On 17 October, four pilots to encourage refugees to establish businesses were launched across the UK. The pilots are part of a one year programme jointly funded by the Home Office and The National Lottery Community Fund, which will be overseen by the Centre for Entrepreneurs (CFE). The four programmes will be based in Bristol, Belfast, the East of England and Staffordshire and aim to help over 100 refugees into entrepreneurship.
In a press release, Home Secretary Priti Patel said:
“The UK has world leading resettlement programmes which provide sanctuary to thousands of the most vulnerable refugees every year. It is vital that these refugees are given the best chance to flourish. This project will help them to build businesses and make a real success of their new lives in the UK.”
Valerie Peay, Director of the International Observatory of Human Rights (IOHR), said:
“IOHR welcomes this government initiative to provide a pathway for refugees to get the skills and training in a workplace environment. IOHR will continue with our WorkWellRefugees campaign to encourage other businesses to join in providing this valuable access and job opportunities to help more refugees to join the UK workforce.”
The pilot will cost £360,300, of which £210,150 will be paid for by the Home Office. The remaining £150,150 by the lottery fund. The scheme was announced in July by the then Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes who said:
“The UK has a proud history of providing protection to those that need it and we are committed to making sure that refugees can successfully integrate to life in the UK.This exciting new programme gives refugees the opportunity to build businesses, leading to further independence as they rebuild their lives in the UK.”
Working directly with refugees and established local businesses, the pilots will deliver tailored start-up programmes that will take refugees from the idea stage to the launch of their business.
The new start-up training model follows last year’s CFE publication of ‘Starting afresh: How entrepreneurship is transforming the lives of resettled refugees’. The CFE report detailed the level of experience and interest in entrepreneurship among refugees and highlighted the profound role self-employment can play in helping refugees retake control of their lives.
Centre for Entrepreneurs chairman Oliver Pawle said:
“The Centre for Entrepreneurs is excited to work with the delivery partners over the coming year to help over 100 refugees into entrepreneurship and to prove that tailored business support strengthens integration.”
The programmes will be overseen by CFE and a national expert advisory group including representatives from the Home Office and The National Lottery Community Fund, refugee entrepreneurs, and experts from the academic and voluntary sectors.
ACH will engage with over 100 refugees in Bristol and the West of England. Building on a previous research project, ACH will support refugees new to entrepreneurship; business owners ‘just about managing’ and looking to strengthen their foundations; and ambitious entrepreneurs looking to scale up. East Belfast Enterprise will offer those taking part access to professional development sessions, enterprise training, startup bursaries and mentoring support.
Serving the urban centres of Peterborough, Ipswich and Norwich, MENTA will provide the participating refugees access to workshops, mentoring and peer-to-peer support groups which will be led by local role models. This pilot will primarily target refugees who ran businesses in their home country, developing their expertise for the UK.
The Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce will provide comprehensive support for 40 refugees and will build on extensive experience in business support. Drawing on their networks, Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce will also deliver mentoring support via volunteer entrepreneurs.
Mark Purvis, Deputy Director England at The National Lottery Community Fund said:
“By putting people in the lead and championing entrepreneurship, this project, made possible by National Lottery players, will support refugees to fulfil their potential and thrive.”
The Integrated Communities Action Plan
Refugees in the UK have access to mainstream benefits and services to enable their integration and departments across government are working to ensure services meet their needs but this new pilot will allow refugees to move forward with the process of integration, which was the focus of the government’s Integrated Communities Action Plan published in February 2019.
In the action plan the government committed to increase integration support for all refugees in the UK, with one of the key focuses being employment. As part of that commitment, the Home Office, in partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Organisation for Migration, Business in the Community and the Department for Work and Pensions recently launched ‘Tapping Potential’ – guidelines for British businesses on employing refugees.
Former refugee and co-founder of Firezza Pizza Edin Bašić said at the announcement of the pilots in July:
“Back in 1992 when I received asylum in the UK, no support like this was available. Starting Firezza Pizza took me years of hard work, but others in my situation were not as fortunate. With programmes like this, stories like mine can stop being the exception to the rule.”
In 2018, IOHR was a sponsor of the first Community Sponsorship Awards created by Citizens UK’s group, Sponsor Refugees. This award was created to recognise the considerable achievements of individuals, community groups, local authorities and even the Government in resettling Syrian refugees in the UK.