Setting up a new arrivals clinic

Tell us about the Early Action approach you have taken

We set up a New Arrivals Clinic to meet the needs of people who have been recently dispersed to Nottingham. This targeted service gives new asylum seekers the opportunity to see the same adviser several times at the start of their time with the Forum, and helps to build a trusted relationship with us early on.

Newly arrived individuals and households are directed to the New Arrivals Clinic where we assess their needs holistically, and put support plans in place using a new arrival checklist, ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to access legal advice, register with healthcare providers, apply for schools and education and access wellbeing support, and that key issues are dealt with in a timely manner.

To set up the Clinic, we trained new volunteers, developed new ways of registering people, designed a new holistic needs assessment and strengthened the communication and referral routes between the other services we provide and our external partners.

Why was this needed?

Without the Forum, new arrivals find it difficult to access all the different kinds of advice and support that they need.

We began by evaluating our existing services, mapping the crisis points that our service users commonly experience and identifying the pressure points within our own services.

The organisation was going through considerable change, for example, we were losing our legal project due to funding coming to an end. We assessed what impact the changes would have on our service users in the short and long term and explored what we could put in place to prevent crisis, for example, creating robust referral routes to ensure access to external legal advice.

We worked with students from the University of Nottingham to research with our service users what information and support would have been useful to them when they first arrived in Nottingham. Based on the research findings and the internal evaluation of our services, we saw the potential for developing a New Arrivals Clinic which would connect people into the advice, support and services they need at the earliest opportunity. We then set about trialling it and have since made changes and adapted as we go, based on our learning and feedback from service users, volunteers and staff.

Through the New Arrivals Clinic, we ensure that individuals who have just arrived in the area are supported to access legal advice, register with healthcare providers, check asylum support is in place, register for ESOL and education, access wellbeing support.

We then undertake a holistic needs assessments with each individual to identify specific needs, make sure they know exactly what support is available to help them, and provide a space to answer any questions they may have. So far, we have supported 284 people through the New Arrivals Clinic.

What impact has this had for your clients?

So far we have supported 284 people through the New Arrivals Clinic. We have found that:

  • Poverty is reduced by resolving asylum support issues and signposting people to emergency support to meet basic needs.
  • Access to justice is increased by ensuring new arrivals have legal advice and representation and legal literacy is increased by answering questions about the asylum process.
  • Health and wellbeing outcomes are improved by ensuring new arrivals are connected into GP’s and dentists and understand how the NHS systems and processes work. People are connected into groups and activities to increase their wellbeing.
  • New arrivals personal development and independence is increased through ESOL and education registration and promotion of volunteering opportunities.

What impact has this had for your organisation?

Developing the New Arrivals Clinic has really helped the Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Refugee Forum to work efficiently. . Creating a separate place for welcoming new arrivals and assessing their needs, which is so important but can be time consuming, takes the pressure off the General Advice drop-in and reduces stress for advisors by creating more time for seeing people coming in with urgent issues.

It has also helped build volunteer confidence - volunteers in the New Arrivals Clinic can focus on developing the knowledge and skills they need to support people at this stage of the process. Having a strong confident team of volunteers frees up staff time to supervise the Clinic and focus on more complex case work and partnership building. Once we saw how this approach was working, we applied the learning elsewhere and adopted a similar approach into other areas of our service, for example with our Universal Credit Clinic for new refugees.

How did you approach this issue before applying an Early Action approach?

Previously there was no formalised way for new arrivals to access support specific to their needs. They could access the busy General Advice Drop In and would be waiting alongside people with a whole host of different problems, some very urgent. This meant that new arrivals’ needs were often having to be de-prioritised, until they came back with an urgent problem, or their time with an advisor would be cut short, because there wasn’t time to explain everything they needed to know and make the multiple referrals needed. Seeing different advisors each time they attended or having short appointment slots may have also impacted on developing trusted relationships with the organisation and may have resulted in some people not coming back to complete the work needed.

Advice provision was also divided across a number of different teams, restructuring this so that the majority of provision is delivered under one main Advice Team, which includes the New Arrivals Clinic, means that there is much more oversight and cohesion so the advisors are better able to identify areas where interventions could be put in place or improved to prevent problems arising.

What challenges have you encountered?

The main challenges have been space and time constraints to meet demand. For a period in 2019 we saw record numbers of dispersals and due to the challenges created by the transition to the new asylum accommodation and advice contracts, many people were arriving without ASPEN cards or support. With such high demand, the New Arrivals Clinic was over capacity and the wait for these vital first appointments was stretching into weeks instead of someone’s first few days in Nottingham. To meet the demand we had to utilise the extra capacity created in the General Advice Session and support advisors to undertake all the tasks that would normally be completed in the New Arrivals Clinic.