How we are supporting our clients during Covid-19
The coronavirus pandemic will be particularly difficult for the most vulnerable among us, including:
- Those who live in cramped, crowded and unsanitary accommodation, with higher risks of spreading infection
- Those who have little money to live on, and risk going without due to shortages and empty shelves
- Those who rely on foodbanks, many of which are now closing
- Those who struggle to access healthcare, through fear of charges which they can’t afford and language barriers making it difficult for them to advocate for themselves
- Those whose livelihoods are precarious and insecure, who live a few short steps away from destitution
- Those who are at high risk of falling prey to traffickers, and people who will exploit them during desperate times
The Helen Bamber Foundation team are energetically pulling together, finding creative new ways of providing our vital service to make sure that the survivors of trafficking and torture we support get the best care possible. Here are some of the actions we are taking to ensure the safety, protection and wellbeing of the survivors we support:
The survivors we support are living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression and anxiety. Many think about suicide and may self-harm. Being forced to stay in their often very cramped, dirty and inadequate accommodation exacerbates these symptoms, inducing feelings of panic and hopelessness.
We are keeping in close contact with our clients. Our therapists give survivors ways to manage these distressing feelings. We’re adapting our therapy service for the online space by creating digital and video content, so that our clients are always just a click away from a familiar face. This way our clients can build resilience and manage their mental health during lockdown.
Our clients are often living well below the poverty line. Unlike many of us, they have not been able to buy extra for the cupboards. Food banks have been hit very hard and many are now closed or difficult to access leaving our clients in dire need.
As welfare services have transferred to remote working, our specialist support has been vital for survivors who face language barriers or do not have access to the internet. For those with nowhere else to turn, we are able to provide destitution grants, smart phones and top-up credit.
Many of our clients live in cramped, crowded and unsanitary accommodation with no way of keeping up to date with the news. Frequently, the accommodation is in a state of negligent disrepair, including rooms infested with bugs or rodents, damp and mould.
Accommodation for asylum seekers is subject to constant administrative confusion and error, putting survivors at an immediate danger of street homelessness.
Our expert housing support service faces daily battles to accomplish relatively routine activities such as liaising with statutory authorities. This has become extremely time consuming and difficult due to the inevitable chaos and delay caused by mass closures. We are expanding our work to take advantage of any emergency arrangements that become available, enabling our most needy clients to benefit from these.
Currently, the courts are planning on going ahead with hearings remotely, including asylum appeals for vulnerable survivors. Confusion and difficulties in communicating with legal representatives and getting the right documents in place is leaving many survivors in a state of fear and panic that their long-awaited appeals will be unsuccessful.
We are working to ensure that those seeking asylum have access to justice. It is vital that vulnerable people are not refused asylum because they cannot attend appointments with lawyers, because paperwork is not in place or because they cannot travel to Court or access wifi/a private space to participate in remote hearings.
Financial stress poses particular risks for people with a history of trafficking, who are at much greater risk of being lured and coerced by traffickers into forced labour, including sexual exploitation or incurring debts to unscrupulous moneylenders, ending up in bonded labour.
We are carefully considering the risks and vulnerabilities of each survivor of human trafficking we support. We are staying contact, particularly with the most vulnerable and are continuing to work closely with the specialist UK police unit (VAPT) to safeguard clients who require police services or are acting as witnesses.
Usually our clients use our creative arts and skills groups as a means to socialise, meet friends and new people, be active and get out of the house. Due to lockdown, this is no longer available. This is likely to increase clients' anxiety and already strong feelings of loneliness considerably.
We are keeping in regular phone contact with the clients who would otherwise attend the activity groups. We are also rapidly bringing our groups online: currently our art, yoga, English and textiles groups are being delivered via Zoom: seeing familiar faces has hugely helped our clients manage the isolation of lockdown.
We need your support
Unfortunately, the corona virus situation has badly affected our planned fundraising activities and we now find ourselves in great need.
Our team have been absolutely amazing at finding new ways of providing our vital service to make sure the survivors we support get the best care possible, so that they aren’t left to fall through the cracks.
We need your help to ensure the safety, protection and wellbeing of the survivors we support.
Please donate and share this message with friends and family. We have never before been in any greater need.