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UPDATE 5th October


Videos co-produced by the Regional Refugee Forum North East, its Members and the Local Maternity Systems in the North East in:

  1. Albanian
  2. Amharic
  3. Arabic
  4. Farsi
  5. French
  6. Swahili
  7. Tamil
  8. Urdu

Full details

Q&A script and translations for text cards

UPDATE 17th June

Its Refugee Week from 15 to 21 June – the UK-wide festival celebrating the contributions, creativity and resilience of refugees. The theme for this year is ‘Imagine’.  Due to COVID-19 restrictions the festival will be a bit different this year. You can see all the events listed at   See also the poster Migrant Help have produced about their ‘Dreams’ activity.

Asylum support rates: call for further urgent action. On Monday 8 June, the Immigration Minister announced that from 15 June asylum support rates will be increased by 5%, from £37.75 a week to £39.60. This amounts to an increase of £1.85 a week, or 26p a day. This meagre increase leaves asylum support rates wholly inadequate to cover the needs of people seeking asylum in normal times, let alone during this current pandemic.  The Regional Refugee Forum was one of more than 220 organisations from across the UK to sign a letter to the Home Secretary to express their deep disappointment with her decision, and to call for further action to increase asylum support rates. See the campaign at See the letter to the Home Secretary here.

Government launches brand new resource for job seekers. Jobcentre Plus has launched a new website to help people looking for work. Jobhelp is designed to help jobseekers across the UK springboard their search. Go to Packed with tips and guidance, it highlights latest vacancies and helps job seekers recognise the value they can bring to new roles, particularly in industries that are keeping the country going. The site will highlight recruitment drives in expanding sectors like logistics, care, food retail and agriculture, making it a really good place to start for anyone looking for the next step.

Just Fair campaign: Are you, or someone you know, unable to access the internet as much as you would like? Have Coronavirus measures made it difficult for you to access information or education online? Maybe you found yourself in this situation long before Coronavirus was an issue…Just Fair are building a campaign to promote digital inclusion in the North East. They would like to collect stories from across the North East to put real experience at the heart of this campaign. They want to make the North East a place where digital inclusion is a right enjoyed by all, where people have the skills, technology and internet to access goods, services and information, in order to close the digital divide.  You are invited to send a short video (self-filmed or filmed outside at a social safe distance of 2-3m) or a few sentences to tell them: What stops you from being able to access the internet/online information? What would help you to feel more digitally included? Why digital inclusion is important to you?   Please send your story to If you know someone who might like to share their story but doesn’t have access to the internet, you can share it for them (with their permission). Some videos might be included in a short campaign video, so please indicate if you do not want your video/story to be publicised.

Lift the Ban campaign update:  Holly Lynch MP (Shadow Immigration Minister) tabled a right to work amendment in the Immigration Bill. The first discussion on this amendment took place this week in the House of Commons, with Holly Lynch (Lab), Taiwo Owatemi (Lab), Stuart McDonald (SNP) and Kate Green (Lab) all speaking in support. Refugee Action tweeted a key clip (here) with Holly and Taiwo laying out the arguments in favour of lifting the ban, and Taiwo powerfully ending her intervention on “Let’s just do the right thing”.

Entry-clearance visas extended from 30 to 90 days: The British Red Cross (BRC) has received further information from the Home Office regarding entry clearance visas, including for those coming to the UK for refugee family reunion. Reissued 30-day vignettes will be valid for up to three months and this will also apply to new vignettes now issued. The message the BRC received from the Home Office is copied below:

  • We will replace 30-day vignettes that have lapsed or about to expire with vignettes which are valid for travel for up to three months and will maintain this policy until the end of the year.
  • Where expired vignettes need to be reissued, we will reissue BRPs to reflect the updated leave start and end dates.
  • We will issue entry clearance vignettes that are valid for up to three months to all new applications and planned applications for leave of over six months when VACs start to reopen until the end of the year.
  • We will keep this policy under review.

The British Red Cross and others have asked for entry clearance visas to be issued for longer than 30 days in refugee family reunion cases, as the short-time frame creates barriers to families being able to travel and increases the costs of booking flights at the last minute.

Update from Cleveland Police: Monday 22nd June, Cleveland Police will reopen the public enquiry offices, and the Central Property Store. See their  Community Messaging update for more information

My Hero is You  “My Hero is You” is a story book that aims to help children understand and come to terms with COVID-19 has been produced by a collaboration of more than 50 organisations working in the humanitarian sector, including the World Health Organization, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and Save the Children. With the help of a fantasy creature, Ario, “My Hero is You, How kids can fight COVID-19!” explains how children can protect themselves, their families and friends from coronavirus and how to manage difficult emotions when confronted with a new and rapidly changing reality. Get a free download in the link (Available in 50 languages):

UPDATE 19th May

Guidance for celebrating Eid al-Fitr during Coronavirus : This week the Muslim Council of Great Britain published its guidance about ‘Celebrating Eid al-Fitr during the Coronavirus’ at  ‘Muslims are being encouraged to celebrate Eid in the same way as Ramadan: from home, and virtually with friends and family. The special prayers for the day of Eid – usually prayed in mosques or in parks – may be prayed within households, with gifts exchanged by post, and the celebration to be shared virtually’.

The MCB has also produced this Eid al-Fitr poster

View EID guidance poster

: The North East Migration Partnership has produced a document setting out where people who are self-employed can receive information, support and assistance, including details of organisations in the north east who may be able to help

 Updates about Benefits from the DWP

  • Benefits information available via WhatsApp: People can now access the most up-to-date benefits and support information via their smart phones, using WhatsApp. The service, which can be accessed by sending ‘Hi’ in a WhatsApp message to 07860 064 422, has been launched to help combat the spread of incorrect information and to make the correct information easily accessible. The GOV.UK service currently has more than 312,000 unique users, and has sent more than 2.6 million messages since its launch on 25 March 2020. DWP is one of the first government departments to provide information via the service which includes information on benefits support available, how to check if you are eligible and how to apply.
  • Information on furlough: We’ve updated our Employment and Benefits Support site with information about furlough. See The page offers straightforward information about what furlough is, eligibility, how furlough interacts with benefits and guidance and signposting on taking alternative work while furloughed.
  • Job Retention Scheme update: The Coronavirus Job Retention scheme will be extended for four months until the end of October. After July, greater flexibility will be introduced to the scheme, allowing employers to move out of it in a measured way that protects people’s incomes and helps support furloughed employees as they return to work. This will run for three months from August through to the end of October. During this period, employers currently using the scheme will have more flexibility to bring their furloughed employees back to work part time. Further information can be found at
  • Working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19) The government, in consultation with industry, has produced guidance to help ensure workplaces are as safe as possible. There are 8 guides that cover a range of different types of work. See the guide at Many businesses operate more than one type of workplace, such as an office, factory and fleet of vehicles. You may need to use more than one of these guides as you think through what you need to do to keep people safe.

UPDATE 13th May

Home Office Asylum Accommodation and Support: Factsheet for the Voluntary and Community Sector issued 29th April outlining key changes that have been made to assist those seeking asylum in accessing the services they need during this time.

Home Office update on how Migrant Help will respond to calls about domestic violence

Expansion of access to coronavirus testing.

  • Anyone in England with symptoms of coronavirus who has to leave home to go to work, and all symptomatic members of the public aged 65 and over, will now be able to get tested. This will mean people who cannot work from home and those aged 65 and over can know for sure whether they have coronavirus and need to continue isolating. Members of their households with symptoms – a new continuous cough or high temperature – will also be eligible for testing. Anyone eligible can book a test using an online portal. The government also announced that NHS staff, care home staff and care home residents will be eligible for testing whether or not they have symptoms Find out more on getting tested for Coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • COVID-19 testing and treatment is free of charge, irrespective of immigration status. See No charges apply to testing for COVID-19, even if the result is negative, or to any treatment provided for COVID-19 if the result is positive or up to the point that it is negatively diagnosed. The same is true of most other infectious diseases.NHS trusts have been advised that no immigration checks are required for overseas visitors that are known to be only undergoing testing or treatment for COVID-19.

People using public transport in Tyne & Wear (NEXUS services) are asked to follow the new Government guidance to wear a face covering if they need to use public transport. Nexus has issued new guidance for passengers including advice on face covering, plus signs at stations and messaging to help people distance while using stations and vehicles. People should only make essential journeys by public transport if they have no choice. Nexus is issuing protective visors for its frontline employees to wear when doing their duties on Metro, the Shields Ferry and bus stations. More information at

Employment support for those whose job has been affected

  • The National Careers Service provides free and impartial careers information, advice and guidance. During COVID-19, they are able to support workers currently furloughed and those looking for work in a range of ways: identifying skills and strengths, exploring career options, CV advice and guidance, interview hints and tips, exploring training and volunteering opportunities. To book a free and impartial appointment with a professional Careers Adviser call 0800 100 900. Lines are open 7 days a week from 8am – 10pm. See and their flyer
  • Skills Toolkit: The Department for Education has launched The Skills Toolkit, which allows adults to access free, high quality online courses whilst at home. This will enable them to build new skills and help boost growth and productivity. The Skills Toolkit is available to everyone and consists of digital and numeracy courses, ranging from basic to more advanced levels. These are skills that are sought after for many types of jobs, with 82% of job vacancies requiring digital skills. See and their flyer

Support for the Self- Employed during Covid-19.

  • The DWP gives details of the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme. HMRC are contacting customers who may be eligible for the new Self-Employment Income Support Scheme which allows customers to claim a taxable grant worth 80% of their average trading profits up to a maximum of £7,500, equivalent to three months’ profits. People can check if HMRC think they are eligible for the scheme by using the new online checker. The checker also gives the date from which they can make a claim.
  • Self-employment and Universal Credit: self-employed should inform the DWP of any income they have received so their Universal Credit payment can be processed. This includes reporting if no income has been received in any given month. People who apply will be prompted to report their income and expenses in their online account as they get close to their payment date.

Other news and resources during Covid-19

UPDATE 20th April

New Home Office letter confirms during Covid-19 restrictions no one will be asked to leave their dispersal accommodation or have their support terminated after receiving a decision

  • For those receiving a positive decision: Click here to see a copy of the Home Office letter which is, since 27th March, being sent to individuals granted refugee status. The letter advises those with a positive decision to make an application for welfare benefits and confirms people will be able to remain in their dispersal accommodation beyond the usual 28-day move on period. They will continue to receive payments on their Aspens cards. Support will continue until they notify the HO that their benefits payments have started (any overpayments will need to be refunded by the refugee).
  • For those receiving a negative decision they should apply to the HO for reinstatement of S95 support. This can be done by the SU, Mears, a supporting agency or legal representative notifying Migrant Help. This will need to be done on an individual basis.
  • A reminder that cases issued with cessation of support before the HO letter of 27th March need to apply for reinstatement of support, either directly to Migrant Help or via the housing provider.

Migrant Help Updates

Update on Universal Credit from the DWP (Touchbase special 17th April)

  • Since 16 March, we have had more than 1.4 million new claims. This level of new claims would present a challenge in ‘normal’ times, but we’ve also had to deal with the knock on effect coronavirus has had on our staffing levels, with around a fifth of our workforce isolating. We responded swiftly to the situation though by increasing resource and redeploying around 10,000 staff from other areas of the Department and expanding remote IT facilities so claims can be processed from home.
  • The first claims received relating to the pandemic were on 16 March. From 15 April, these first new claimants were able to see how much they would receive, to be paid to them on 22 April. As people are new to Universal Credit and face different circumstances, we encourage you to signpost them to the Understanding Universal Credit website at for further information and guidance.
  • When making a claim, people should do this online where possible. They’ll be asked to input basic information about their personal circumstances and then we will verify their identity. We have switched to a ‘don’t call us, we’ll call you’ system now so people do not need to try to contact us after they have completed their online claim. We have publicised this message and would be grateful for your continued support in sharing this via your own channels.

Coronavirus business support

Translated Guidance on Coronavirus Covid-19

  1. Doctors of the World have produced Coronavirus (COVID-19) advice in 43 languages based on latest NHS guidelines. Go to . The complete list: English, Albanian, Amharic, Arabic, Armenian, Bengali, Bulgarian, Czech, Dari, Estonian, Farsi, French, German. Greek, Gujarati, Hausa, Hindi, Hungarian, Italian, Kiswahili, Krio, Kurdish Sorani, Lithuanian, Oromo, Malayalam, Pashto, Polish, Portuguese, Punjabi, Romanian, Russian, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Sindhi, Slovak, Spanish, Somali, Tamil, Tigrinya, Turkish, Urdu, Vietnamese, Wolof, Yiddish. Videos of the information can be viewed at
  2. Stay at home guidance for households with possible coronavirus (COVID-19) infection. From Public Health England. In English, Arabic, Bengali, Chinese Cantonese, Chinese Mandarin, French, Gujarati, Polish, Portuguese, Punjabi, Urdu
  3. Guidance on shielding and protecting people defined on medical grounds as extremely vulnerable from COVID-19. From Public Health England. In English, Arabic, Bengali, Chinese Cantonese, Chinese Mandarin, French, Gujarati, Polish, Portuguese, Punjabi, Urdu
  4. Guidance on social distancing for everyone in the UK, including children, and protecting older people and vulnerable people. From Public Health England. In English, Arabic, Bengali, Chinese Cantonese, Chinese Mandarin, French, Gujarati, Polish, Portuguese, Punjabi, Urdu
  5. Supplementary guidance on Covid-19 by Syrian Research Group.  Click here for guidance on Covid-19 by Syrian Research Group using culturally appropriate terms and issues for Syrian families. It also may be useful for other Muslim communities. An English version is at the bottom of the document.
  6. Newcastle City Council has produced some 3 minute videos giving same language information and guidance on Covid 19 made by with representatives from the Bengali, Hindi, Urdu, Romanian and Roma speaking communities in Newcastle. See
  7. Leeds City Council have produced some audio and video materials in 11 different languages on spotting the signs of C-19, handwashing advice, and advice for households with possible coronavirus – Polish, Romanian, Urdu, Arabic, Czech, Punjabi, Tigrinya, Farsi, Slovak, Kurdish Sorani and Bengali. Go to

 Emergency Contact Cards – if you fall ill with Covid 19

  • The British Red Cross have produced an Emergency Contact Card to help prevent the loss of contact between family members and maintain family links during the Covid-19 emergency. Go to Emergency Contact Card: or click here 

RAS services still accessible in the North East

  • Click here for version updated at 16/04/20 showing RAS support still available across the region during Covid 19 restrictions.

Red Cross North East Update

  • Our destitution support will increase from £10 to £30 per week during the duration of this crisis. This is normally short term support of up to 12 weeks depending on need.  This could come in the form of cash and /or food vouchers and could include an element towards mobile top-ups. A payment card system will be introduced in the coming weeks, which will allow instant remote top-ups.
  • RX Refugee support service can organise short term emergency accommodation to those with NRPF, while we and partners can secure a longer-term solution through Local authorities, charities etc.
  • RX Crisis response is working with the local food banks across the NE and is now able to deliver food boxes to vulnerable people, who cannot access food supplies by other means.
  • RX ambulance support can offer support to those who need extra help to go to GP appointments, or collect prescriptions.
  • RX Independent Living are assisting the discharge team at St James cook hospital in Middlesbrough.  Helping people to get home/get shopping. IL also help those who are isolated and alone living in Newcastle, help with shopping.
  • RX International Family Tracing. Urgent cases/ missing relatives due to Corona
  • RX Family reunion Travel Assistance – still suspended.
  • Existing office numbers are diverted to answer machines or people’s mobiles so you may not get through to someone straight away. As all caseworkers are working remotely,  could you please email with referrals and queries for any of the above.  This mailbox is monitored 9-5am, Monday to Friday and someone will get back to you. If it is urgent/ or urgent and out of hours, please call Hilary on 07739 862882

Cleveland Police Community Update

  • Click here for their community messaging 20th April including positive news of large numbers of people recovering from Covid 19 after being admitted to hospitals in the region.
  • Click here for their community messaging 17th April

Advice for volunteers on Safeguarding Adults and Children

  • Many people have volunteered to help during Covid 19 restrictions. This 3 minute video explains the actions volunteers can take to help safeguard vulnerable adults and children. Made by Waltham Forrest council, it is general to all volunteers. See


  • As Ramadan will start in just over a week, there has been a call for adults to join a “virtual Iftar” through and for Muslims to use Facebook and Zoom to enjoy communal prayers.

Employment Opportunities for Refugees with ChatterBox

  • Chatterbox connects refugees with job opportunities, including offering language services to corporate clients.  Current clients include companies such as BNP Paribas, McKinsey and the Red Cross.
    Chatterbox want to reach out to Refugee Communities in the North East because they are opening new positions for native speakers of French (current shortage), Arabic and Spanish.  They are particularly interested in recruiting those Refugees who were professionals and business people as well as entrepreneurs in their own countries. Applicants must have the right to stay. It is understood that a DBS check is not a necessary requirement. Chatterbox offer free online training and resources to those eligible.  Sessions are paid on an hourly basis at a living wage to suit the flexibility of the applicant. Chatterbox is often the first stepping stone towards further employment. Applicants will be expected to have access to a broadband connection and be comfortable communicating in front of a camera as well as a good standard of English. If you know of any Refugees that would be interested/suitable for this please share the link below which gives further details as well as the application form.
  • More information at

UPDATE 9th April

Update from Mears (AASC contract): click here to read how Mears staff are communicating with and providing support to service users in asylum accommodation across the region, including those who are self-isolating.  Information includes: Mears Housing Managers will be contacting every service user on a weekly basis (interpreters provided where required) to check on their well-being, address any concerns; raise any emergency repairs and to provide guidance on COVID-19 and the current lockdown. If any of service users do not have access to a mobile phone, Mears will provide one to them ensuring they can remain in contact with Mears, the Home Office and the NHS. Any service user who is currently self-isolating as they are symptomatic will be contacted on a daily basis to check on their well-being and to ensure their health has not deteriorated, Housing Managers will advise on contact with NHS for additional guidance. Mears will be providing food and essential item provisions to any service users who are self-isolating on a weekly basis, taking all dietary requirement into account.  Staff will be following NHS guidance when delivering these provisions, ensuring the safety of their staff and service users.  Read more in the Mears update.

Confirmation from the Home Office about changes to asylum support processes: During the period of contingency arrangements for COVID-19, Home Office Asylum Support have made the temporary changes as below (NB the below update is from the Home Office in their own words):

  • “Refused Asylum Seekers: Anyone on Section 95 support who would ordinarily no longer be eligible to receive it because their asylum claim and any appeal are finally rejected, will be transferred onto S4 support.  The Home Office should issue them with an appropriate letter informing them of this.
  • Refugees Those on Section 95 or Section 4 who have received, or will in future receive, a positive immigration decision, will not now receive a letter asking them to leave their accommodation.  The Home Office are developing an alternative letter that advises them that they can still apply for DWP benefits and of the assistance available to make the application. DWP has confirmed that applications can still be made and that they will be processed without the need for an interview and that advance payments are available. The letter will therefore advise them that their Home Office support payments will not continue after the normal 28 days period. However, there may be circumstances where it will be appropriate to reinstate payments, for example where an application for DWP has been made but there have been delays in processing payments. The Home Office will consider these on a case by case basis.
  • Other discontinuations of S95/98/S4 support The announcement of 27 March means that the only likely discontinuations of S4 or 95 support for the next 3 months are where the person is found to be no longer destitute or possibly in some other cases where there has been a serious breach of the relevant regulations.
  • Refusals of applications for S95 support on grounds of non-destitution If the person is in Initial Accommodation at the time of the decision, they will be able to remain there pending any appeal.
  • Reinstatements: Some supported persons will have still been in Home Office accommodation at the time they received a “notice to quit” the accommodation. If they wish to have their support reinstated and have not already been contacted, they need to contact Migrant Help. Where the accommodation provider identifies the need for the reinstatement they can make the application to the Home Office (which is via Helen Mascurine
  • Temporary casework measures:In light of NHS England guidance providers will not move people into new accommodation unless the person is street homeless, there are other vulnerability factors or there is a court order requiring us to provide accommodation. To help manage this position, asylum seekers who have applied for Section 95 support in the form of accommodation and subsistence may in some circumstances be offered temporary subsistence payments to cover their essential living needs in the accommodation they are occupying.
  • Temporary measures relating to the consideration of applications for support The Home Office will not generally expect Migrant Help to have had sight of original supporting documents provided with applications. Migrant Help will be able to complete information to indicate they have seen copy documents. As new birth certificates are not currently being issued, the Home Office will not expect applicants for maternity payments to produce them. A full birth certificate may be required at a later date once we return to normal arrangements.”

If you have found that the in practice these new arrangements are not being adhered to please do get in contact with your local Asylum Matters Campaign Manager. To keep up to date with regular changes to the asylum system due to COVID-19, keep an eye on Refugee Council and Right to Remain webpages.

Reporting conditions temporarily paused: The GOV.UK website has now been updated to provide clear confirmation that reporting conditions are temporarily paused: They have also provided email addresses for all the reporting centres which can be contacted if there are any issues. For the North East the contact email is

New guidance for claiming Child benefit during Covid 19. The Government has issued new guidance this week. People should make the claim by post or telephone even if you have been unable to register the birth due to reduced registrar services, please see full information at

Free School Meals: (additional information to update given on this webpage on 8th April) The Covid 19 scheme enables eligible children to have school meals delivered and collected from school or access to £15 weekly vouchers per eligible child. Free school meal guidance is outlined at

Right to Remain have launched their asylum navigation board. This online tool helps people understand the UK asylum process, raises awareness of common problems people face as they navigate the process, and shares survival strategies. See

Coping during the Coronavirus pandemic

Their Parents Helpline is also running as normal and can be contacted 0808 802 5544 (Monday to Friday 9.30am – 4pm).

Cleveland Police: click here for their Covid 19 Community Messaging 8th April including guidance about use of allotments during this period, and the link to an online survey the NHS have created asking people to record their symptoms if they think they have / had coronavirus.

UPDATE 8th April

RAS services and support across the region: click here for version updated on 7th April

A reminder of how to report issues to AASC and AIRE – click here for all the phone numbers and email pathways for raising different issues, compiled by NEMP

Support for destitute refused asylum seekers: the Asylum Support Tribunal ruled that a destitute asylum seeker should be provided with asylum support, which could set a precedent for others. The High Court this week has overruled a refusal of section 4 asylum support, ordering the Home Secretary to give a destitute refused asylum seeker accommodation and subsistence support to self-isolate during the coronavirus pandemic. Though this victory applies only to the individual client in the case, it gives some indication of the direction the courts are taking during the pandemic. Those with similar cases are invited to contact

Free School Meals extended to families on Section 4 support and others. The Department of Education has confirmed that free school meal provision will be extended to families:

  • Reliant on Section 4 support
  • Granted leave to remain as ‘Zambrano carers’
  • Granted leave to remain under Article 8 ECHR
  • Supported under Section 17 Children Act 1989 and who have ‘no recourse to public funds’.

Further information will be shared when available.

Cleveland Police: click here for their latest coronavirus community messaging. It includes information for people who will struggle to pay their council tax, and contact details for the Covid-19 Support teams in Stockton, Middlesbrough, Hartlepool and Redcar

 Online learning resources

  • For job seekers in Newcastle (refugees receiving benefits): click here for arrange of free, flexible 2 to 4 week online courses for employability and skills from People Plus, using games and quizzies, video and other resources
  • ESOL (English language learning) : NEMP have produced an updated List of IT resources for Students Learning English APRIL 2020 click here to open. Includes language learning mobile apps, you tube videos, and online courses

UPDATE 3rd April

Click here for latest information on local and regional support services available for Asylum Seekers from Drop-ins, community groups and other RAS specific support

Latest NHS guidelines translated into 36 languages by Doctors of the World at:

UK Government has translated some of its guidance into 11 languages

 Asylum Matters has created a new facebook page for asylum seekers in the North East to spread information and help signpost them to help.

Support in Local Authority areas

Police messaging

More ESOL links

  • Amazon has cancelled the subscription of books and audio stories for children and students – including titles in six different languages whilst the lockdown is in progress. Free to stream on laptops, phones or tables using this link:
  • BBC Bitesize – A well-known website that has always been free to use and covers many different topics. From Monday 20th April, there will be daily online lessons for all ages. Link:
  • Maths resources:  Free across all levels A Level to Primary . Also launching Home School Support after Easter. Again covers all levels including Key Stage 1 to GCSE. This is a very established website that students with little English could navigate around. The advantage of this is if you have a basic laptop, the games might be easily accessible without Adobe etc.

UPDATE 1st April

Updates about Home Office Asylum Procedures

  • Home Office update: new arrivals in initial accommodation (IA) and dispersal accommodation (DA). New arrivals into the UK are being screened for Coronovirus and if any symptoms are present that AS is being moved to Brent Cross. All new arrivals are given coronavirus information in their own language, including on self-isolating and prevention.  The aim is to move the most vulnerable arrivals, including those over 70, into self-contained accommodation. Movement from IA to DA is being limited where possible to comply with Public Health England advice. Only cases with medical needs are being moved where needed.  Anyone knowing of an asylum seeker in DA who is vulnerable (has existing health conditions that put them at higher risk) or over 70 should contact AIRE so that action can be taken, such as sourcing self-contained accommodation and/or arranging food parcels. The need to self-isolate is likely to see an increase in the use of self-contained accommodation, such as in hostels and HMOs, during the crisis, including in areas not yet used for dispersal. Relocation requests from existing customers are unlikely to be agreed to during this time.
  • Home Office update on Move on: no discontinuation of accommodation for 3 months. For the next 3 months the Home Office will not expect people receiving either a positive or a negative decision on their asylum case to move out of their home office accommodation. This will be reviewed before the end of June. This action has been taken to protect customers and to avoid putting pressure on Local Authority provision during this time. It is not however compulsory to stay, if the person wishes to move in with family for example.
  • The Home Office is currently considering a range of other procedures that may need to be amended in this context.
  • New ASAP guidance on asylum support and Covid 19/Coronovirus. ASAP (The Asylum Support Appeals Project) have produced a new factsheet setting out changes in eligibility for asylum support as a result of Covid-19, in particular eligibility for Section 4 for people who do not have fresh claims.
  • Asylum Appeals and Judicial Review Hearings – no face-to-face hearings. From 25th March, no face-to-face appeal hearings will be listed at the First-tier Tribunal. Until at least 30th April, judges will conduct Case Management Review (CMR) Hearings by telephone to decide if the case can be decided on the papers (without a hearing). If a full hearing needs to go ahead, this will be done by video. The Upper Tribunal have cancelled almost all listed hearings including Judicial Reviews. Further information on the process can be found on the ILPA website at

Government launches a GOV.UK Coronovirus Information Service on WhatsApp

The service will provide information on topics such as coronavirus prevention and symptoms, the latest number of cases in the UK, advice on staying at home, travel advice and myth busting. The service will also allow the government to send messages to all opted-in users if required. To use the free GOV.UK Coronavirus Information Service on WhatsApp, simply add 07860 064422 in your phone contacts and then message the word ‘hi’ in a WhatsApp message to get started. A set of menu options is then presented which the user can choose from and then be sent relevant guidance from GOV.UK pages as well as links to GOV.UK for further information.

Employment and Business

  • ACAS has produced Coronavirus (COVID-19): advice for employers and employees at, covering rights when working from home, if an employee does not feel safe at work, self-isolation and sick pay, temporary workplace closure, using holiday allowance, needing time off work to care for another, and more.
  • If you are an employer, guidance on how to Claim for your employee’s wages through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
  • HMRC – change of contact number: HMRC have changed their helpline number to ensure those needing help and support can keep reaching their advisers.  As people across the UK are staying at home, HMRC noticed some strain on their network provider. The new helpline number is 0800 024 1222 and is open from 8am to 4pm Monday to Friday. Calls to the old helpline number will be redirected, but please refer customers to the new helpline number where possible.

If you are renting your accommodation

The Government has announced measures to protect renters. No renter in either social or private accommodation will be forced out of their home. No landlord will be able to start eviction proceedings for at least a 3 month period. And the court service has suspended all ongoing housing possession action, initially for 90 days. More information at

Utility Bills

Disconnections is being completely suspended as one of the new immediate measures that the Government has introduced with the energy industry, to protect the energy supply for those most in need during the coronavirus crisis. This includes measures to help customers with pre-payment meters who may not be able to add credit, or to energy customers in distress. You should contact your energy supplier if you are facing difficulties in payment.

The North East Migration Partnership has created a Coronovirus information page for anyone working with RAS

More free ESOL resources

VONNE Funding Directory now accessible to all

To support the VCSE sector under these exceptional circumstances, VONNE have temporarily made their online Funding Directory accessible to all. The resource contains the details of more than 100 charitable trusts and foundations that are actively funding charities and community groups in the North East region. The directory is regularly reviewed and updated, and is searchable by area of work, geography, type of funding and grant amount.

Information which could help parents and children deal with the coronavirus situation. This document is 11 pages of suggested links to online resources which could help parents support their children through the crisis. See pdf at:

What’s happening in Middlesbrough

Update from Cleveland Police

Employment support continues for Thirteen Group customers in Tees Valley

Thirteen’s Employability Service are still offering support to customers across the Tees Valley. Their team are available over the phone and digitally, offering access to various key worker positions and distance learning opportunities. See  for the vacancies they are currently working with, through various businesses and agencies and distance learning opportunities. Contact T: 01642 947840 E:


Financial support for the self-employed during coronavirus outbreak. Claim a grant through the coronavirus (COVID-19) Self-employment Income Support Scheme.  Use this scheme if you’re self-employed or a member of a partnership and have lost income due to coronavirus. This scheme will allow you to claim a taxable grant worth 80% of your trading profits up to a maximum of £2,500 per month for the next 3 months. This may be extended if needed. You cannot apply for this scheme yet. HMRC will contact you if you are eligible for the scheme and invite you to apply online. Individuals do not need to contact HMRC now and doing so will only delay the urgent work being undertaken to introduce the scheme. You will access this scheme only through GOV.UK. If someone texts, calls or emails claiming to be from HMRC, saying that you can claim financial help or are owed a tax refund, and asks you to click on a link or to give information such as your name, credit card or bank details, it is a scam. Full information at

Home Office – new Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre

  • If you’re in the UK and your leave expires between 24 January 2020 and 31 May 2020, your visa will be extended to 31 May 2020 if you cannot leave the UK because of travel restrictions or self-isolation related to coronavirus (COVID-19). You must contact the Coronavirus Immigration Team (CIT) to update your records if your visa is expiring. Full information at . Contact the Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre on Email: or Telephone: 0800 678 1767 Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm. Your email must be in English and you will receive a reply within 5 working days. (If your query doesn’t relate to immigration provisions associated with coronavirus (COVID-19) please contact the general immigration helpline
  • If you’re applying to stay in the UK long-term, during these unique coronavirus circumstances you’ll be able to apply from the UK to switch to a long-term UK visa until 31 May. This includes applications where you would usually need to apply for a visa from your home country. You’ll need to meet the same visa requirements and pay the UK application fee. This includes those whose leave has already been automatically extended to 31 March 2020. You can apply online. The terms of your leave will remain the same until your application is decided.

Report unfair business behaviour during the Coronovirus outbreak – such as shops raising prices unreasonably. The CMA (Competition and Markets Authority) is concerned about businesses acting unfairly during the Coronavirus outbreak. They want to ensure that traders do not exploit the current situation to take advantage of people. They are asking the public to use this form to report a business you think is acting unfairly during the Coronavirus / COVID-19 outbreak. They can’t respond to individual reports directly but they are monitoring all the information provided closely and will take action where appropriate. They say “We will do whatever we can to act against rip-offs and misleading claims, using any or all of our tools; and where we can’t act, we’ll advise government on further steps they could take, if necessary.”

Gas and electricity suppliers have agreed an emergency package of measures to ensure vulnerable households don’t get cut off amid the coronavirus outbreak. More information is available More than four million people who are on prepayment meters will receive help if they cannot get out to top up. This may include credit being sent in the post or funds automatically added to their meter. Those struggling to pay bills will receive support and no credit meter disconnections will take place. Debt repayments and bill payments could be reassessed, paused or reduced where needed, if energy customers are finding it difficult. Firms could also send somebody out on a customer’s behalf to top up a prepayment meter.

News from Local Authority areas

Newcastle: Food banks and emergency food. Some food banks and free meal providers have suspended their service and others have changed their arrangements. Full information about Free meals and cheap food in Newcastle at InformationNOW

Message from Cleveland Police: new arrangements to Police front desks. To keep people safe and to continue to provide a service to communities, the four accessible Cleveland Police stations will be closed until 14th April 2020 as per Government guidelines. These stations are Middlesbrough, Stockton, Kirkleatham (Redcar and Cleveland) and Hartlepool. If it is urgent and absolutely necessary, people can speak to staff using the intercom system at each main entrance and there will be an option for the enquiry office, however Police advise that the measures introduced by the Government are followed on social distancing and essential trips. Alternatively, you can call the Enquiry Office between 8am and 8pm on 01642 302959. If you have any reason in place why you need to attend a station (specific registration requirements, bail signing etc.) please call this number for advice. You can report or make enquiries online via


Claiming benefits and sick pay: the DWP has posted more guidance for those who cannot work due to coronavirus, such as for people in the gig economy and/or zero hours contract see and see 

DWP National Insurance number interviews. National Insurance Number interviews are not currently taking place for 3 months effective from 17/03/2020.  DWP are making efforts to contact all customers to advise them not to attend their offices. They also confirm that individuals do not need a National Insurance Number to apply for benefits or a job. Individuals can start work without a National Insurance Number as long as they have the right to work in the UK and employers have information to allow them to do this.

The Home Office is looking at the impact of the Coronovirus situation on Move on.  They say “Where people are in the 28 day grace period and are unable to access move on services owing either to them self-isolating, or because of a reduction in local authority services to access housing for example, then they should make an application for an extension of support via Migrant Help which will be considered on a case by case basis pending further guidance on a formal position.  This can be done via the AIRE helpline, or if they are urgen,t full details, name, address, DOB and preferably NASS number (the latter really speeds up the checks) to be provided to”

Home Office update on Voluntary Returns. The returns service is currently receiving a high level of interest. However, due to the coronavirus situation, they have had to cease offering assisted returns at this time. They will continue to register interest from people who wish to return, and provide what support they can, including with flights and travel documents. Full info in their letter click here.

Refugee Resettlement Update from NEMP (Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme). In light of the Prime Minister’s announcement on 23 March and the ongoing global situation, resettlement arrivals will be further postponed until 20th April. We continue to keep the situation under review and will resume arrivals as soon as we are able to.

Anyone who at a higher risk of Coronovirus because of existing heath conditions can register for additional support at For example, you’ll be able to ask for help getting deliveries of essential supplies like food. You can register for yourself, or for someone else.  You’ll be asked for your NHS number (but you can still register if you do not have it). The full list of health conditions considered to increase vulnerability to Coronovirus is at  People in these key groups will also be contacted by letter by the NHS by Sunday 29th March. If you think you fall into one of the categories of extremely vulnerable people listed above and you have not received a letter by 29 March or been contacted by your GP, you should discuss your concerns with your GP or hospital clinician. (Of course this support does not reduce the obligations of contractual requirements required of AASC and AIRE providers, Mears and Migrant Help). These higher risk groups are being advised to follow additional shielding measures to keep themselves safe which include: not leaving their home for 12 weeks – not for shopping, picking up medicine or exercise. Staying at least 2 metres (3 steps) away from other people in the home as much as possible. Asking friends, family or neighbours to pick up shopping and medicines for them and leaving them outside their door. For more information please visit

Muslim Council of Britain advice for prayers and coronavirus. The MCB has advised for the suspension of all congregational activities at UK mosques and Islamic centres. View full press release here There is also further advice from the MCB about coronavirus for mosques – find out more .

News from around Local Authority areas

Newcastle City Council has set up a dedicated webpage with information for residents, including where they can access support during Coronvirus restrictions:

Newcastle City of Sanctuary website also has news and information at  and resources at

In Stockton, Catalyst has developed a ‘COVID Community Support Team’ who will go out into communities to help the most vulnerable and the elderly in Stockton. They are working in partnership with Stockton Borough Council and a number of local voluntary organisations to coordinate this support and get help to those who need it the most. They can help with: Providing essential food supplies; Collecting up prescriptions; Walking or taking care of pets; Listening on the phone and giving emotional support and more. You can talk to one of their team, who are available 7 days a week, 8am – 6pm. Call: 01642 524500 or email:

 Middlesbrough Voluntary Development Agency (MVDA) has asked us to let members know that MVDA is still delivering support to groups as usual, but they will be giving it over the phone and emails. If you need support on funding matters and any development matters please get in touch with John Atkinson, Community Action and Development Officer, MVDA. T: 01642 955670 / 07852 269486 E:

 Check your Local Authority Website for information about their response to the Coronovirus situation and support they are offering to residents


World Health Organisation Whatsapp service to answer questions about Coronovirus

The World Health Organization launches WHO Health Alert on WhatsApp  (

The WHO has just launched a new WhatsApp service, which is free to use, has been designed to answer questions from the public about Coronavirus, and to give prompt, reliable and official information 24 hours a day, worldwide. This will also serve government decision-makers by providing the latest numbers and situation reports.

DWP update 23rd March
News about changes to jobcentre appointments and Universal Credit

People receiving benefits no longer need to attend jobcentre appointments. People will continue to receive their benefits as normal, but all requirements to attend the jobcentre in person are suspended. These changes will be in place for 3 months from 19 March 2020. Anyone already claiming Universal Credit who thinks they may have been affected by coronavirus, should contact their work coach using the online journal, or calling the Universal Credit helpline.

Face to face assessments for all sickness and disability benefits has been suspended. This is being taken as a precautionary measure to protect vulnerable people from unnecessary risk of exposure to coronavirus. We will ensure those who are entitled to a benefit continue to receive support, and that new claimants are able to access the safety net.

Also information for renters and landlords, and employers and businesses.

Government guidance on Coronavirus (COVID-19): what you need to do.

Check the Government website ( for latest guidance to the public.

Restrictions update 23rd March: social distancing.

When we reduce our day-to-day contact with other people, we will reduce the spread of the infection. That is why the government is now introducing three new measures.

  • Requiring people to stay at home, except for very limited purposes
  • Closing non-essential shops and community spaces
  • Stopping all gatherings of more than two people in public

Every citizen must comply with these new measures. The relevant authorities, including the police, will be given the powers to enforce them – including through fines and dispersing gatherings.

These measures are effective immediately. The Government will look again at these measures in three weeks, and relax them if the evidence shows this is possible.

Restrictions update 23rd March
This document provides guidance on the closure of all retailers that sell non-essential goods and other non-essential premises, and the list of businesses and premises expected to part of further social distancing measures.

Guidance and support available for Employees, Employers and businesses

Guidance for households with possible coronavirus infection

Information on cancellation of school exams

Information about access to support and changes to Home Office procedures during Coronovirus Covid-19 restrictions

Click here for latest information on local and regional support services available for Asylum Seekers

Some support is still available for Asylum Seekers, although it may be delivered in a different way, or timetables adjusted. See what is open and when, and how to access to support.

Latest information from the Home Office, including changes to usual Home Office and government procedures. This includes information about changes to reporting, to new submissions,

  • Health Care Charges
    Coronovirus/Covid-19 has been added to the list of infectious diseases for which no charge can be made to any overseas visitor from January. There can be no charge made to an overseas visitor for the diagnosis or treatment of COVID-19. All overseas visitors, including anyone living in the UK without permission, should therefore note:

    • no charges apply to testing for COVID-19, even if the result is negative, or to any treatment provided for COVID-19 if the result is positive or up to the point that it is negatively diagnosed. The same is true of most other infectious diseases.
    • NHS trusts have been advised that no immigration checks are required for overseas visitors that are known to be only undergoing testing or treatment for COVID-19.
  • Home Office Reporting Centre
    All reporting at Middlehaven, Middlesbrough has been suspended
    Everyone that reports should have a valid address or mobile phone number registered with the Home Office so you should start to see a number of people receiving text messages asking them not to report currently.  Frequencies are being reviewed and those on Bail will be advised by text of when they should next report to us.  Anyone who has been advised to self-isolate or is demonstrating symptoms of Corona Virus or indeed any other communicable disease should not be reporting even if they are asked to do so by text.  If clients wish to contact the reporting centre they should do so by emailing Clients can also update their contact details by emailing this inbox – please ask them to quote their HO ref (or if not known their full name, dob & nationality).  The offices will not be open to the public until further notice.
  • Travel advice for those needing to make further submissions
    Applicants wanting to make further submissions should not travel to Liverpool 
    to hand them in.
    They can send them in via e-mail or via post at FSU, The Capital Building, Old Hall Street, Liverpool, L3 9PP.  This new process will be a temporary measure due to the Coronavirus problems. You will be notified when the temporary process is going to end.  Messages will be updated on the Home Office website, on phones and inboxes. Messages will be sent to all applicants who have already booked an appointment.
  • Pause in face to face substantive asylum interviews
    The Home Office have confirmed that they are temporarily suspending face to face substantive asylum interviews
    . They are cancelling any that are scheduled from 19th March and will not be scheduling any new face to face interviews for now. In the meantime, they are exploring other ways to find the information they need to make decisions; digitally, by telephone and by post/ email, for example.

Translated guidance about looking after your health and what to do if you become ill.

Government approved Coronovirus Covid-19 advice in 21 languages, from Doctors of the World
Doctors of the World has prodcued Coronavirus (Covid 19) advice for patients in 21 languages, which were produced in partnership with the British Red Cross, Migrant Help and Clear Voice:  English, Albanian, Dari, French, Pashto, Portuguese, Bengali, Vietnamese, Kurdish Sorani is available at the moment, but more languages coming soon: Mandarin, Hindi, Urdu, Arabic, Spanish, Portuguese, Malayalam, Turkish, , Farsi, Amharic, Tigrinya, Somali. Please find them here:

The guidance is based on the government’s updated advice and health information. We will replace these documents with the new ones once the NHS advice is updated, and will send you notifications



If you have an idea to improve lives in your community, and want to join action for change, then get in touch with us today.



If you have an idea to improve lives in your community, and want to join action for change, then get in touch with us today.