Arhag’s migrant and refugee hub – the story so far

Cedric Boston, Chief Executive of Arhag, outlines their plan to become the ‘go to’ organisation for migrants and refugees in London.

Arhag’s social purpose is to develop the potential of many migrants and refugees (M&Rs) living in London. They are discriminated against, disadvantaged and deprived in our society. Our organisation began as a campaigning group, helping them to improve their life chances.

In 2016 our board decided that being a housing association was not enough for us. They wanted the organisation to return to its social purpose and do more for M&Rs not living in our properties. This led to the birth of our plan to become the ‘go to’ organisation for M&Rs in London.

Supporting integration

One element of that plan is to enable M&Rs to integrate successfully into their community. This means enabling them to have access not just to housing but to a range of other services. This is what is unique about us.

We are developing a community hub. A place where M&Rs in London can receive a range of services  such as health, employment, education, legal representation and training. It brings together a number
of specialist service providers dedicated to providing a range of integrated services to M&Rs.

Specialist M&R organisations are under threat. Government policy to create a “hostile environment” has made it difficult for them to obtain funding and their clients are in no position to pay their way.

The organisations still standing are constantly at risk without a guaranteed long-term source of income. This limits their ability to plan ahead and be really creative. Most operate from poor office
premises; often a leaking church building without modern office equipment.

Despite the fact that many of these organisations provide a good and useful service to undoubtedly the
most deprived, it is possible that due to the challenging environment, none of them will be around
in five years.

Working together

At the hub we will accommodate up to nine of these organisations, offering low rent and the  opportunity to work in partnership to enhance, sustain and grow their services. Arhag has purchased a building in Stratford, East London. It consists of 8,700 sq. ft. of office space and was bought on a 999-year lease.

We are working with the partners to design and fit it out so it is ready in January 2019. Among the services it will provide is a health clinic. Working together the partners have defined a compelling vision for the hub below:

Community hub: the vision

  • The hub will be a one-stop of high-quality, accessible services to M&Rs in London.
  • Organisations operating from the hub will share the office space and communal facilities.
  • They will also combine backroom services such as IT, HR and facilities management, where this will reduce costs.
  • Organisations will collaborate in competing for new business and growth opportunities,
    exploiting the added value of the partnership.
  • They will design and sell services to other organisations and undertake and co-fund research.

As proof of concept the partnership recently bid successfully to the government’s Tampon Tax Fund, securing £1 million over two years to provide new services for black and minority ethnic (BME) women and girls. The hub will enable providers to improve their services and there will be opportunities to make more of an impact by working with and alongside other hub partners.

To discuss the issues raised in this article, contact: jon.slade@campbelltickell.com

This article also appears in CT Brief, Issue 36