Case studies from some of our service users.
Shazia fled persecution in Afghanistan. She was living in a local asylum hotel with her husband and two children. Soon after arriving, she came to an AFRIL outreach advice season and said she thought she was pregnant. The AFRIL caseworker supported her to register with a GP and she received a positive pregnancy test. We supported her to obtain specialist maternity care because of preexisting health issues including epilepsy and mental health. Shazia’s overcrowded bedroom, up two flights of stairs, was unsuitable for her situation and her health was deteriorating. With 300 people living in the hotel and constant noise, Shazia was unable to sleep and she became unwell when she could no longer stomach the reheated plastic boxes of food given to her throughout the day.
Our caseworker made a dispersal request to the Home Office that the family be moved to self-contained accommodation. The Home Office did not respond to the request or our follow-up correspondence. The hotel was then suddenly closed. We secured alternative local accommodation but hotel staff pressured Shazia to move to an overcrowded hotel in another city by sending her belongings, and those of her children, on a bus without her consent.
Shazia lost her specialist maternity care and her children had to move school for the second time in 4 months. An AFRIL caseworker wrote a successful urgent Pre-Action Protocol (PAP) letter arguing the clear need for Shazia and her family to be in self-contained accommodation and they were finally transferred to this accommodation near her specialist maternity service. The Home Office then failed to provide to the family the government support (Section 95) payments they were entitled to (since they are prohibited from working), resulting in the children having a day with literally no food to eat.
AFRIL gave an emergency destitution payment and escalated the case for urgent asylum support. As a result, Shazia and her family now receive the S.95 payments they are entitled to and live in their own flat in London so Shazia can continue to access specialist maternity services. We supported her children to be registered at a new school, and for Shazia and her husband to enrol in ESOL classes at a local college. We look forward to welcoming the new baby into the AFRIL community.
Eliza had been undocumented in London for 20 years. Her daughter, Abeni, a refugee and long standing AFRIL client, died suddenly after being turned away from hospital, and Eliza then became
the sole carer for her six-year old granddaughter, Bisi who had been born and brought up in London. Eliza had a wonderful loving relationship with the little girl, but required support to meet
their basic needs and regularise her immigration status.
AFRIL’s Food Bank provided supermarket vouchers, fresh food and toiletries to Eliza and her granddaughter, and Rainbow Club provided crucial social support and targeted intervention for Bisi, liaising with her mainstream school. AFRIL’s caseworker referred Eliza into our Immigration Project with Southwark Law Centre for some urgent legal advice in writing. Because Eliza had no formal means of income, Social Services considered taking her grandaughter into care. It was clearly in Bisi’s best interests to stay with her grandmother. We were able to use our Immigration project and specialist legal advice to prevent Bisi from being separated from her grandmother, and supported them to obtain housing and income. AFRIL’s Caseworker supported Eliza through the painful process of engaging with an investigation that the hospital initiated regarding potential malpractice regarding her daughter’s death, and worked to obtain a Special Guardianship Order to reflect Eliza’s parental responsibility legally.
Whilst Eliza awaits final resolution of her immigration status in the UK, she and her granddaughter survive on just over £100 per week, which needs to cover their food, school uniform, transport across London and anything else they may need. Eliza is banned from working in the UK and relies on the AFRIL food bank to ensure her granddaughter has sufficient food to eat. The wrap-around support AFRIL provided to Eliza has given her the space to process her daughter's death, whilst securing a pathway to secure immigration status. The work of AFRIL’s Advice and Advocacy Service was specifically commended by the Local Authority, with their Social Services team now approaching AFRIL on other complex cases as an expert organisation for second tier advice. Bisi is doing well and continues to enjoy Rainbow Club every Saturday.
Mariam fled gender based violence, seeking sanctuary in London. She started coming to AFRIL’s Food Bank due to experiencing delays in her asylum support payments which left her destitute as she was banned from working whilst she waited for her Home Office decision. She was experiencing poor mental health and contemplating suicide as a result of the violence she had experienced in her home country. We supported her to access appropriate healthcare and she joined the food bank therapeutic art group where she found community and built trust with AFRIL staff.
When she was granted refugee status, the food bank referred Mariam to our Advice Service. She had received an eviction notice despite not yet having her BRP (Biometric Residency Permit) card - without her BRP card she could not apply for homelessness assistance or prove the right to rent, so she faced street homelessness. AFRIL challenged the BRP card delay and supported her to apply for Universal Credit and make a homelessness application. Mariam’s Universal Credit was wrongly refused on the basis of immigration status and an AFRIL caseworker supported her to request a mandatory reconsideration.
Once her benefits were in place, a caseworker supported Mariam into a training scheme which resulted in her obtaining part-time employment. Mariam began her GCSE’s at college and started applying to NHS roles so that she could re-start her previously successful career as a nurse.
She was then wrongly made homeless by the local authority on the basis that she was not deemed to be priority need. Mariam was again thrown into street homelessness. AFRIL supported Mariam into a housing programme but paying utility bills, food and transport in London on £92 a week leaves her in an obvious monthly deficit. Mariam works incredibly hard but each setback comes with a financial cost. The Local Housing Allowance rate for her to obtain private rental accommodation is far lower than rents for shared houses in the outskirts of London, and with no savings, private landlords will not allow her to view the property. The rising cost of living prevents Mariam from saving any money and the inability to obtain secure accommodation prevents her from realising her dream to work again as a nurse. Despite all of this Mariam volunteers every week at AFRIL's Rainbow Club supplementary school. Mariam recently said to us “I feel safe with AFRIL because you’ve always got my back.”
Innocence had been living in London undocumented for over 20 years. She was elderly, had very limited mobility and had previously experienced a serious injury to her back and her head. She presented at AFRIL after being homeless for 4 days due to being evicted from an informal rental arrangement. She was unwell and very hungry as she had not eaten for over 24 hours.
Whilst we supported Innocence into Care Act accommodation with the local authority, we were able to give her a destitution payment and supported her to buy ready made food as she did not have access to a kitchen. It became clear that Innocence required support for everyday activities such as dressing and eating. Within a day, we had advocated for Innocence to access both Care Act accommodation and basic subsistence payments, and the provision of carers for her daily needs. Following support from AFRIL’s casework team and solicitor, Innocence has now been granted immigration status, has secure accommodation, and is in receipt of pension credit.
There has been a huge visual change to Innocence’s appearance from when she first presented at AFRIL where she had not washed for a number of days, her clothes were ripped and she was repeatedly falling asleep, to now where she is engaging in social activities, has new, clean clothes and is being supported to cook healthy meals.