Have you ever sought advice? Because you have paid too much income tax? For clarification with an issue at work? A landlord doesn’t want to return your deposit? You have had a dispute with a neighbour? Problems with your health and you can’t find a GP to register with? Have you had complications in dealing with a government department such as the Department for Work and Pensions? Or, maybe you require support settling back into the UK if you are an expat that has lived abroad the last 10 years of your life.
Many factors affecting our wellbeing may trigger a need for advice and sooner or later most of us will experience difficulties in our lives that will require a third party to be involved to help us understand the law and our rights. This is when advice can really help and if it is early it will prevent the situation becoming a lot worse and then escalating!
Dealing with a problem effectively requires advice which is sometimes legal. Knowledgeable, skilful and competent advisers can help us address it and hopefully resolve it. Good, free and timely advice give us informed practical solutions for dealing with our everyday problems enabling us to understand a situation and the options for action.
AdviceUK is a national charity and our purpose is to improve people’s lives through working with andsupporting independent advice services. We are the biggest network of independent advice centres in the UK. AdviceUK has joined the Migrants Contribute campaign because through work with our members and advice organisations over the last 35 years, we can vouch for the great contribution migrant advisers have made to the UK and its residents from migrant and non-migrant communities. Migrant advisers have empowered and improved people’s lives and communities with advice!
We support approximately 800 organisations across the UK many of which are community based organisations serving often deprived and marginalised communities. 210 of our members are in London and 50% of these support Black Asian Minority Ethnic & Refugee communities.
Since 2006 AdviceUK has supported in London the Black Asian Minority Ethnic Refugee Advice Network (BAN). BAN is a partnership of over 40 organisations where the overriding majority of frontline staff and advisers are migrants themselves serving some of London’s poorest and most deprived communities. The aim of this partnership has been to join forces and work in collaboration to improve access to quality assured social welfare advice including: housing, homelessness, health, education, employment, welfare rights, domestic violence and immigration. BAN delivers advice in 35 community languages across all London Boroughs and helps well in excess of 12,000 clients every year. BAN has assisted Londoners that would have otherwise fallen through the cracks and accessed statutory emergency support at local level.
This is one of many great examples of collaborative working in the advice sector, where migrant advisers are using their skills, knowledge and often their own experience to contribute to the community by providing vital preventative social welfare advice to improve people’s quality of life. Migrant advisers have been contributing and still are towards community cohesion by supporting Londoners who are at risk of exclusion, isolation, destitution, exploitation, hardship and misery.
We are learning more about the complex issues dealt with by advisers who are migrants and other advisers about the problems people present and the wider issues they face in life as a result of systemic disadvantage, poverty, discrimination, poor housing as well as a range of physical and mental health issues and in some cases personal capacity issues. This has led to the development and articulation of what AdviceUK calls a whole person approach. We recognise that without working with people to address the wider issues they face, social welfare law solutions can only have limited impact, but impact it does have.
Migrant led advice organisations- including BAN members- are facing a perfect storm of increase demand for their services in the middle of the biggest reform to the welfare system. This is happening at a time of diminishing resources and funds to maintain some of these vital services. However the resilience of the advice sector and migrant advisers is exemplary and it should be inspiring to others in the sector.
… “The partnership is meeting regularly, sharing good practice , identifying strategies to address common issues of service delivery and sharing resources… …Despite cuts BAN members have not shut their doors or closed down and while some services may have had to be cut back BAN continues to serve its communities”….
BAN Newsletter Edition 1
Despite the cuts to services we have resilient migrants contributing by empowering and improving people’s lives with advice toiling away to understand complex legislative changes, skilling themselves up to give more to their communities, to London and to the UK as a whole. They are crucial to empowering people to do the best for themselves, for the communities that they live in and more generally.
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For more information about BAN