This is the toolkit for Coordinators who are setting up and delivering the Asylum Guides Programme. It outlines the four key phases for setting up and delivering an Asylum Guides programme in your charity.

A checklist

Asylum Guides is a flexible programme. Adapt it to suit the needs of your organisation. Below are some of the things you need to do to set up a robust Asylum Guides programme.

1. Make contact with the Refugee Action Coordinator
  • Read the Asylum Guides National Programme Approach and check it fits with your organisation's approach.
  • Think about the project as a whole and who is going to manage Asylum Guides in your organisation. Discuss your plans with Refugee Action, and think about any support and guidance you might need.
  • Read our Managing and Retaining Volunteers guide so you can prepare for the recruitment of asylum guide volunteers and think about best practice from the start!

2. Establish referral pathways
  • Asylum Guides can make a big difference at the beginning of the asylum process for your clients.
  • We recommend you build relationships with Initial Accommodation and/or Dispersal Housing Providers. We also recommend building relationships with agencies offering legal advice and legal representation so clients can access appropriate legal support, if they do not have it.
  • Send information about Asylum Guides to potential partners.
3. Send referral forms and adverts to partner organisation
  • You should have a rough idea when you will start to recruit and train volunteers to become Asylum Guides.
  • This means you can start to build links with partner organisations to attract clients to your Asylum Guides services.
  • Send the Asylum Guides poster to organisations to help them advertise the service. Let them know they can adapt the poster.
  • Think about which meetings/ networks you can attend/ connect with to advertise your Asylum Guides project.
  • Adapt and send the client referral form to partner organisations, to help them capture relevant information about each client.

4. Advertise the Asylum Guides programme to your clients
  • Adapt the Asylum Guides poster to advertise the service to your clients.
  • If you are planning to support people remotely, think about digital inclusion, and how clients will be able to connect with Guides over the phone or via video calls. Consider whether you need a budget to provide data to volunteers and clients.

5. Contact referred clients to let them know you'll be in touch
  • Once you have received a referral, contact the client immediately to say you have their details and you are looking for a guide to match them with.
  • Contact the client within a month with info about a match, or update them to say you are still looking for a suitable guide.

6. Organise meeting spaces
  • Ensure you have internal meeting rooms or private spaces available for Asylum Guides to meet with clients.
  • If you are using cafes for meetings, ensure that guides have access to WiFi and the appropriate level of privacy.
  • If you are working with partners to deliver Asylum Guides, ensure you have contacted partners and they have suitable meeting space available.
A person with a tick

We recommend that you use your own organisational processes and policies to recruit volunteer Asylum Guides. Use the items below as a guide, to support you.

1. Adapt the Asylum Guide volunteer role description

2. Think about other roles which may be needed
  • Interpreters – You may need to recruit volunteer interpreters if your pool of Asylum Guides does not contain all the languages you need to assist clients.
  • Admin Volunteer – You may want to recruit an admin volunteer to help organise appointments, take referrals and collate feedback.
3. Post the volunteer role adverts
  • Post the advert on your usual recruitment channels (posters, mailouts, etc).

4. Assess suitability of volunteer applications
  • Look through applicants to decide which ones would make suitable Asylum Guides and any other roles you are recruiting for the Asylum Guides project.
  • Ensure you have a diverse group with a range of experiences, ideally speaking a number of languages.

5. Notify volunteers of the outcome of their application
  • Once you've identified suitable volunteers, invite them in for a 1-to-1 meeting.
  • Explain what they need to bring (references and documents needed in order to apply for a DBS).
  • For volunteers that aren't suitable, inform them of the outcome and think about whether they might be suitable for a different role.

6. Hold 1-to-1 meetings with chosen volunteers
  • Explain the project in more detail to the volunteer.
  • Check their general availability and make a note.
  • Check they have two references and arrange to apply for a DBS with the volunteer.
  • If you don't have the capacity to run DBS checks, think about how you are going to ensure that the project is run safely. Use this document for guidance.
  • Explain organisational principles, practices and policies including: confidentiality, behaviour at work, safeguarding, expenses, health and safety and give them an induction pack or volunteer booklet (if your organisation doesn't have a volunteer booklet, please see examples from the Refugee Action volunteering handbook which you can adapt).

7. Invite chosen volunteers to Asylum Guides training
  • If you think a volunteer would make a suitable Asylum Guide, invite them to take part in Asylum Guides training (see more below).  
  • If they are not suitable for the Asylum Guide role consider whether there is another suitable role within the project (interpreter/administrator).  
  • If you think they might not be right for the Asylum Guides project, signpost them to another project, if one is available and suitable.
A desktop

This is where your volunteers learn how to be great Asylum Guides. Someone in your organisation will need to deliver training across 2-3 days. Below are some notes and materials on delivering training.

1. Organise the volunteer training session
  • First, set a schedule for the training - think about dates and availability.  
  • Set a start and end time and remember to factor in breaks. 
  • If you’re delivering face-to-face training, you’ll need to find a venue. Ensure your venue is suitable and has everything you need, such as access to WiFi.
  • Arrange refreshments and decide if you will offer snacks and/or lunch.
  • Discuss how you will reimburse volunteer expenses for travel, lunch or data if training is being delivered remotely. 
  • Notify volunteers of the training day details.

2. Review, adapt, and prepare training materials
  • Familiarise yourself with the volunteering training presentations part one and two
  • If you're thinking of delivering asylum guide group sessions using the all-in-one briefings, take a look at this additional training material. You might want to deliver some specific training on the benefits and challenges of delivering information in a group with your volunteers! 
  • Check out the slides on asylum support and healthcare - you might want to adapt and add these to your sessions.
  • We encourage organisations to deliver the training across at least 2 sessions: part 1. 'Role specific training & Understanding the Asylum Process' and part 2. 'Information, Advice and Safeguarding'. 
  • You are welcome to download, make a copy of the presentation and resources, and make any changes to suit your project needs. The training materials and resources have been created to use as much or as little as you need.
  • Print out the briefings and resources from the Volunteer Toolkit and use them to prepare an Asylum Guides pack for each volunteer which they can use in the training session and takeaway to use as a resource.
  • Print out the presentation slides for each participant.
3. Deliver the volunteer training session

4. Check feedback from volunteers
  • Check the evaluation forms to see how to improve training the next time it is delivered.  
  • Share the training feedback with the Refugee Action Project Manager.  
  • Go over the forms to assess how the volunteers are feeling ahead of meetings (outlined below)
A speech bubble

This is where your volunteers learn how to be great Asylum Guides. Someone in your organisation will need to deliver training across 2-3 days. Below are some notes and materials on delivering training.

1. Find a suitable match for the client
  • When a client is ready for an Asylum Guide, the first job is to find a suitable match.
  • Take into account availability, language, gender, and anything else that will help you determine a good fit between an Asylum Guide and a client.
  • You may find it helpful to download a copy of this Asylum Guides Match Grid for use when matching clients with Guides and keeping track of meetings.

2. Invite the client in for a "Client registration" meeting  
  • Ensure that you have a room booked and an interpreter if you need one.
  • Allow for at least an hour to complete the initial registration meeting.
  • This meeting can either be done by a coordinator, a coordinator with an Asylum Guide, or an experienced Asylum Guide might be confident working alone.
  • We recommend that new Asylum Guides shadow the coordinator for the first initial meeting.  
  • Ensure that the Asylum Guide has completed the training and that they know how to access and use the Volunteer Toolkit. 
  • Remind volunteers what to do in case they have a safeguarding concern, how to maintain professional boundaries and provide information and not advice. Encourage the volunteers to make use of the Volunteering Good Practice Guide.

3. Meeting with clients
  • We recommend collecting feedback after each meeting in order to measure the impact of the project and ensure you meet the needs of the people you’re supporting. You might have your own monitoring forms to use. 
  • We have created monitoring and evaluation forms for the Asylum Guide project which you will find on the volunteer toolkit. If you would like to use these, please get in touch so we can discuss this. 
  • When meeting with a client, discuss what stage of the asylum process they are at - this will help you prepare the relevant briefings and resources to discuss with them. If the client has a Substantive Interview coming up for example, consider using the briefings in the Pre Substantive Interview section on the Volunteer Toolkit.

4. Ensure subsequent meetings are organised and delivered
  • Decide whether the client will be given the coordinator's phone number, a volunteer’s phone number or if they need to attend a drop-in to access further meetings. This will depend on the service you offer. 
  • At the end of each meeting, discuss whether the client would like to arrange another meeting and how to keep in touch.

5. Ensure suitable ongoing volunteer support
  • Volunteers are giving a lot of their time and effort to be an Asylum Guide. The role can be emotionally demanding so they will need appropriate support from you.
  • Consider completing a personal development plan for each volunteer.
  • Check in with new volunteers at the end of each session, provide positive constructive feedback and thank them for their time.
  • Remind volunteers to check in with you if anything needs to be discussed. This is especially important when it comes to safeguarding concerns or if they have been asked any difficult questions during the meeting.
  • Check in with volunteers via email, on the phone, or in person to ensure that they are happy with how things are going.
  • Consider organising ongoing training or support, for example peer support groups and/or coffee mornings to share learnings, successes and challenges.
  • Offer supervision support to volunteers if they need it.
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