The south west region of the United Kingdom is a relatively wealthy region. This is a strategically affluent region where there is an important growth area with certain sections of the economic market. Bristol is located within the west of England sub region and is called the gateway to the south west. It is one of the more prosperous areas of the UK with growth in areas such as tourism, financial sector and the aerospace engineering. The area has experienced low levels of unemployment compared with other regions in the UK. There exists a higher pay rate and therefore the region can take in more refugees than it has currently. Over the 1980’s the sub region has not suffered from the decline of the traditional industrial areas as other regions. 2014.pdf/d916c075­26f3­4d5e­9ef3­5aba2788e7df

Traditionally the sub region has not experienced the same level of inward migration in the post war period. The wider West of England region has grown to 1.1 million people, and ACH’s current share of national economic growth (GVA) is the highest of any core city region at 3.1%. The economy is worth more than £25b per year and contributes some £10b to the Treasury. Oxford Economics base line growth projects 65,000 jobs and 2.6% GVA growth to 2030 in the West of England, reflecting the fact that this is one of the most successful sub regions in the UK in terms of overall economic performance. In terms of employment, it has a highly skilled workforce, with 38.6% of the working age population educated to NVQ level 4 or higher and has the 3rd highest percentage of employees in the knowledge economy (excluding London), with 24% of employees compared to 19% for England. 48% of West of England workplace employees are managers, directors and senior officials; in professional occupations; or associate professional & technical occupations, compared to 44% nationally. The scale and diversity of the local economy and the predominance of growing industries is a key characteristic. However there is a mismatch between skills provision and employment opportunities in growth sectors. The growth sectors selected by the Local Enterprise Partnership are: digital and media, low carbon, high tech industries, advance engineering and aerospace and professional services. There are also recruitment issues in non-target sectors such as social care, leisure and hospitality and some areas of construction and retail. In this context a proactive and demand driven approach to training and employment placements for refugees would seem to be a priority. However in the last 10 years there has been a rapid change in the region of migration and refugees. These have mainly been members of the polish and Somali communities.

The statuary organisations such as the local authority and the LEP have not had the same experience of dealing with these issues. However, keeping in mind the wealth, a good proportion of the refugees as the facilities and services are well supported. The population of Bristol has had an interesting debate about the refugees’ dilemma and the influx into Europe. There has been a public outcry to support the refugee situation especially in Calais with convoys leaving almost every other weekend. The positive contribution from the public citizens of the south west in particular Bristol has been welcomed by the NGO & VCS sector. However the statuary agencies are not putting in the same level of support towards this agenda due to lack of local leadership.

Description of the initiative

ACH takes an innovative approach to the creation and delivery of its training provision to ensure the most disadvantaged, and potentially isolated, refugees can access and benefit from such provision. ACH’s training provision is delivered by appropriately qualified/experienced trainers and teaching support volunteers who have a high level of understanding of the specific needs of the client group. ACH is a NOCN (previously known as the National Open College Network) accredited centre with Direct Claims Status and is on the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) Register of Training Organisations. Training for Resettlement, Resilience and Employability (TRRE) Programme ACH have considerable experience of working with individuals who are at the extreme end of the scale of disadvantage in terms of mental health issues, language barriers, isolation and are, in many cases a long way from being employment ready.

The TRRE Programme will:

  • Create a sustainable training provision that enables individuals from refugee and newly arrived communities to develop the skills necessary to manage sustainable employment and personal independence
  • Create a partnership approach to ‘outreach’ that enables hard to reach individuals to access the provision
  • Create a progression route that breaks down barriers to employment and ensure individuals are programme ready for work placements with Business in the Community, local businesses, Bristol City Council and other partners
  • Directly move individuals into employment in entry level jobs with access to continued support to ensure sustainable employment.

TRRE Basic Employability & Progression Dependent on each learner’s capability TRRE Basic Employability and Progression training will consist of up to 10 weeks of 7 hours of personal coaching / action planning & intensive employment skills preparation and support leading to a Level E3 employability qualification or accredited units at Level 2. This programme is co delivered with the support team who carry out one to one advice and guidance with the refugees.

Implementation of the initiative

ACH is working closely with Bristol Refugee Rights a local community refugee organisation. Bristol Refugee Rights runs The Welcome Centre: The Welcome Centre is a centre where refugees can drop in for support advice and a friendly face. It has been extremely successful. It is also the hub from which people are referred on to English classes, Advocacy and Information Desk, (AID), volunteering opportunities and other activities and services. The members are all either in the asylum process, (at whatever stage) or people who have been granted refugee status, humanitarian protection or exceptional leave to remain in the last two years. When a potential member comes for the first time a short interview to establish eligibility, to find out what services they are interested in and explain the work of the welcome centre.

The Welcome Centre relies heavily on a team of roughly 120 volunteers who do everything from cook meals to teach classes and there is at least one paid member of staff co­ordinating at all times. In the year from April 2012 to March 2013, the average attendance was 75 members per day. Since 2006 ACH have welcomed approximately 250 new members each year, bringing its total to more than 1750 members, from more than 60 countries. About one quarter of all new members is female and a crèche is available and can host up to 10 children a day.

It is estimated that one in five members are destitute (i.e. not in receipt of any financial support and not allowed to work) the current UK government has contracted larger organisations where there is a risk of loss of quality; they are dealing with large numbers and therefore a focus on volume delivery.

The role of this partner is to refer their members onto ACH’s Integrated Training and Employment service after access to the welcome centre has been made.

ACH also works with Civil Euro Perspective, which is a community interest company set up to exchange ideas and good practise about economic and employment development at a community level on a national and international basis. Through this community and others ACH networks with and learns from other member states and beyond and also raises the profile of this topic across the region.

Resources dedicated to the initiative

Financial sources

Overall budget: £60.000

Main financial sources: SFA Funding, BCC housing support funding

Human resources dedicated to the initiative

10 Full Time Equivalents


Number of refugees reached by the initiative: 400

Current achievement:

  1. Thanks to training services, the refugees become engaged in local activities and learn about their new home away from home. This provides opportunities for integration
  2. The welcome centre allows refugees to come into contact with one another for information sharing and people tracing services
  3. 75% of refugees enrolled in ACH progress onto a further learning activity at a local college or community training provider
  4. 28% of refugees enrolled in ACH secure an entry level job with a local employer after completing training and employment service programme
  5. 80% of refugee learners enrolled in ACH have secured a nationally recognised qualification in ESOL, Employability Skills and/or vocational training such as Childcare or Health & Social Care qualifications.

Besides the above mentioned achievement there are other longer term effects the programme has had on the refugees. More than a third has reported higher level of confidence in entering training and further education programmes. There are also longer term impact such as the added value to the economy, more taxes paid and welfare savings made thanks to ACH’s programme. ACH is interested in tracking the longer term impact its work has on individuals: tracking unemployment and long term impacts on the local economy

Critical success factors

  • Informal networking and working in the non-governmental services.
  • Refugees coming into Bristol and leaving other dispersal areas due to employment market.

Biggest obstacles

  • Lack of buy-in from the government
  • Lack of tracking studies/opportunities to show case impact
  • Lack of wider labour market context
  • Lack of a national strategy to deal with the integration, training and labour development needs of refugees. Currently the UK is looking at developing a strategy but it has so far no outline.

The organization

Ashley Community Housing (ACH) is an award winning specialist training and housing provider in the UK. It primarily works with refugees, homeless and displaced people. It has been running since 8 years working in Bristol, Birmingham and now in Wolverhampton.
The support provision is a combination of training, support and employment skills development. Ashley Community Housing has been nominated for the SENatwest100 award and two years in row for the National Business Award for 2014 and 2015.