Supporting asylum seekers and refugees to volunteer with us
A highlight of important information and considerations for leaders and managers
At Scouts, we welcome people from all backgrounds to join the movement.
Asylum seekers and refugees can often bring with them their own unique skill sets that everyone at Scouts can benefit from.
However, we’re aware that they can often face some challenges when applying to become a volunteer, such as applying for the DBS check that’s required for the majority of volunteering roles within Scouts.
This guidance aims to highlight some important information for when welcoming asylum seekers and refugees as volunteers.
Being allowed to volunteer in the UK
Asylum seekers and refugees are allowed to volunteer in the UK.
According to the Home Office permission to work and volunteering for asylum seekers guidance, ‘volunteering can be undertaken at any stage of the asylum process’ and ‘asylum seekers can volunteer whilst their claim is considered without being granted permission to work.’
We should be mindful that there is a difference between the terms ‘volunteering’ and ‘voluntary work’, as asylum seekers are not allowed to do voluntary work. In summary, this means that your volunteers should give their time freely, and shouldn't be paid for their volunteering time with Scouts.
Volunteering can often be a lifeline for asylum seekers and refugees, offering them meaningful ways to spend their time, meeting people in their area and building skills for a CV for working in this country. However, it’s worth remembering many asylum seekers and refugees will often have a wealth of experience already.
Applying for a disclosure might be challenging.
Asylum seekers and refugees can get a disclosure check, such as a DBS, AccessNI or PVG. However, providing the right documents and address history might be challenging. There are three routes that applicants can follow, with different documents that can be used.
If the potential volunteer doesn't have the paperwork for these routes, they could still get a DBS by providing their fingerprints at a local police station. It’s important to be mindful when exploring this option with someone, as some people may find this to be an intimidating, triggering and/or intrusive process.
The Volunteer Centre Sheffield has produced some guidance on the fingerprint method.
Tips on creating a welcoming environment
At Scouts, we want to create a welcoming environment for every volunteer. There are some particular aspects you should be mindful of when welcoming refugees and asylum seekers, such as potential cultural differences and language barriers.
Explain in detail: To avoid miscommunications, try to be as clear as possible about everything, and explain things in detail. Remember that something that might be obvious for you, might not be obvious for someone coming from another cultural background.
Remain inclusive for different languages: Remain inclusive with the different languages that may be spoken in your meetings. This may require you to learn words and phrases from another language and teach these to other volunteers and young people, as well as use them to communicate with the group as a whole. You may also need to offer print outs, forms or key safety information in different languages, or have an interpreter attend sessions and events.
Avoid acronyms and sarcasm: Be mindful that using acronyms might be a barrier for people who have English as their second language or are unfamiliar with Scouts.
Be clear and literal: Say what you actually mean and avoid sarcasm or sayings. Again, sayings or sarcasm might be a barrier for people who have English as their second language.
Avoid assumptions: Try not to make assumptions about what an asylum seeker or refugee will think, understand, or know about any given situation. What we think we know may be based on inaccurate, cultural stereotyping and may cause barriers for them feeling accepted and welcome into Scouts.
Be sensitive: When making conversation, it might be ok to speak to someone about their home country and what they find different in the UK, but they might not want to talk about the reasons why they fled. This might be a personal and painful experience they might not want to share.
Be wary of costs: Asylum seekers often have a low income due to their circumstances (which might include not being permitted to work), therefore you should also be aware of financial limitations. With that in mind, you can proactively explore ways to reduce volunteering costs, such as waiving membership fees and offering expenses.
Make sure everyone remains safe: You may need to write additional considerations into your risk assessments to make sure instructions are accessible and clear. You may need to translate instructions through a programme, such as Google Translate, to minimise miscommunication and risk.
A worldwide movement: Scouts is a worldwide movement. A new volunteer may have experienced Scouts in other countries. If they're happy and comfortable to, you could talk about how they run their meetings, their promise, games that they play, uniforms and badges, and anything else you might want to explore.
Resources for volunteers
Guidance on talking to young people about war, conflict, refugees and peace.Discover resources for volunteers
Understanding the definitions
If you're not sure about the differences between the terms ‘refugee’, ‘asylum seeker’ and ‘migrant’, take a look at Amnesty International’s explanation of the definitions.