Women and Asylum Seeker Housing Project (W-ASH)

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Lead Organisation:
Community Infosource
Award Amount:

The project expanded the reach of Community Infosource’s Women and Asylum Seeker Housing (W-ASH) Project. W-ASH had already developed effective and well-respected housing rights and advocacy good practice for asylum seekers and refugees in Glasgow since 2015 by supporting asylum seekers newly housed in unsuitable cramped hotels (some likely to be under threat of eviction) and in a new Mother and Baby Unit in Glasgow. We wanted to spread good practice and learning from the W-ASH project to improve the work of other key agencies in Glasgow.


The project increased new asylum seekers’ and refugees’ awareness of their housing rights and provided trusted, accessible housing-related mentoring and support that enabled them to secure the housing services they are entitled to under standards set by the Home Office’s Asylum Accommodation and Support Contract (AASC) and Advice-Issue-Reporting-and-Eligibility-Contract (AIRE).

New Scots reached
Key Information

This project enabled asylum seekers and refugees to understand their housing rights and entitlements, under the Home Office’s minimum Asylum Accommodation and Support (AASC) Contract standards and Glasgow City Council’s social housing standards.

Key Information

Geographical reach



02/09/2021 – 30/11/2022

Project Type

Spreading Good Practice


The refugees and asylum seekers that Community Infosource work with live in enforced poverty and destitution. Many asylum seekers have endured persecution, torture and denial of human rights. The poverty they experience in Scotland as a result of UK government immigration policy exacerbates the ongoing physical and mental traumas.

Involvement of New Scots in project

We involved refugees and asylum seekers in every stage of the project:

7 out of 10 of CIS’s directors have lived experience of asylum and are either asylum seekers or refugees now.

80% of our project volunteers are asylum seekers or volunteers – and some of the volunteers we recruited were actually asylum seekers living in the hotel and so were supporting their peers living in the hotels.

We involved asylum seeker volunteers in doing presentations at our outreach sessions, in developing our social media and other promotional work

We involved asylum seeker volunteers in weekly review meetings on issues arising from the outreach sessions, phone calls and drop-ins, to keep abreast of emerging issues that needed tackling.


Our project has largely brought about the changes we expected it to and we have more than met our targets.

The project supported a total 351 asylum seekers and we launched four new service elements, in response to feedback from asylum seekers:

  • Weekly information sessions
  • A weekly Friday boardgame session and social drop-in club in order to reduce social isolation
  • A new asylum seeker housing rights drop-in at Maslow’s community shop, to outreach to asylum seekers.
  • Volunteer-led research into the widespread breach in the right to receive 5 days’ notice prior to being moved by Mears from one accommodation (type) to another

We had an independent review of the project carried out by Togamawa Consultants.

We ran a large information and celebration event on 18 November which was attended by over 110. We presented evidence of our good practice, particularly our engagement of volunteers with lived experience but also our approach to listening to asylum seekers needs’ and involving users in service review.

Challenges encountered

All our services have had a high demand and though we have been effective in providing support to enable asylum seekers to understand their rights, access basic services and improve their access to statutory health, education and other services. This has meant the team has had a high workload and a lot of pressure to support people.

This has been particularly tough in the context of various significant losses the team has had during the project period – a staff member passed away in September 2021, who was coordinating the project, who we then recruited to replace in January. Then in January a further colleague passed away which created a further very sad loss to the team – this person was then replaced in April, though an existing team member increased their hours to cover some of the work during Feb – April.

Many of the people who use our services are already poor and the increasing costs have made it even more difficult for them. We are therefore getting a large number of requests for support with vouchers which we cannot always meet due to lack of budget.

There have been some changes to asylum seekers’ right to work in some shortage sectors (e.g. care), and this has affected the spare time some asylum seekers have and we have struggled to attract as many volunteers with lived experience of the UK asylum system once they have the right to work. Language barriers for referrals from other organisations mean that we sometimes struggle to find volunteers with appropriate community languages and time to support others. We are beginning to see Ukrainian refugees also accessing our information sessions and ESOL classes recently and this has added volume to our work.

It has been challenging to enable asylum seekers to raise their voice and speak out about mistreatment by Mears (the Home Office contracted housing provider), as the majority who suffer poor treatment fear negative repercussions if they make complaints. Such negative repercussions have appeared more prevalent during this period, particularly Mears staff conduct following complaints (both formal and informal).


We have, as outlined above, adapted the project to the staff shortages by filling in vacancies with extra hours from existing staff.

For the problems with Mears poor treatment and provision, we started a research project gathering evidence of frequency of poor service and treatment, working through volunteers to gather information anonymously as people did not want to make formal complaints. This statistical information has been provided to Mears to show frequency of problems and discussions are ongoing with them.

How the project has expanded on existing examples of good practice

Our main expansion of good practice has been working with the newly arrived asylum seekers in the hotel Mears uses for new arrivals to Glasgow. This has been very successful, in that we reach newly arrived asylum seekers very early in their time in Glasgow and so can early on let them know their rights and provide referral and signposting to a wide range of services they might need.

The difficulties of taking on a new approach

Initially Mears would not let us have access to run a regular session in the hotel, but in March 2022 they did finally let us start a regular weekly session and have provided information on what they are doing for new arrivals on a regular basis, which has helped.


We have learnt the importance of reaching people very soon after they arrive in Glasgow, so that any difficulties they face can be picked up quickly and so people know their rights and have information on support services available in Glasgow as early as possible. This has been particularly in relation to issues such as: having a smartphone and being digitally connected, knowing their rights regarding accessing the Asylum Health Bridging Team services, getting their children registered for school even during their stay at the hotel and not waiting until they are resettled, access to sufficient and good quality food and sanitary products in the hotel.

We would therefore potentially have spent even more time than we did on this project, outreaching to and supporting people in the McLays hotel – particularly at the start of the project – we were delayed by Mears not allowing us to have the drop-ins until March 2022.

We have also had underlined, the importance we have always put on working with and through volunteers with lived experience of asylum and with a range of community languages – this has been an important and crucially useful part of our approach and we would certainly continue this in the future.

Further Information

We have built on the learning materials and briefings that we had developed prior to the project and updated them to take account of the situation that has evolved over the period of the project, where hotels have been used to house asylum seekers for longer than anticipated.

We have developed these in discussion with volunteers who have lived experience of asylum, including new volunteers we recruited during the project who lived for many months at McLays Guest House and so had insider knowledge of what it was like to live there and what needed to be improved and clarified.

We have used these updated briefing materials in outreach sessions both at the hotel but also doing briefings for asylum seekers in partnership with the agencies mentioned above – so for example we have set up a new regular information session for asylum seekers at Maslows community shop, where a lot of asylum seekers go for cheap shopping but have also done a range of outreach information sessions in different community locations around the city, where asylum seekers often go – eg Kinning Park etc.

We have also invited staff and volunteers in partner organisations, and used these materials to brief them on the rights of asylum seekers and on good practice approaches.

We ran an event on 18 November at which volunteers and staff shared experience from the project, which many partner organisations also attended.