Better leisure centres throughout Cornwall are offering Ukrainian refugees free centre membership, or a lesson or course membership, for a fixed three-month period. The scheme is open to refugees who were living in the Ukraine prior to January 2022, along with all other international refugees who have been granted refugee or asylum status by the UK Government.
Operating under the Better brand, GLL is a not-for-profit social enterprise that runs Cornwall’s leisure centres on behalf of Cornwall Council.
“We have all been very moved by the terrible things that have been happening in Ukraine and wanted to do something to help,” said James Curry, Head of Service for GLL in Cornwall. “Exercise is known to have both physical and mental health benefits and we’re hoping that what we’re doing can play a small part in making refugees’ experience of life in the UK as positive as possible.”
Applications to the scheme can be made by the individuals concerned, their family hosts or charities and organisations acting on their behalf.
The Cornwall Refugee and Resource Network (CRRN) will be helping GLL promote the opportunity to all those eligible within the local area.
A CRRN spokesperson said: “Being able to access a local leisure centre not only provides health benefits, but also offers opportunities to build confidence, socialise and feel part of the community, which are essential to feeling truly welcome in a new area.
“We’re proud to support this initiative and it’s brilliant to see GLL demonstrate inclusive leadership by ensuring that all refugees and asylum seekers can benefit, not only those from Ukraine.”
There are two options on offer. Firstly, a Better Health Centre membership for those wanting to take part in exercise classes or use facilities like the gym and swimming pool and secondly a lesson or course membership. There are no age restrictions and all Better-operated facilities across the UK are participating.
To apply, email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org and attach proof of eligibility. This can be a Home Office letter confirming refugee or asylum status, a Ukrainian Family Scheme Visa or proof of application to the UK Government as a Ukrainian refugee.
Applications should include the following information:
Applicants are also asked to attach proof of eligibility for the scheme to their email. Better will accept any of the following documents:
Applicants for the free membership scheme will receive a reply within three working days.
The recording of our first CRRN Insights Series session on Language and Communication is now available online. Thank you to Louise Canham from Truro and Penwith College and Sue Topf from Falmouth & Penryn Welcome Refugee Families for joining us and thank you to everyone who attended. You can catch up with the recording below and find more information on our Links & Resources webpages here.
Don't miss out on our next session in the series, focused on supporting mental wellbeing. You can find more information and how to join online via Zoom in our last blog post!
Thursday 26th May, 6 - 7:30pm
An online Zoom information session about supporting mental wellbeing, aimed at people hosting, sponsoring, volunteering or working with refugees and asylum seekers.
This session will cover:
- Accessing services
- General do's and don'ts
- Emotional wellbeing of hosts and guests
Followed by Q&A and facilitated by Dean Harvey, Community Development Worker and Associate Non-Executive Director at the Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.
Please click this link to join the meeting, or use the Zoom joining details below:
Meeting ID: 949 3459 3631
This is the second event in the CRRN Insights Series aimed at supporting people working with, hosting or supporting refugees and asylum seekers in any capacity. Please come back to our blog or visit our Facebook page for information about future events and contact us if there is a particular theme or topic you feel would be helpful to explore as part of the series.
We're launching the online CRRN Insights Series on Thursday 12th May at 6pm. This series aims to offer insights and share knowledge with our Network and support hosts, sponsors and others working with refugees and asylum seekers.
The first session is focused on language and communication, featuring speakers who are experienced ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) professionals and interpreters. Please visit the Facebook event page to find out more and keep an eye out for future events in the series.
We are dismayed and extremely concerned by the recent Government decision to send people seeking asylum to Rwanda. The plan will do little to achieve its stated aims of deterring people from making dangerous journeys to seek sanctuary in the UK, but instead it will create further harm and fail to protect human rights, at an enormous cost to the UK taxpayer.
85% of the world’s refugee population is already hosted in developing countries. Following on from the success of the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme, which saw the UK resettle 20,000 refugees from the conflict in Syria between 2015 and 2020, we call on the Government to invest instead in improving and speeding up the current asylum system and commit to opening up safe routes to protection in the UK.
Currently, these routes are very limited, which leaves people seeking sanctuary in the UK with little choice but to arrive in the country through irregular means. As the fifth wealthiest nation in the world, and known for its commitment to human rights, a UK target to resettle 10,000 refugees a year as a minimum would signal that this is a welcoming country to those fleeing danger.
We welcome the announcement that all councils will be expected to participate in asylum dispersal. Under the current system, only a small number of councils across the UK provide asylum accommodation and support – Cornwall is not one of them – and this results in highly uneven dispersal of asylum seekers and refugees across the UK.
As a small voluntary network of individuals, groups and organisations working to help refugees and asylum seekers in Cornwall and beyond, we have seen the network expand rapidly during the past few years. In addition, Cornwall is home to award-winning community sponsorship groups and recently made headlines with over 2,000 offers of accommodation to host refugees from Ukraine. This is testament to the phenomenal level of support, welcome and successful community organising in the region, but it is currently underutilised. We believe that Cornwall can do more to step up and match the generosity of its residents and has the ability to successfully participate in the asylum dispersal scheme.
By continuing to press ahead with plans to relocate people to Rwanda, the Government is failing to consider alternative options and choosing to squander the kindness and welcome evident throughout resident communities across the UK. We hope that the Government will reconsider its decision and choose to invest in people and not planes to Rwanda.
Thank you to everyone who attended the CRRN Zoom meeting on Monday 4th April, which aimed to provide an overview of refugee resettlement and community sponsorship in Cornwall, as well as provide information and advice to prospective sponsors under the Homes for Ukraine scheme. The notes from the meeting can be accessed below:
Phase One of the government's 'Homes for Ukraine' scheme is now open, enabling Ukrainian refugees who have a named sponsor in the UK to start the visa application process.
This requires UK hosts who are able to offer accommodation for a minimum of 6 months to 'match' with individuals or families fleeing Ukraine. The government has advised hosts against 'matching' via informal channels, such as social media, and to register via platforms set up by NGOs or charities. If you are interested in hosting, but you haven't done so already, you can:
1) Think about whether hosting is for you and if you are truly able to offer the accommodation, time and thought required to successfully sponsor someone, as this represents a significant commitment. City of Sanctuary has put together a useful list of things to consider before applying to sponsor a refugee: https://cityofsanctuary.org/.../things-to-consider.../
2) Register your interest on the Homes for Ukraine government portal to receive further updates and information: https://homesforukraine.campaign.gov.uk/
3) Apply to be 'matched' using the Reset Communities and Refugees host form: https://www.homesforukraine.org.uk/
4) Familiarise yourself with the visa application process that has to be completed in order for Ukrainian nationals to come to the UK through the Homes for Ukraine scheme - this can be completed by either the host sponsor or the Ukrainian applicant: https://www.gov.uk/.../apply-for-a-visa-under-the-ukraine...
5) Read the Homes for Ukraine scheme guidance for local councils to understand what hosts can expect in terms of support from Cornwall Council: https://www.gov.uk/.../homes-for-ukraine-guidance-for...
UKRAINE - HOW CAN WE HELP?
We have had a number of people contacting us asking what they can do to help people affected by the war in Ukraine - here's how you can help:
Donating directly to trusted groups operating in the region is the quickest and most effective way to offer support. The following organisations are actively working in the region:
It is still not clear how any proposed UK government humanitarian scheme for Ukrainian refugees will work, but offers of a room or self-contained accommodation for refugees and asylum seekers can be made through national organisations:
CALL FOR SAFE PASSAGE
The Home Office has published this factsheet with information for Ukrainians both in the UK and leaving Ukraine, however many national refugee organisations are calling on the government to do more, such as waiving visa requirements for Ukrainians in line with action already taken by other European countries.