There is a huge difference in resources available for services commissioned for the “welcome” refugees, as opposed to the asylum seekers. We deliver commissioned services for groups for whom public funds are available, and see real value added in delivering these services in a way that is true to our values. Our ongoing concern is that we can do so much less for those not on official schemes. We try and manage this dynamic by driving cost recovery on the commissioned work to pay for our infrastructure and seeking to cross subsidise as well as fundraise for the voluntary activity, both the services for asylum seekers and our equally important policy and influencing work.
The people who have really felt the pressure are our staff. They have had to deal with at least twice as many clients, doing their regular job while helping set up and deliver new services. As well as the obvious capacity issues, this affects people’s morale in a less obvious way. Colleagues are proud of the organisation’s responsive approach, but it can also leave them feeling frustrated at not being able to deliver well. You can’t serve a hundred new clients a week in the way you can ten, especially with only a small increase in funding.
We have been better at responding quickly than at adapting our model and defining realistic expectations. This causes frustration to clients and staff. Bringing in new staff quickly has been essential but affects the dynamics of the organisation, doubly so when many can only be on short term contracts given the uncertainty of the funding and official programme duration.
We are certainly creaking in places: premises, technology, people, management, quality assurance all need attention. We are trying to catch up with ourselves, we urgently need to better define what we can and can’t do and build capacity for that. Whether circumstances will allow this to happen remains to be seen. We need to prepare, but we can’t predict exactly what we are preparing for. Still, we start 2023 proud that we have put refugees’ interests first, lived our mission and values in an environment that is tough for everybody, especially the most marginalised. And we wonder what the year ahead will bring.