We have begun a programme to train staff to give immigration advice as part of our expansion to provide greater services to the migrant community.
Arhag is working to become a ‘go to’ organisation in London – adding a range of non-housing services at the heart of our offering.
Tenancy Officer Abeer Suleiman has recently completed a four-month secondment to prepare for the level one immigration advice accreditation from the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC).
Her eventual aim is to progress to at least level two.
Once qualified she will be the first member of staff at Arhag equipped to give immigration advice at the HA, although others are likely to follow.
Chief Executive, Cedric Boston, said: “As far as I know we are the first housing association to offer this training to staff.
“It is an important step towards increasing our offering to the migrant and refugee community we are serving.”
Abeer has undertaken hands-on training with Praxis Community Projects, a charity which provides specialist advice and other support for vulnerable migrants, based in Tower Hamlets, East London.
She spent three days a week on the programme, shadowing a supervisor for two days and undergoing practical training on the other day.
Abeer said: “It’s very helpful work. I’ve been learning my way round the forms that have to be filled in for particular cases, like further leave to remain and writing letters to councils.
“I can already see it is going to be a great help dealing with our residents.
“Once I’ve got the exam I will be able to help residents navigate the many and complicated number of forms that are out there I’ll also be able to advise them on their options.”
Praxis has worked closely with Arhag for a number of years and the two organisations jointly organised a conference examining issues around housing migrants in June.
Praxis is ideally positioned to provide the training as it provides holistic support to migrants, many of whom are not eligible for benefits and are consequently extremely vulnerable.