At the Network’s Annual Meeting in Trinity Church, Sutton recently the council was thanked for providing grant funding through its Transformation Fund and Community Fund towards the cost of training the charity’s principal advice worker.
“I want to thank the London Borough of Sutton for providing £10,000 of training costs for our principal advice worker, Lucy Minyo. She has undertaken considerable study to update her knowledge of the range of issues presented.
“Lucy is currently studying for her Level 2 OISC (Office of Immigration Services Commissioner) qualification in UK immigration law. She will be equipped to offer advice to clients with more complex problems which require the higher qualification rather than referring them to other organisations in Camberwell, East London or Hackney.
“This has been a year of development and growth (for the charity). Demand for our services has not slackened over the past 12 months but funding for core costs is still a problem.”
The charity, which is based in Granfers Community Centre on Oakhill Road, offers friendship, advice, counselling and English language classes to refugees, asylum seekers and newly-settled migrants, and runs a weekly drop-in service and crèche. In 2014-15 its clients came mainly from Sri Lanka (18%), followed by Iran (6%), Ghana and Zimbabwe (5% each), Ukraine (4%), Afghanistan, Bulgaria, India, Kenya, Lithuania, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan and Romania (3% each), and Algeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo (2%).
Anne said the Network would not continue without its members and supporters, and particularly its volunteers. In 2014-15 it provided 438 sessions of advice to 266 clients presenting 334 issues requiring help. The advice chiefly concerned immigration (156 sessions), welfare (138 sessions) and housing (60 sessions).
Cllr Simon Wales, Deputy Leader of Sutton Council, commended the work of the Network and its volunteers who enable the charity’s work to continue, saying that its work helped inspire the council last month when it publicly stated that the borough was prepared to take in refugees from Syria.
Cllr Wales said:
“This is a global humanitarian crisis and it is only right that the world stands ready to help, and I am proud that Sutton was one of the first local authorities in the UK to pledge publicly to play its part, and the subsequent reaction from the residents of Sutton has been overwhelmingly, and heart-warmingly positive.
“However, this pledge could not have been made without the knowledge that we have local voluntary groups such as RMNS, Transitions and Sutton Community Works, amongst many others who have contacted us to say that they are ready too.”
The Network’s guest speaker, Maurice Wren, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council, told the delegates that he started his career working for Sutton Council’s housing department in the Civic Centre 35 years ago “where I learnt about homelessness and about what homelessness does to people”.
He commended the borough for the stance it took last month as one of the first councils in the UK to declare that it would accept refugees from Syria.
The RMNS also thanked Sutton residents for their generosity in offering goods for refugees and said it was not looking for specific goods at the moment.
Olwen Stewart, one of the Network’s trustees, said:
“We have had offers of donations from local residents but we are directing them to larger charities as we do not have the facilities needed to store them. However, we will warmly welcome any monetary support that you can give us to enable us to continue to do what we do.”
The Sutton Refugee and Migrant Network can be contacted on 020 8644 4374. Its website can be reached by clicking NETWORK