Law Centre (NI) has welcomed the decision by the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister to implement a Crisis Fund for destitute asylum seekers and migrants, launched today, 4 February at the office of the Northern Ireland Community of Refugees and Asylum Seekers. The Law Centre was also pleased that OFMDFM has appointed the Red Cross to deliver the programme.
The Law Centre had been calling for an OFMDFM crisis fund since 2008, and a pilot project run by the Community Foundation and Red Cross in 2011-12 had been proven to make a real difference to people living in acute poverty. The idea originally came from the experiences of voluntary organisations in dealing with migrant individuals and families who were either struggling to access or not entitled to public services.
Glenn Jordan, Director at Law Centre (NI), said:
"This is a forward-thinking move by OFMDFM and really good news for the Law Centre and our member advice agencies. The Law Centre has had to signpost migrant and refugee families to local charities so they could feed their children while we were helping them with delays in accessing a complex benefit system.
We also have first-hand experience of people left destitute when their claim for asylum was refused and they could not be sent back to their own country. The Law Centre has been advocating for this Fund, which provides help at crucial times of need in people’s lives, and we are delighted with this decision.”
The crisis fund pilot project had distributed £43,000 between 1,200 people between August 2011 and March 2012. An independent evaluation of the pilot project had demonstrated that providing small sums at key moments of transition, for example after losing work, reduced working hours or family breakdown, could provide a significant bridge to allow people to get back on their feet.
NOTES FOR EDITORS
- The Law Centre’s initial paper calling for a crisis fund is here: http://www.lawcentreni.org/policy/policy-briefings/201.html
- OFMDFM first expressed an interest in expanding the fund last February: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-26175391 and the fund was also mentioned in a Northern Ireland Assembly debate to mark Refugee Week: http://www.niassembly.gov.uk/assembly-business/official-report/reports-13-14/16-june-2014/#10
- Law Centre (NI) promotes social justice and provides specialist legal support to over 400 advice giving organisations in Northern Ireland. The Law Centre’s areas of work are social security, employment, immigration, mental health and community care. Services include an advice line, casework and representation on referral, training, publications and policy work.