Since its inception in 1991, Refugee Action Kingston (RAK) has grown from a small voluntary project into a formal independent charity dedicated to supporting refugees and asylum seekers who find themselves in the Royal Borough of Kingston and neighbouring boroughs.
RAK aims to support its clients through the process from their initial reception in the borough through to final integration into the productive community. This can take each refugee a number of years, and the nature of the needs changes as they progress. RAK takes a holistic view, supporting the individual through this process.
RAK currently offers the following services, all of which are free to its clients:
An advisory service: This is the core RAK service and almost always the main reason why clients approach us. Our knowledge and expertise of the specific barriers our client group face allows us to pre-empt issues thereby having a strong preventative approach to our work. The interconnected nature of the issues (immigration, housing, destitution, welfare benefits, debt, and utilities) means that matters can often rapidly escalate if not responded to effectively having a significant negative impact on the daily lives of our clients.
Centre for Community Resilience and Engagement (CCRE) – Over the last 4 years the Learning Centre which used to be open on 2 days per week and was mainly focused on low level ESOL classes has grown and today also offers other training, lunch and afternoon activities on 4 days per week.
The centre is still volunteer run, but clients now engage in other learning such as International English Language Testing System (IELTS) classes, citizenship courses, employability training and literacy classes. CCRE embraces two smaller projects: Smarties – a crèche where refugee children can learn English and get used to socialising and meeting toddlers from other cultures and Our Time – RAK’s bespoke Time Bank which offers a platform for refugees and asylum seekers to exchange skills through activities such as teaching others driving theory, or teaching refugee children English and maths.
The Centre continues to regularly invite outside speakers and representatives of the services that refugees and asylum seekers are likely to use. Fitness classes, arts and crafts, gardening, “Healthy Minds in a Healthy Body” are just some of the many other workshops regularly featuring in the centre.
RAK Advocate: Access to Health and Education
Denial of healthcare is amongst the seven most common post-migration adversities. Without this service access to NHS becomes an impossible task for RAK clients. RAK Advocate supports them to register with a GP, to book an interpreter so they can communicate with a consultant at a hospital appointment, accompanies them to an urgent dental appointment if necessary. The role of this post is also to advocate for our clients when talking to health professionals who are often unaware of our clients’ entitlement to health services and likely to deny a necessary treatment.
RAK Advocate also enrols refugee children to local schools as this task is often beyond newly arrived parents due to lack of English and understanding of the UK educational system.
Provision of Information, Advice and Guidance support to individual clients who are looking to prepare themselves for employment, volunteering or further training. RAK provides the only local bespoke one-to-one career advice service which has over the last three years attracted a completely new cohort of clients through its track record of getting them into an employment of their choice. The service is opened on 3 days per week.
Counselling support for clients suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and other trauma related mental health problems. Clients are seen by a sessional counsellor with an MSc in Psychodynamic Counselling and a Certificate in Bilingual Counselling for Refugees (we now offer counselling in Farsi on Mondays) and by a volunteer counsellor with 26 years of experience working for Freedom from Torture, one of the most reputable institutions working with refugees suffering from trauma (on Wednesdays and Thursdays).
The service is available on three days per week.
A summer Play Scheme and Young People’s Project – Every summer RAK runs a 2-week programme of educational and fun activities for refugee and asylum seeking children. The programme is mainly aimed at newly arrived children in need of quick integration before the beginning of a new school year, but subject to availability, children who benefited from this popular project in the past are also welcome. Activities are planned, run and evaluated by school teachers and early years’ workers.
In addition to these primary projects RAK also runs regular clothing days, outings and visits to local and London attractions. RAK also works with a large network of other voluntary and statutory organisations in the borough with a view to co-ordinating support for its client group.
RAK is a key strategic partner to RBK representing this client group and participating actively in writing and implementation of the borough Strategy for Refugees and Migrants. RAK is registered with the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (“OISC”), holds an Advice Quality Standard (“AQS”) accreditation, renewable every two years and Kingston Quality Award in managing volunteers.