Building bridges: Arhag and NACCOM join forces for migrant and refugee support

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

On 14th May, housing associations and migrant-supporting charities gathered in Highbury to discuss collaboration. Organised by NACCOM, Arhag, and MTVH, the event addressed migrant challenges and policy impacts. Key discussions highlighted partnerships, innovative projects, and the urgent need for change in housing and migrant support.

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Members of housing associations and migrant-supporting charities congregated in Highbury on Tuesday 14th May to discuss their opportunities for collaboration. The event was organised by NACCOM, Arhag, and MTVH, to shed light on the difficulties faced by migrants, and the potential for housing associations and charities to work together to better address these.

Keith Best – Arhag Board Member

Arhag's board member, Keith Best, commenced the discussions by acknowledging NACCOM’s Housing Association toolkit and praising the supportive training offered by NACCOM. Keith’s extensive experience was warmly welcomed by the audience, who valued the insights gained from his over three decades of engagement with migrants and people seeking asylum.

Keith outlined Arhag's vision to sustain support for events like this, while also encouraging collaboration and providing a platform for sharing best practices. He highlighted Arhag’s commitment, stating, “Our long-term goal is to forge partnerships with organisations, exploring opportunities to enhance their efforts – for instance, we recently supported, in partnership with HAWA, the Eid meal for migrants and refugees across Hertfordshire and are considering seed funding for additional services. We are also exploring the possibility of using our land at BorehamWood in partnership with another organisation to establish a hub for migrants and refugees, offering essential services.”

At Arhag, we are committed to fostering partnerships with other organisations to actively contribute to solutions for migrants and refugees in London. Initiatives like this event demonstrate the potential for positive change through collaboration between housing associations and the charitable sector.

Tom MacPherson – NACCOM

One of the event’s organisers, Tom MacPherson from NACCOM, gave a valuable talk explaining some key definitions, and outlining the context in which their work is undertaken.

Home Office policy was a frequent topic of discussion throughout the day, and Tom addressed the negative impact of some recent decisions by the Home Office – particularly the reduction of the 28-day move-on period to just 7 days. The reduction has since been rowed back, but its consequences are still acutely felt by migrants and people seeking asylum in the UK.

Dom Briant – MTVH

Following Tom was Dominic Briant, Head of Funding and Impact at Metropolitan Thames Valley Housing (MTVH). In two informative talks, Dom provided a detailed account of MTVH’s projects, focusing particularly on the upcoming Refuge Rent Deposit Project. Notably, he candidly acknowledged the mixed reputation associated with housing associations and discussed the pressures they currently face from various sources.

Dom explained how these pressures limit innovation within many housing associations, especially regarding support for migrants and people seeking asylum. However, he highlighted that organisations like NACCOM offer practical suggestions for how housing associations can improve in this area, emphasising the importance of collaboration between the two entities.

John Delahunty – Innisfree

John Delahunty Innisfree’s Chief Executive, discussed his organisation’s work, tracing its origins as a charity established to support Irish immigrants to London in the 1970s, through to its evolving objectives in the present day. With anti-Irish sentiment thankfully less prevalent now, the organisation has leveraged its experience in supporting immigrants to redirect its focus towards assisting people arriving in the UK from countries other than Ireland.

John provided an account of the potential for charities and housing associations to dispel misconceptions surrounding migrants and housing. Central to this effort is effective communication, and John elaborated on how collaborative projects between charities and housing associations present an opportunity to illustrate the benefits through practical examples.

Glass Door

Conversations after the event revealed that Glass Door's discussion of their work was one of the most poignant topics of the day. The West London-based organisation provided insight into the essential but challenging work of providing night shelter to migrants. Their Migrant Project ensures that the migrants they work with have access not only to safe accommodation but also to food and advice to support them through the migration process.

Echoing many of the speakers' earlier comments, the Glassdoor team explained how a serious challenge for the group is that the way they carry out their casework is constantly having to update its practices to accommodate changes in Home Office policy.

What left a particular impression on the audience were Glassdoor's statistics showing the vast level of homelessness experienced by migrants and people seeking asylum. Even for those familiar with the topic, this served as a chastening reminder of the need for change to the intersection between housing and migrant support. If the compelling optimism of the words offered by all the speakers at the event didn't galvanise attendees, the bleak reality expressed in the statistics certainly did.

Going forward

Following the talks, attendees had the opportunity to speak to one another. This was a fantastic chance for members of the different organisations to build the relationships that many of the speakers had made clear were necessary for progress. The tone of these conversations was mixed – with many exciting exchanges likely being the first steps toward valuable and positive collaborations, but also frank discussions about the scale of the problems to be overcome.

The dual purpose of the day was to encourage collaboration between housing associations and migrant-supporting charities and to shine a light on the difficulties faced by migrants. The conversations following the event made it abundantly clear that NACCOM, Arhag, MTVH, and all involved should be pleased with its success.

More information about the organisations represented by the event’s speakers and organisers can be found here: