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“Becoming a Lead Sponsor was a logical next step in terms of scaling up our impact”

Caritas Salford works as a Lead Sponsor for groups across the North West, mainly within two dioceses: Salford and Lancaster. To date, Caritas Salford has welcomed eleven families with the help of eleven groups. Anais Fahd, Community Sponsorship Development Coordinator, Caritas Salford, tells their story.

Caritas Diocese of Salford is the principal social action agency of the Catholic Diocese of Salford and supports people experiencing poverty or situations of crisis and challenge through a diverse range of projects and services. They are a part of a global Catholic charity working in grassroots communities to promote justice and equality so that people can live in peace and dignity.

Taking more of a lead

In 2015, Pope Francis made a statement urging parishes to take in a refugee family. It was after the tragic death of Aylan Kurdi and there were lots of pictures in the press raising awareness. Caritas, and the Catholic community, responded to that call. A lot of parishes got involved at the time. As a Catholic charity we were already involved in refugee support, but we wanted to take more of a lead. Becoming a Lead Sponsor was a logical next step in terms of scaling up our impact. Now we can support groups that want to welcome refugees through community sponsorship. Slowly it has grown and we have welcomed 11 families through the support of 11 groups.

It's good to have trustees and directors who are supportive

It’s very clear in the Catholic community that there was a strong call for doing more around community sponsorship. There was a strong steer from the Pope, but also from the parishes. People want to be welcoming. That’s given the whole community sponsorship movement a lot of drive and provides justification for the trustees, and for everyone involved. Our director is extremely supportive. To be able to go through all the nitty gritty and the complexity of it, you need that internal support. So it’s really good to have trustees and directors who are really on board and supportive. Then there’s more of a chance of overcoming obstacles.

Becoming a Lead Sponsor was a logical next step in terms of scaling up our impact. Now we can support groups that want to welcome refugees through community sponsorship.

We feel we can always ask Reset for help and advice

The Reset staff have been extremely helpful with answering queries and helping us with facing challenges. It helps that they’ve got a nationwide view. If there’s a situation that we’ve not faced before then it’s likely they’ll have an idea about how to help as they’ve supported so many others. It means that we always feel we can ask them for help and advice.

Reset support us with our case management. So once a month we sit down together and talk through every group. We have nine groups at the moment. So, we give an update, mention any obstacles and share good practice. For us, it’s advice that Reset can give which is most helpful. It also gives us the chance to get up to date on their interactions with our groups and they also might identify something that we haven’t as Reset deliver training to our groups. It’s a good chance for them to hear how it’s going. And they can let us know if there are any red flags, which is reassuring.

We have our own guidelines in the code of conduct and volunteer handbook. We have had some problems, such as getting the Local Authority to give their consent and helping the groups to lead with an empowerment approach. We’ve worked with Reset to find solutions to facing these types of situations. Reset also help to reinforce key messages such as empowerment through their trainings.

Focus on empowerment

We have a big focus on empowerment. When we have a new group, we have a conversation with them about their motivation. We talk about the challenges, such as having a family that doesn't speak English and what vulnerabilities they may have, whether that’s medical, mental health or other. Once we are confident that the group understand the opportunities and challenges of Community Sponsorship we then move to recruitment, like getting set up with a group lead and safeguarding lead.

We welcome all groups. Up until now we’ve mainly had groups that were connected with parishes and that we have links into. But we are open to working with anyone, including other faith groups. We are especially keen to be able to offer advice and general support. We did have a relationship with an Islamic grammar school in Manchester where we talked with them about community sponsorship and we had a conversation about how to help them to move forwards. It’s good to be able to offer that sort of peer support.

Anais’s advice and tips

  • Get your processes in order and get a monitoring system in place. You are taking on a legal responsibility so it’s important to get that right. It took us a while to have all the processes in place. But now, we have procedures for volunteer recruitment, safeguarding trainings, DBS checks, banking (groups can now use our bank accounts to fundraise), volunteer handbook and we offer tailored trainings such as working with people experiencing trauma. We also carry out feedback sessions with the groups as well as evaluations with the family. This enables us to create tailored recommendation to the group and celebrate their achievements.

  • When a group is approved, it’s worth asking yourself: how will you ensure the group lead is confident and prepared for their role? How to formalise that acceptance? What training will you provide? When and what administration support do they need? How does the group define success and is it realistic?

  • To get people to be registered as volunteers, it all takes time. But it’s good to formalise the process and make sure the volunteers are covered by your liability insurance. It’s important to work in partnership with the group to make a plan of what exact support will be offered and what specific support would they like.

  • It’s important to decide the extent to which you, as Lead Sponsor, want to be involved. Some Lead Sponsors take a step back, others are more involved. So, will you attend group meetings, for example? It’s good to know what your capacity is so that you can set expectations with the group.

  • Also, it’s good to have some general standards about what’s expected. A lot of Lead Sponsors are based in different geographical areas, so they have to adapt to what’s in their local area. It’s good if the Local Authority is active, they can also support the group to access local provisions.

  • The funding is important, too. At this stage, Caritas haven’t asked for payment from the groups we work with. But we do ask groups to consider giving a donation once they reach £9,000 worth of fundraising. A lot of Lead Sponsors have found funding. Some haven’t, but it does make a huge difference. Having someone employed to be able to work on supporting the groups makes a huge difference.

  • Finally, make sure to appreciate and celebrate the hard work of the groups!