won’t have to pay back or incur debt on, but one that encourages independence. I follow up some other housing related matters.

Then finally off home and for a run, before a day of appointments and catching up on other things tomorrow. Today’s not out of the ordinary, but each day is varied and brings its own challenges, joys and delights.