Women with Hope, like so many other groups has been unable to hold its usual weekly meetings since early March 2020. For women trapped within the UK immigration system with limited incomes and sometimes none at all, this situation has extreme and severe consequences for their physical and mental health. Many are destitute or insecure in their living accommodation, are without permanent housing and lack permission to work should work be available.
Across the country, many people in similar situations have suffered enormously and according to a report published on the 16 December 2020 Twenty-nine asylum seekers have died in Home Office accommodation so far this year – five times as many as those who have lost their lives on perilous Channel small boat crossings over the same period.
As a small charity run entirely by volunteers we have found it difficult to respond adequately to the many and varied needs of our members, but we have used our limited resources as best we can to relieve some of their needs and we have also drawn in new resources for the same purpose.
Phone Top Ups
Secure access to a mobile phone is more essential than it ever was. For many it provides the only means available to them for complying with Home Office reporting requirements, keeping in touch with legal advisers and getting access to whatever other help might be available. It has also been a way of our keeping in touch with the women and keeping them in touch with each other through our regular weekly Zoom meetings. Quite early on in the Pandemic trustees took the decision to make use of the travel budget to allocate phone to up vouchers to as many women as possible. The travel budget, prior to the Pandemic was used to make individual payments to women for bus fares for attending meetings. Funds available for this purpose have been enhanced by grant contributions from Women for Refugee Women (WfRW), The Meena Centre, and The Barrow Cadbury Trust. The effect of this is that at the time of writing this update (December 2020) we are able to top up the phones of 30 women per week each with a £10.00 voucher, and will be able to continue that for at least three months into the new financial year.
Emergency Food Supplies
A similar decision was taken by trustees with regard to our refreshments budget. Throughout the pandemic funds allocated originally for refreshments have been donated to organisations providing emergency food supplies and operating in areas where our members live. Those organisations include, Baobab initially and more recently St Chads Sanctuary. Individual financial Aid In addition to these ongoing Pandemic activities, back in July we received a one-off grant from WfRW which enabled us to give £50.00 each to 40 women on our list.
In late October, whilst outings were still permitted the women enjoyed a day out in Warwick. This was to replace a previously planned trip to the seaside and also our regular Lichfield picnic, both of which were inevitably cancelled.