WERS’ Remote Befriending – a response to Covid-19

“Having someone to talk to has helped me…a sense of belonging, something to look forward to, she is very carrying, thoughtful about things to do, asking about the girls.” WERS female befriendee and mum of two.

“I feel ‘fresh,’ feel ok, it’s doing good for my well-being; he is giving me support with my English. Having someone to talk to helps – someone who is concerned about my situation, it gives me confidence and hope.” WERS male befriendee.

In response to the Covid-19 Crisis, WERS is launching a remote befriending scheme.  An extension and adaption of our established befriending project, this will match trained volunteers with client referrals, to offer sensitive, one-to-one support over the telephone, via video calls and texts during this challenging time.

Before Covid-19, WERS befrienders were providing invaluable one-to-one support through friendship to refugees and asylum seekers experiencing social isolation in Newcastle. Befriending matches met up weekly or fortnightly, spending positive time together, exploring parts of Newcastle, helping them with basic issues (reading letters etc), practising their English, speaking on the phone between visits, and giving clients much needed time to take their mind off their case and the many issues they face. These befriending matches are now in regular phone and video call contact, still offering vital support, remotely.

With this crisis, we feel the need for befriending has only grown and intensified; all asylum seekers and refugees in Newcastle are now living with social distancing measures and can no longer access the face-to-face drop-ins and support sessions run by local agencies. Many will be experiencing intense social isolation and loneliness, whilst also facing ongoing anxieties around their case and their situation, as well as concerns and questions about the virus. Many will not have established social networks and friendships – many will have no-one to call on for social contact or emotional support.

Remote befrienders will put calls into clients throughout the week, to check in, for a chat, to talk through current Covid-19 developments which may affect them, to practise English a little, and to check and identify if they need any additional support during this time.  Requests for more complex casework support can be passed onto WERS team where support workers will pick up any issues. 

WERS’ face-to-face befriending scheme is a well-established project, with robust training and volunteer support in place, to enable volunteers to help clients in a way that is positive for all involved. Remote befriending extends the reach of this project, to support more people in response to the Covid-19 crisis.

We are currently recruiting remote befrienders from our current cohort of volunteers, who are ready trained and eager to start. We will also recruit new volunteers to meet demand.

If you are interested in becoming a remote befriender with WERS, we will be taking new applications in the future, please email us at volunteers@wers.org.uk to register your interest and request an application form.

If you are in contact with a client you would like to refer to the scheme, you can use the same email address volunteers@wers.org.uk to request a client referral form.

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WERS Update: Coronavirus (COVID-19)

19th March 2020

Dear all Further to our update of 17th March, we wanted to communicate with you on the actions we are taking at West End Refugee Service (WERS) to help keep clients, volunteers and staff safe and healthy, whilst continuing to support our clients as best we can.

Hardship Payments

 We are continuing to give hardship payments to clients in 4 week cycles (rather than weekly and fortnightly). This is being distributed at the front door of the building between 10am and 12noon on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday and between 11am and 12noon on Wednesday. Clients and staff are requested to maintain the recommended distance of 2 metres from each other.

 We are exploring alternative ways in which we can continue to distribute hardship payments with minimal or zero face to face contact.

 We are continuing to give an increased number of toiletries, sanitary products and other essential items we have available, to give out to people who receive hardship payments.

Clothing Store

 The Clothing Store remains closed. However, clients who are in receipt of hardship payments, and others in urgent need can let a member of staff know what essential items are needed. The staff member will then obtain an item from within the current stock.

 We are unable to accept donations for the Clothing Store. WERS does not have the space to store large amounts of items, and we are already up to capacity. In addition to this, Coronavirus can remain on surfaces, including clothes, for up to several days. We respectfully ask that supporters do not leave donations outside of the building.

Advice & Support

 We are advising clients to access advice and support over the telephone. At present this will be available during our usual operating hours up to Friday 27th March:  Monday 09:30 – 13:00, 14:00 – 16:00  Tuesday 09:30 – 13:00  Wednesday 11:00 – 13:00, 14:00 – 16:00  Thursday 09:30 – 13:00  Friday 09:30 – 13:00

 Clients can contact WERS on our office number 0191 273 7482 or using Whatsapp on 0782 622 1719 and 0782 611 7308.

 Clients can also text or send Whatsapp messages to the mobile numbers above if they need someone to call them back. We will get back to enquiries as soon as possible within the office hours.

 If clients are unable to get through to a member of staff on the telephone, they should leave voicemail and a member of staff will respond as soon as possible within operating hours.

 From Monday 30th March, until further notice, telephone support will only be available from 10am until 12noon Monday to Friday. This is to ensure we have enough staff to provide support.

 All partner surgeries held at WERS offices continue to be suspended until further notice. This includes North East Law Centre, Welfare Rights, Education Support, National Energy Action, the MP’s office, British Red Cross. If you require access to any of these services please speak to a member of WERS staff who will support you to access them in another way. We have also displayed the telephone numbers for these partners outside our building, for clients to access direct.

SkillsMatch

 All SkillsMatch sessions continue to be suspended until further notice.

For volunteers

In line with government guidelines around minimising contact between people, we are suspending any volunteering that requires face to face contact – this includes befrienders, support workers, skillsmatch buddies, and our clothing store volunteers. Befrienders will remain in contact with their befriendees via alternative communication methods (phone, Whatsapp, video calls etc), and we will continue to support volunteers and clients within this scheme. We will also continue to update our volunteers if there are other areas or ways in which they are able to offer support to our client group in these constantly changing circumstances.

All volunteers should have a mobile phone number for a member of the Volunteer Team so that they can contact them if they have any questions or concerns. If you’re a volunteer and don’t have a contact number, please email volunteers@wers.org.uk . We understand that people rely on WERS to access and understand important information, so, we will review our responses as things develop and will continue to provide updates to volunteers, service users and supporters as soon as decisions are made. We will keep our website and social media pages updated on the situation. We would like to reassure you that we are doing everything we can to take necessary precautions and are following Government Guidelines to inform decision making.

We have put a call out to all our volunteers to ask for help in supporting any clients who are self-isolating and require additional assistance at this time.

If you have any general questions or would like to chat with a member of the team, please do contact us on the usual number 0191 273 7482 or email info@wers.org.uk

Thank you in advance for your support and understanding.

Sean Gladwin

Director

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WERS Update: Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Further to our update of 12th March, we wanted to communicate with you on further actions we are taking at West End Refugee Service (WERS). We have a duty of care to the people who access our services, our supporters, volunteers and staff, and want to act responsibly to safeguard people’s health, particularly those who are vulnerable and in urgent need. As a precaution we have taken the difficult decision to adjust some of the services that we offer until further notice.

From Wednesday18th March:

 We are continuing to give hardship payments to clients in 4 week cycles (rather than weekly and fortnightly), reducing the number of visits they need to make to WERS offices. This will be distributed at the front door of the building between 10am and 12noon Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday and between 11am and 12noon on Wednesday. Clients and staff are requested to maintain the recommended distance of 2 metres from each other.

 We are continuing to give an increased number of toiletries, sanitary products and other essential items we have available, to give out to people who receive hardship payments.

 We are closing the Clothing Store with immediate effect. Clients who are in receipt of hardship payments, and others in urgent need can let a member of staff know what essential items are needed. The staff member will then obtain an item from within the current stock.

 We can no longer accept donations to the Clothing Store. WERS does not have the space to store large amounts of items, and we are already up to capacity.

 We are advising clients to access advice and support over the telephone. This will be available during our usual office opening hours:  Monday 09:30 – 13:00, 14:00 – 16:00  Tuesday 09:30 – 13:00  Wednesday 11:00 – 13:00, 14:00 – 16:00  Thursday 09:30 – 13:00  Friday 09:30 – 13:00  Clients can contact WERS on our office number 0191 273 7482 or using Whatsapp on 0782 622 1719 and 0782 611 7308.  Clients can also text the mobile numbers above if they need someone to call them back. We will get back to enquiries as soon as possible within the office hours.

 All SkillsMatch sessions are suspended until further notice.

 The surgeries held at WERS offices will be suspended until further notice, we will continue to work with partners and keep everyone informed of developments. If you require access to any of these services please speak to a member of WERS staff who will support you to access them in another way.

We understand that people rely on WERS to access and understand important information, so, we will review our responses as things develop and will continue to provide updates to volunteers, service users and supporters as soon as decisions are made. We will keep our website and social media pages updated on the situation. We would like to reassure you that we are doing everything we can to take necessary precautions and are following Government Guidelines to inform decision making.

For volunteers: In line with government guidelines around minimising contact between people, we are suspending any volunteering that requires face to face contact – this includes befrienders, support workers, skillsmatch buddies, and our clothing store volunteers. Befrienders will remain in contact with their befriendees via alternative communication methods (phone, Whatsapp, video calls etc), and we will continue to support volunteers and clients within this scheme. We will also continue to update our volunteers if there are other areas or ways in which they are able to offer support to our client group in these constantly changing circumstances. And if you have any questions or would like to chat with a member of the team, please do contact us on the usual number 0191 273 7482 or email info@wers.org.uk

Thank you in advance for your support and understanding.

Sean Gladwin

Director

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West End Refugee Service – Response to Coronavirus

Dear all

We wanted to communicate with you on West End Refugee Service’s response to the current coronavirus outbreak. We are aware that our volunteers, clients and supporters will have concerns about how services may be affected and how we can best respond.

As things develop, we will review our responses and will continue to provide updates on the situation.

We would like to reassure you that we are doing everything we can to take necessary precautions and are following Government Guidelines to inform decision making.

At present we are:

  • Taking extra measures to keep the building clean and providing extra handwashing facilities
  • Displaying clear signs throughout the building reminding everyone of official advice
  • Monitoring the situation and exploring appropriate responses to ensure we can, as much as possible, continue to support clients in the safest possible way.

At present, the daily drop-in and advice sessions, clothing store, skillsmatch and befriending scheme continue to run as usual. We may reduce or close the drop-in and suspend some services if the government advice changes. We will update volunteers and service users as soon as decisions are made and will keep our website and social media pages updated.

For volunteers:

Whilst government advice is that staff and volunteers can continue to attend work and volunteering sessions, we are aware that people who may be more at risk to the virus may not wish to participate in activities as usual. As you know, we are a busy building with lots of visitors every day. We totally understand that this may be the case, and if you do not feel comfortable attending your sessions with WERS, please let you usual contact know.

We also ask you to have a look at the NHS webpage below which describes the symptoms of the virus, and how you can protect yourself and others.  Following NHS guidelines, we also ask that if you think have been infected, been in contact with someone who has been infected or recently travelled to any of the high risk areas, that you do stay at home and just let your usual contact at WERS know. This will allow us to asses if you have been in contact with others who may need to self-isolate.  

Please read the NHS information here: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/

There is also some useful information with images here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-51048366

Thank you in advance for your support and collaboration with all this.

And if you have any questions or would like to chat with a member of the team, please do contact us on the usual number 0191 273 7482 or email info@wers.org.uk

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Vacancy – Administration Assistant

WERS seeks to appoint an energetic, friendly, well-organised Administration Assistant within an established refugee support charity. The successful applicant will be working alongside the Office Manager and the wider team to support the smooth running of the organisation.  

Ideally, you will have experience of working in a busy office environment, have strong organisational and time-management skills, with good written and verbal communication skills.  You will have the ability to work in a self-directed manner and as part of a team, developing good working relationships.  You will have a flexible and non-judgmental approach to people and work, with the ability to communicate effectively and sensitively with people from a wide range of backgrounds including staff, volunteers and clients.

Part-time: 10 hours a week (Monday & Tuesday, hours to be agreed)

Salary:  £16,926 pro rata

For more information on our services visit our website at: www.wers.org.uk

Please find below the job description and person specification together with the application form. 

If you have any questions about this post, please email info@wers.org.uk.

Completed application forms should be sent to info@wers.org.uk. Alternatively post to:

FAO: Melissa Younger, Office Manager

West End Refugee Service

St Philip’s Vicarage

St Philip’s Close

Arthur’s Hill

Newcastle upon Tyne

NE4 5JE

to arrive by 5pm on Friday 28th February 2020

Interviews will be held on the 11th March 2020.  If you are not available that day, please advise us of this when submitting your application.

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Vacancy!

Volunteer Co-ordinator

Part-time: 25 hours a week (Monday to Thursday)

Salary:  £21,840 pro rata

WERS seeks to appoint an energetic, friendly, well-organised Volunteer Co-ordinator to join the Volunteer Project team within an established refugee support charity. The successful applicant will be working alongside the existing Volunteer Co-ordinator under the management of the Volunteer Project Manager to support the delivery of our volunteer projects, including our befriending scheme, skillsmatch and our volunteer led clothing store.

Ideally, you will have strong organisational and time-management skills, with good written and verbal communication skills.  You will have the ability to work in a self-directed manner and as part of a team, developing good working relationships.  You will have a flexible and non-judgmental approach to people and work, with the ability to communicate effectively and sensitively with people from a wide range of backgrounds including staff, volunteers and clients.

Please find below the job description and person specification together with the application form. 

Volunteer Co-ordinator application pack

Please complete the form and send to info@wers.org.uk. Alternatively fax to 0191 256 7862, or post to:

West End Refugee Service

St Philip’s Vicarage

St Philip’s Close

Arthur’s Hill

Newcastle upon Tyne

NE4 5JE

to arrive by 5pm on Thursday 24th October 2019

Interviews will be held on Wednesday 13th November 2019.  If you are not available on this date, please advise us of this when submitting your application.

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